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What Gets in the Way of Connection?

A dad friend of mine told me about his recent struggles connecting with his daughter. It is a small interaction, but illustrates an important point of how we often misunderstand or take things personally and end up missing chances to connect.

He hadn't slept well so wasn't at his best Tuesday morning. He had gotten up early to help her make breakfast and get off to school. She came down and was feeling stressed about a test and the day ahead. She asked him about getting new running shoes that he is usually happy to provide.

He was making her eggs and added a bunch of salt. She exclaimed with an eye roll, "Dad, I don't like so much salt in my eggs." He reacted and yelled, "Why don't you come in here and make your own damn breakfast. And don't ask me to buy you new shoes at 7 in the morning, I haven't even had my coffee." She visibly withdrew at the angry outburst, hungry and just wanting something she liked to eat.

This type of interaction happens all too often in homes across the country. We unload our upset on others, especially those we live with. Both the dad and daughter thought they were 'right' in their perspective and both reacted, inadvertently directing their upset towards another, taking what was said 'personally'. This happens so fast and is often done without awareness or intention.

The insightful book, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz speaks to this clearly as the Second Agreement is "Don't take anything personally." He writes, "Even when a situation seems so personal, even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you." We all come from a point of view made up of our life experience and what we were taught by our families, our culture. Every emotion and reaction we have is, therefore, about us, even when it is stimulated by another's action. This is a complex and counter intuitive concept, understanding it has changed my life for the better.

Back to the situation above, let's see how we can untangle the conflict using the 5 Steps To Connect framework to experience harmony and understanding.

When I am 'in it' ie. yelling, upset, wanting something to be different than it is, my first step to untangle is to MEET where I am, naming and owning it as mine. The dad could say, "Wow, I'm tired and grumpy. I did