Forgiveness 101

By Katya Juliet

I wish Forgiveness 101 was a class taught in grade schools and high schools everywhere. We are so impressionable at those young ages and experience so many hurtful moments between friends. When you are not prepared to handle conflict and resolution, budding relationships full of passion and emotion can leave emotional scars and bruises for many years to come, thus affecting adult interactions and forming communication habits for better or for worse.

With the many close relationship we will encounter over the course of our lives, conflict is inevitable. But, while it takes two people (egos) to fight, it only takes one to forgive.

Forgiveness can be a natural tendency for some, but it is also a developed communication skill. For some relational behaviors, you can try to “fake it till you make it,” when you need to just get through a rough patch or situation. However, with forgiveness, it is a different story. If you say you forgive someone without genuinely doing so completely, unfortunately, you are the person who suffers.

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Forgiveness is often hard to do because of feeling like we give the other person power; asserting they were somehow right or helping them to feel better and not ourselves. Countless times I have heard friends complain they wish the other person, just once, would apologize and forgive them first. But instead, feel like they always have to be the one to initiate the process.

However, apologizing and forgiving are two very different things often lumped together in one broader category of conflict resolution. So, lets sort them out a little.

Within the textbook Close Encounters, Apologies are defined as “admissions of responsibility and regret for undesirable events.” (45, Communicating Identity: The Social Self) In other words, taking responsibility for a behavior and not avoiding the consequence of your actions.

Generally, when you apologize, it is you who has done something of harm to another, whether it was physical or emotional. When you are unwilling to apologize for your actions, you leave the relationship in a state of distress and the only option other than destruction is for the other person to be willing to forgive you. When neither takes place, a cycle of denial and avoidance will inevitably become a force for further conflict.

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Forgiveness can be defined as “a relational process” and not one single act like an apology. Forgiveness can be something one does for himself or herself or another person, but it is generally in dealing with harmful behavior done by someone other than you. The process of forgiveness is comprised of four different characteristics: acknowledgment of harmful conduct, an extension of undeserved mercy, an emotional transformation and relationship renegotiation. (322, Hurting the ones we love: Relational transgressions)

4 Characteristics of Forgiveness

Harmful Conduct: “For forgiveness to even be necessary, one or both partners must acknowledge that there has been a wrongdoing.”

Note that behavior that may be okay in one relationship may require forgiveness in another. Not all relationships are the same.

Extension of Undeserved Mercy: “The hurt person must make the decision to extend mercy to the partner. There is a paradoxical quality to forgiveness as the forgiver gives up the resentment, to which he or she has a right, and gives the gift of compassion, to which the offender has no right.”

This starts with saying “I forgive you,” (explicit forgiveness in its clearest form) but simply saying it is not enough. That is where the next two characteristics of forgiveness come in.

Emotional Transformation: “Forgiveness involves an emotion transformation that allows hurt individuals to let go of negative feelings.”

A normal reaction to being hurt is to seek revenge, restitution or avoidance, which can lead to ending a relationship. But in order to forgive you move beyond that impulse, in essence, letting that desire fully dissolve and instead act with positivity and compassion towards yourself and the other person. This could be summed up as “killing with kindness” or “taking the higher road.”

It is important to notice that when we don’t allow this third step of emotional transformation to occur, we are not hurting the other person back. It is truly ourselves who  suffer the most. Forgiveness is an act of setting yourself free from the continued emotional burden.

Relationship Renegotiation: “Forgiveness entails renegotiating the nature of one’s relationship, including rules and expectations for future behavior.” There was a study here that found around “28% of participants indicated that the relationship had returned to ‘normal,’ after forgiveness was granted, around 36% reported their relationship had deteriorated and around 32% strengthened. Thus, forgiveness does not guarantee reconciliation.”

It is here we find the power and importance of the renegotiation process and desire to do so by both or all individuals involved. If the newly negotiated areas of the relationship are not sufficient or one person is unwilling to move forward, the relationship will continue to struggle.

Connected to the renegotiation process is also how one communicates in the aftermath of conflict.

From an interpersonal communication perspective, active listening is just as important (if not more) as effectively communicating your own feelings and your non-verbal behaviors play a role in the process and outcome as well.

During conflict, a tendency is to focus more so on what you are trying to say – the point you are trying to prove in order to be right – rather than to communicate for the purpose of resolution and listen, in order to really understand what the other person is attempting to convey.

If we learn to be better active listeners, we may realize that there are common grounds we agree upon, more so than disagree. Also, it may give you the ability to “walk in their shoes,” if only for a moment, to best understand why they may feel as they do.

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Extending forgiveness non-verbally can be in the form of positive facial expressions, offering a smile, a hug or nodding that you understand and have compassion in the moment. Also, if we lack awareness of our facial expressions and bodily gestures, it can translate as aggression and cause even more conflict to occur.

It has been found throughout various research studies, that colors, sounds and lighting can affect moods and therefore, effect interactions. These are elements which we often have control over, so it may be worth evaluating your environment to see if initial mood and positive energy can be improved prior to conflict initiating all together.

Relationships are a process of give and take. Trying to be right all the time can be detrimental and thinking there is a right and wrong can set couples off track fast. Sometimes, the best resolution is a blend of ideas that come out of tension and initial conflict. Take the time to communicate and try not to give up in moments of fluster and frustration.

Conflict can play a positive role if you let it help you boost your communication effectiveness and propel your relationship to new heights. Just like failures along the road to success, conflict can aid as a new birth for discussing greater ways to live in harmony through the process of renegotiation and in better understanding the people you love the most.

Thank you for following and sharing iflourish.

blackBLOGO-coral-grey-beigeFor additional support or consulting services, feel free to contact Katya Juliet through her business website, Buzzword-Consulting. Buzzword Consulting offers affordable digital marketing services, consulting, copywriting & PR for small businesses, start-ups, entrepreneurs & non-profit Organizations. Get people Buzzing About Your Business!

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Invite The Power of Yes Back Into Your Life

By Katya Juliet

Did you know?

According to the research cited in the book What To Say When You Talk To Yourself, by Dr. Shad Helmstetter, the average person – living in a reasonably positive home – has been told “no” an average of 148,000 times or more by the time they turn 18 years old.

Dr. Helmstetter refers to this as our initial “negative programming” and it contributes to how we learn to talk to ourselves throughout the course of our lives.

While that number may be higher or lower for some, it is an overwhelming amount to hear. Especially when the number of “yes” or “yes you can’s” that we hear over the same amount of time are only clocking in within the several hundred range.

Clearly, there is a tremendous imbalance at play and one that can only begin to be reconciled with conscious, positive, productive self-talk and affirmations.

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Have you ever considered how much more you could have accomplished had you been fueled with extra “yes, you can do it” and “I believe in you” statements from the people you depend on the most?

How much more confident might we be with the opposite ratio of yes’s dominating no’s?

Leading research in behavior and psychology tells us that close to 77% of what we think about is working against us – negative, counterproductive and potentially holding us back from many of the things we wish to accomplish in our daily lives.

On top of self-talk, our relationships can produce similar ratios of negative/positive interaction – thus, continuing this vicious cycle.

Poor communication and negative communication both contribute to the destruction of potentially healthy relationships. According to the text on “Ending Relationships” within the book Close Encounters, relationships can breakdown when they fall victim to the following bad habits: speaking too much, using low-quality communication, negative talk tracks or words and communication that centers around only one of the two individuals involved.

Close Encounters also highlights something in interpersonal communication called The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, which details the methods or patterns within relationships of destruction and conflict. Avoiding these communication pitfalls, as well as simply becoming aware of them in the first place, can significantly help your chances of resolving issues within your relationships. The following lists the four horseman, in order, from initial conflict to most severe.

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The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypses:

  1. Complaining/Criticizing. Example: “You are so rude! So need to be quiet in the morning so I can sleep!”
  2. Contempt/Disgust. Example: “Don’t be ridiculous! I was hardly making any noise. You’re just being overly sensitive.”
  3. Defensiveness. Example: “You don’t care about me at all. I’m not ridiculous, you are. No one should have to put up with this.
  4. Stonewalling. Example: “I don’t want to talk about this anymore. It’s a no-win situation. Leave me alone.”

As you can see, it starts with complaining and criticizing and can be a very slippery slope from there. The examples above give you a flavor of what they may look like within an interpersonal conflict, however, in many cases, the conversations can be a lot worse that those – people say some pretty mean and hurtful things to one another, without even being aware of it.

Note, that even when there is a struggle with negative communication within a given relationship, the fact that they are still engaging in communication is actually a good sign. When a relationship defaults to stonewalling or avoidance, generally, there is an end in sight.

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In one of my classes at UC Davis, I recall discussing that it can take as many as 20 positives or compliments to offset just 1 or 2 negatives or criticisms. In my personal opinion, its probably not worth criticizing someone in the first place if only you knew how much work it would take to make up for it with your partner later -psychologically and emotionally.

Take a moment to reflect on how you interact with others in your close relationships. Are you guilty of using any of these communication conflict patterns? If so, the good news is – you can stop! And, if it is your partner doing most of the criticizing, you can still control your own reactions and responses.

So, how to we reprogram ourselves and invite the power of yes back into our lives?

It starts with attempting to turn the negative “default” programming within our minds to a more positive programming. Positive self-talk, daily affirmations and simply saying and repeating the word YES is a great beginning.

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Next, try to find ways to incorporate more positive messages into your personal environment. I absolutely love the artwork and pillows from Kate Daisy’s Etsy Store. Order a few of these and place in conspicuous spots around your home.

If you are on a budget, you could also try to make your own or even save one of these online images as a screen saver on your mobile phone or computer right now. (Free and only takes a few seconds!)

Another idea is to listen to positive music or love songs with the conscious thought that those lyrics are about YOU. Similarly, avoid negative or degrading music and lyrics that may be furthering the negative programming on a subconscious level.

Finally, stick with the basics of using “I statements” in your relationships and with your self-talk. “I feel…” is a better lead than “ You always…” Use more of your Emotional Vocabulary and share how you feel before blaming another person.

Last but not least – treat yourself with kindness, just as you would a dear friend. When you hear yourself use negative and hurtful words about yourself, slow down and make a conscious effort to stop. Seek more constructive ways of coping with the situation or simply default to a big, hearty “YES YOU CAN!”

The power of yes is within each one of us and this new programming is free! We just need to prioritize the process and start the transition…How about right now?

Thank you for following and sharing iflourish.

blackBLOGO-coral-grey-beigeFor additional support or consulting services, feel free to contact Katya Juliet through her business website, Buzzword-Consulting. Buzzword Consulting offers affordable digital marketing services, communication consulting, copywriting, PR & Social Media Management for small businesses, start-ups, entrepreneurs & non-profit Organizations.

Get people Buzzing About Your Business!