The Power of Neutral Language
Even though it feels like winter outside right now, summer break is just around the corner. For most people that means more social time with family and friends.
It begins with graduation gatherings and continues with barbeques and vacation travel. It’s supposed to be really fun, but sometimes it’s not. It's not surprising that relationship stress is the number one stress patients report to me.
This mind experiment is going to help you not only get through the times that are not fun, but potentially transform your relationships.
It not only applies to your friends and family you’ll be spending summertime with, but your coworkers and boss, your colleagues, your competitors, anyone you're in a relationship with no matter how close. It even works really well for your relationship with yourself.
Mind Experiment: When you find yourself in a struggle, stuck, don't know what to do, or just plain irritated at someone, take care to describe the situation neutrally. Maybe even just to yourself to start, and definitely when talking to other people. Describe the situation like you are talking to a young child, as neutrally as you can.
Our culture values a quick strong assessment. But how is that working for you when you’re in the middle of a struggle? By describing the situation neutrally instead, you’ll free up some space for new thinking. I know part of you might not want new thinking. But in order to have less struggle you’re gonna have to get less attached to struggle thinking and try out some new thinking.
So for example, if hypothetically 😉 I’m annoyed that my husband isn’t pulling his weight with housework, I can build you a lawyer-proof case proving that it’s unfair. And when I say "you", I could also mean when I talk to myself, because most conversations start with our self talk. I'd probably get really irritated and nag or hold a relationship summit about house cleaning.
Or I could tell you/me more neutrally that over 8 years ago I asked my husband to clean the floors because it’s my least favorite chore and he happily agreed to do that. And while he was pretty consistent with floor cleaning the first several years, I realized over time that in his natural rhythm he cleans less often than I do. In fact, he doesn’t actually clean less often, he cleans differently. While I like to tackle a whole area of the house from top to bottom, he likes to clean here and there as he notices individual things need cleaning. Which seemed weird at first, but I realized it means that things are always getting cleaned. And I’d tell you/me he really likes to get the proper tool for the job so he’s not wasting time. I’d also mention that our vacuum is not working so well lately – ok for the past several years. Then I’d get the bright idea to go out and buy a new vacuum because I want cleaner carpet.
At this point I’m pretty happy how things are going. My husband participates in housecleaning. We have different rhythms. We’re connected about enjoying our home as a sanctuary. And we have a new vacuum so no matter who cleans the floors our carpets will be cleaner. The bonus to the story is that in the month since we got our new vacuum, I haven’t used it once, because my husband has been using it regularly. He even told me he didn’t realize how much he avoided using the other vacuum because it was so inefficient. Why didn’t I think of this sooner?!
Now I know this story is just about vacuuming, it’s not something that “really matters”. But when it comes to connection, it all matters. And sometimes it’s easier to experiment with new things when we’re less emotional about them.
So over the next several weeks when you’re struggling or annoyed with someone, start by telling the story to yourself, or whoever you’re talking to, as neutrally as possible. Just like you would tell it to a 4 year old. Just the facts. And see what options for connection and solutions open up. I think you will be surprised at the insights you have. The stress that's avoided. And the power that comes from aiming for neutral.
Let me know how it goes!
Wisdom Workshop:The next state of mind workshop is tomorrow, May 21st. Seats are limited, so click this link to register or find a future date that works for you:
In this uplifting workshop you’ll learn how your mind works, so you can enjoy more peace of mind and:
- Supercharge your performance
- Improve your relationships
- Enter the healing zone
Because less mental stress (worry, rumination, frustration, guilt, over-analysis) isn’t just more enjoyable, it’s correlated with better physical health. And the bonus is that when you understand your state of mind better, it’s easier to make better decisions to support your health.
Saturday Workshop In June I’m doing a special collaboration with my mentor, friend, and colleague Julie Gleeson. During the heart of summer family time, we’re hosting a Saturday, 5 hour workshop to support resiliency in families and relationships. We both have a lot of experience personally and in helping others uncover the peace, connection, understanding, and joy in families and relationships. I am sure the conversation will be rich, helpful, and humorous.
- Imagine coming home to sanctuary, not chaos…..
- Imagine being on vacation and actually connecting……
- Imagine people who are warm with each other, and genuinely enjoy being together….
- Imagine enjoying the roller coaster ride, not fearing it.
More information and registration to save your seat:
The workshop will be held in Julie’s beautiful office in Moraga which is just over an hour drive from Santa Rosa on a Saturday. It’s a perfect time to bring a friend or loved one and make a day out of it. During the drive home you can chat about what insights you had or just relish in the good feeling together.
What We’re Treating in the ClinicSometimes things come in waves in the clinic that don't necessarily relate to the season. Lately we’re treating a lot of patients pre- and post-surgery. Most people think of acupuncture to prevent surgery and it’s true that I’ve helped lots of people avoid surgery. But sometimes surgery is inevitable and acupuncture is great at preparing the area by reducing inflammation before surgery and aiding recovery by reducing swelling, bruising, inflammation, scar tissue, and pain post surgery. Acupuncture it also great for less organized traumas such as falls and accidents and we’ve helped several people with those lately too.
Existing patients can book online here. Make sure you get a confirmation email and click "CONFIRM" in that email.
You can access our online booking anytime by clicking anywhere on our website that says "make an appointment" or "book now" and follow the breadcrumbs to "Existing Patients" and "Book Online". Existing patients are always welcome to call or email us if you prefer to schedule that way or you’re not finding any appointments that work for you online.
New patients need to call or email us to set up their first appointment because there is just too much information we need to share with you.
Happy Mind Explorations!
Christina Ness-Hawks, LAc