I often get asked about how to strengthen relationships, both inside my counseling private practice in Flower Mound, Teas as well as outside of it. This question can come in many forms, from new moms looking to bond with their brand new babies to couple’s struggling to stay together to people just wanting stronger bonds with their family and friends.
For the new mom, how many of us have met our new babies for the first time and wondered when their little (or big!) personalities were going to show up? I remember looking at both my newborns and saying “hi, who are you, little one?” I remind new moms that all the seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks and months together is time spent getting to know one another. This time spend together will strengthen their ever-growing bond with each other.
But, what about our adult relationships with spouses, extended family, friends, etc., and how can we ensure that these bonds grown and remain strong as well?
Dr. Brene Brown does research in Houston, Texas on our connections and bonds to one another, and this research keeps pointing back to the importance of vulnerability; that people need to be vulnerable with each other in order to have these strong bonds and connections that we all long for in life. She has one of the most watched TED Talks on this topic as well.
Being vulnerable with others means that we have to first trust them, trust them with things that are close to our heart. But, what if they use that information against us in a way that is hurtful to us and cuts us deeply? And therein lies the conundrum we all face in life!
Dr. Brene Brown also takes all of this a step further and illustrates how to take our relationships to these deeper levels. She has a great YouTube video about sympathy versus empathy. She discusses how sympathy is often just empty words. However, empathy is getting “down in the hole” with people to really support them. In order to truly understand where they are coming from, you have to find that same vulnerable place within yourself, the one that connects with how they are feeling in that very moment.
How often in our lives do we get that wrong, and say empty, unhelpful words to those in pain? How often in our lives do we get that right, and form a deep and lasting bond with someone else? This all starts with vulnerability.
Dr. Brene Brown has another informative YouTube video about this topic on blame and how much we all love to blame others for our problems. However, blame deflects the real issues away from ourselves so they land on those around us instead. How often have you been blamed for something you didn’t do, or even something you did do, but with good intentions? Sometimes it just seems easier to blame others.
But interestingly, and now coming full circle, even blame comes back to vulnerability. Surprised? When you are blaming others, you are keeping the issue on a surface level. However, when you look more deeply at the feelings and emotions underneath this blame, people often find that they are really feeling hurt in some way by the other person. They may, in actuality, be feeling mad or sad or even scared about something that was said or done (again, intentionally or not). Instead of blaming the other person, if they chose to talk about their hurt feelings and emotions, this would leave both parties in a space to be vulnerable with each other, to trust one another, and to connect at this deeper level.