Caitlin Pinsof, LPC
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop
Kindness is an essential and transformative aspect of human relationships. By intentionally practicing kindness in our lives, we can transform our experience of loving and being loved. Choosing to be kind to our friends and family members enriches these relationships, making them more rewarding for all while fostering an environment where true closeness can occur. But what does it mean to be kind? Merriam-Webster defines kindness as the quality or state of being gentle and considerate, two principles that help make the practice of kindness more tangible. Being gentle and considerate fosters a sense of emotional safety within a relationship, allowing blocked channels of communication to open while creating the space for unresolved and upsetting issues to be resolved. Gentleness involves becoming softer with your partner, both in your actions and in your thoughts. Consideration involves deliberately thinking of them, increasing your ability to understand their experience of things. In moments of conflict, when strong emotions flare, attempt to view your partner as wounded, similarly to if they were physically wounded. If your partner came home with a broken leg, you would gently help them up the stairs and then attempt to make them comfortable on the couch or bed. You would provide this compassionate assistance because, after briefly contemplating their experience of things in that moment, you would realize they are probably in pain and without your assistance that pain would likely increase, causing them further distress. Emotional wounds, which are the pillars of conflict in relationships, need to be treated similarly to physical wounds: gently and considerately.
Practicing Kindness within Conflict: Three Pillars of Kind Conflict Resolution
It is far easier to practice kindness when things are going well in a relationship, but it can feel nearly impossible during times of stress and conflict. When our partners hurt us, our first inclination is usually to hurt them back. You created this pain in me, so to ensure you understand how bad you’ve made me feel, I am going to make you feel as bad. This process undermines emotional safety while creating a destructive cycle that moves farther and farther away from actual resolution. Before attempting to communicate about an issue that is triggering to your or your partner, especially once a fight has begun, pause before speaking
and ask yourself the following questions.
Is it Kind?
In times of emotional distress and conflict, stop and ask yourself if what you are saying and/or doing is kind. If it isn’t, try to find a more gentle and considerate way to communicate your thoughts and feelings. If that feels impossible in the moment, then gracefully bow out of the conflict, agreeing on a later time to address it, ideally within the next 24 hours.
Is it Necessary?
When our partners push our buttons, causing us to become sad or angry, it is tempting to say all kinds of hurtful and unnecessary things. After asking yourself if your words and actions are kind, ask yourself if they are necessary. Will it ultimately get us towards our goal of resolving this thing that we keep fighting about?
Is it True?
Accusations, mean comments, and lies are more likely to be said during times of conflict. By practicing this principle in your relationship, you can stay out of the pitfalls of dishonesty and mistrust, two of the most corrosive aspects of relationships. This question can serve as a filter that catches lies, accusations, mean, unnecessary, or exaggerated statements. If you’d like to learn more about the transformative power of kindness and other helpful techniques to improve and restore your relationship, contact Symmetry Counseling to schedule a consultation with one of our relationship specialists.