In their mediation work over the past 30 years at Baltimore Mediation, Louise and Bill Senft have refined Seven Ways of Being that are the cornerstones of the Relational Approach ©. Although these anchoring concepts seem commonsense, when we crack open and unpack the deeper meaning in each it is an invitation to a higher calling in your day to day actions. The Seven Ways are universally applicable, within your control, and involve choices always available to you in how we relate to friends. They also apply to how you relate to your competitors, and even your enemies. They apply to those you know well and to those who are strangers and everyone in between.
Important learning: Your role in a particular situation affects your choices in how you relate and how you influence the way others relate to you. While each attitude and set of behaviors is distinct, the lines between them are interlocking. They constitute a full spectrum of what it means to be relational.
In Being Relational TM, your first priority is to focus on the quality of the interaction with the other person. This brings the first Four Ways of Being Relational into play: Being Engaged, Being Centered, Being Grounded and Being Clear. These Four Ways lead to quality dialogue and tend not to escalate conflict in an unhealthy way and are based in the relational theory of conflict on which Baltimore Mediation has based its work.
Let’s examine Being Engaged. You can’t interact, negotiate, have a conversation or even relate to another person if you are not engaged. Engagement is the very first thing involved in Being RelationalTM. But so often, people don’t engage. Habitually or unconsciously, you may exhibit one or more of the following behaviors:
- Avoiding uncomfortable subjects or avoiding the other person entirely.
- Being sleepy, mentally idle or disinterested in others.
- Being distracted, preoccupied with some other thought, thing or stimulus.
- Being “there” but closed to others’ perspectives.
Being Relational TM is not a sequential process. It is not a step one, step two kind of thing. Being Relational TM is linking to all Seven Ways, not necessarily all at one time, with each way coming to the front of your consciousness in different moments as you discern your path.
Try it at home: This month, pause and notice your habitual behavior. Take a breath and activate your self-observer. Notice. Use your consciousness to look at your patterns and make space internally for the energy of your thought patterns and feeling patterns before moving into action. Locate where those “shut down” or “reactive” feelings and habits show up in your body with a brief body scan. Pause to be curious about the places in your body where those habits show up. One by one, examine each of those places mentally with curiosity, not judgment. Those somatic feelings are often tightness or reactivity. Just notice. Once you have identified how a habit feels, you can focus on relaxing those habits of mind, and discerning your next action.
This centering practice is key to living into the Seven Ways of Being Relational. You may need some words to hold in your consciousness to anchor you and remind you to be engaged. Words such as “present,” “attentive,” and “interested” are useful reminders. Consider your habits when you know someone wants to talk to you and you don’t want to talk to them, or what you do when you get an upsetting email. Notice your somatic responses.
Being Engaged is being present, attentive, listening, and interested. Next month in the Gazette, you can look forward to examples of Being Engaged. Learn more about this worldview in our book, Being Relational.