Are You Really Open to Love?

Love is risky. To love, we must open our hearts, and open hearts can get hurt. To be free to love, we must learn to process those hurts, so they do not become the foundation for a life lived in fear.

Fear responses include:

  • Pushing people away before they can hurt us
  • People pleasing even when it goes against our best interests
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Getting tongue-tied when things matter
  • Not talking about what matters
  • Letting people hurt us without consequence

To be free to love, we must have the skills to create psychological safety, process our own stress, and restore broken trust in the relationships that matter most to us.

I invite you to extend compassion to yourself before reading the list of skills involved. If you have challenges in relationships (and we all do), you may respond to one or more (or even most) of the items on the list with a sense of incompetence or hopelessness. For most people, this list is aspirational. We call the people who have most of this stuff handled saints for a reason.

The good news is a) there are evidence-based and time-tested ways of getting better at all of these and b) any progress in any one of them is part of building an upward spiral of improved relationships.

Many of them are skills that I have covered in episodes of the Kate’s Nuggets podcast. They are all on the schedule to be visited and revisited.

The tools and skills are:

  • Cultivating compassionate self-awareness: seeing ourselves clearly enables us to exert control over the impact we have rather than acting out of reactive impulses.
  • Non-reactivity in the face of big emotions: big emotions aren’t good or bad, but letting them drive us into unconsidered action creates problems.
  • Courageous curiosity: a genuine desire to understand others and willingness to be influenced by what we learn
  • Embracing empathy
  • Maintaining simultaneous awareness of and honouring both our needs and the needs of those around us
  • Speaking our truths
  • Asking for what we need
  • Building our support structures and affinity groups: some things make us feel so vulnerable or ashamed that we need to gather with people we feel safer with before we can bring them out into the challenging environment.
  • Taking responsibility for our mistakes and unintended negative impact: acknowledging that we caused harm, sharing sincere apologies that include revealing our shame at having failed to be better than we were, making amends, and changing our behaviour going forward are required to restore trust
  • Avoiding taking responsibility for other people’s business
  • Staying in relationship when it gets tough and initiating the repair if we step out for any reason.

All of these are skills that can be learned and practiced until they become habits. Any progress on any one is an increment towards improved relationships. You can get better by picking one and playing with it, letting it influence you, being curious about what changes.

If you like having books to read to support practice, I highly recommend these:
Say What You Mean by Oren Jay Sofer
Reboot: Leadership and the Art of Growing Up by Jerry Colonna
The Courage to be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi & Fumitake Koga
The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman & Kaley Klemp