Inevitably, life gets unstable at times. We can be going along just fine, and then out of the blue, we’re thrown off kilter. Suddenly, everything we thought we knew feels shaky and uncertain. In my family’s life, instability was the theme of spring 2017. The unexpected loss of a parent and grandfather, teenage hormonal changes, friendship turmoil, and academic adjustments contributed to an unstable environment and emotional challenges that threatened to put my reactive mode into overdrive. But during that time, I decided to observe my feelings without reacting and to practice being aware and honest with myself. I made another incredible breakthrough. I realized:
- Anxiety in the people I love makes me want to control.
- Sassiness in the people I love makes me want to get defensive.
- Pain in the people I love makes me want to rescue.
- Silence in the people I love makes me want to shut down.
But those responses from me are not helpful or healing; in fact, they only add to the chaos and make the situation worse. What is helpful and healing is to provide what is lacking in the situation: stability.
When a loved one is in distress, I am called to be steady – to respond consistently and calmly with love, understanding, and compassion, regardless of what is coming at me. This is not easy, but it is possible. What keeps me in check is something I call The Reasonability Test. I use this test to help me be a calming presence in an emotionally tense moment or period. The Reasonability Test is most helpful when I’m met with pushback and conflict is quickly escalating. That’s when I check in with myself using the following three questions:
- Is what I am asking or saying reasonable?
- Do I sound like a voice of reason?
- Does my body language match my calm voice and words?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, there’s a good chance I’m contributing to the instability and conflict. I make adjustments to my words, tone, body language, and/or expectations so I can better understand and be better understood.
If the answer to any of the three questions is yes, and the other person is not responding reasonably, it most likely means there is a deeper issue at hand.
That’s when I offer one of three reasonable solutions – help, validation, or space – to get to the root of the issue.
Help: “I know you are under a lot of stress right now, how can I help?”
Validation: “You really wanted it to work out differently. I am so sorry it didn’t work out that way.”
Space: “I’m going to give you some time to yourself. I’ll be right out here if you need me. Perhaps in a bit we can talk about why you’re so upset.”
- To a scared soul, these options feel like comfort.
- To a drowning mind, these options feel like oxygen.
- To a rejected heart, these options feel like acceptance.
We may not have the ability to improve our loved ones’ situation or remedy the problem, but we can hold their moving world steady long enough for them to get their footing. With our loving support, we provide balance to stay on track, no matter what tries to derail us.
(Taken from Live Love Now by Rachel Macy Stafford. Copyright © 2020 by Rachel Macy Stafford. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.)
Rachel Macy Stafford is a NYT bestselling author and founder of www.handsfreemama.com. In her newest book, LIVE LOVE NOW, Rachel does what she does best: she lovingly encourages, guides, and challenges us to be better than we’ve been. Through honest storytelling and small steps, Rachel shows us that simple changes yield positive results. LIVE LOVE NOW equips 21st century parents with tools for 21st century parenting that have the power to transform your home and heart into a healthier, happier place. Join Rachel at The Hands Free Revolution for more inspiration and encouragement.