It affects all the relationships: friendship, romantic, parent, family, you-name-it.
Here's an example, your friend has been going out and socializing regularly. You start to notice that it's more often than it used to be and that it's starting to effect various aspects of their life. You also notice that the people they're spending time with have changed and these people don't hold the same value system that your friend usually holds. If you acknowledge the situation you're afraid that your friend will either feel judged by you or that you think it's okay. Neither outcome is desired, so you keep it to yourself and watch your friend while feeling powerless to do anything.
But that's not true. Those aren't the only options.
You can acknowledge many aspects of this without approving of the behavior. Your friend feeling judged is 50% how you steward the conversation and 50% their inner dialogue on how they interpret the conversation (from what lense are they viewing this conversation).
- Friend, I can see that you've been really enjoying yourself lately! I love how you've been so spontaneous and it seems like there's a new side of you that's really having fun. It's great! I would like to acknowledge that I've also noticed that some of the priorities you've had in the past aren't priorities anymore and I'm wondering what's going on for you.
- Friend, I just want to check in with you. I've noticed that you've been drinking more often than usual, how are things going?
- Spouse, I know those have been your friends for a long time, but I don't like the way you talk to me when they're around. I'm not asking you to stop spending time with them, but I don't approve of the changes that happen in your personality with you are around them and around me at the same time.
You can acknowledge something without approving of it - and if you acknowledge it well then your half of the conversation road is going to be as smooth as possible. The other person might have a painful history that's triggered and they don't respond well. If that happens, you can stand firm in the knowledge that you were authentic, you tried to be kind in your delivery, and that you gave the other person the opportunity to know what was on your heart.
Most people will respond with curiosity, a little defensiveness, and kindness in response. This can be an opportunity to grow your relationship in a positive way. If the conversation goes well then trust is built. If the two individuals come to a solution together then that teamwork brings them close again. The ability to be vulnerable and safe can be huge for both people in these scenarios:
confiding your disapproval is vulnerable - hearing someone acknowledge their disapproval is vulnerable. The two of you are potentially wearing your hearts on your sleeve, and when you're safe with each other it can blossom the relationship.
But even if the person is triggered or if you delivered your message all wrong - there's still opportunity to repair that rift, make the relationship whole, and continue knowing that you were honest about your worry and that you didn't sit back and do nothing. You tried because this person is important to you and they are worth the risk.
Jessica Wilkerson, LMFT
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist #104464
Jessica Wilkerson works in Chico, California helping individuals, couples, and families learn how to communicate safely and effectively with a desire to heal wounds and grow bonds through processing past and current pain. Jessica believes in the power of honesty and authenticity in healthy relationships and works hard to help her clients influence their lives positively through communication with others and with themselves.
You can contact Jessica for an appointment by calling/texting her at (530) 994-5114 or emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.