We have a rule in our house that we don’t have important conversations (or continue disagreements) if we have fallen out of Relational Mode. If my RCs are off, I need to take steps to get back into Relational Mode (get my RCs back on) before we can continue discussing a difficult or important topic.
I admit it is hard to hit “pause” on a conversation that is getting intense when my RCs go off because that’s when I feel especially driven to make my point and present my case. It has taken me a while to come around and acknowledge that these conversations go much better for me if I get my RCs on before continuing. It is a sad thing to have to admit, but when I am out of relational mode, it usually also means that I don’t care much about those around me or my impact on them. (Lack of compassion is a good sign your RCs are off.)
However, in those moments, I am still invested in what is good for me. I have discovered I can use that to convince myself that it would be better for me to get my RCs on before continuing the conversation since I will be much better at making my case be heard when they are on. (And once my compassion for others is reactivated as my RCs come back on, I, more importantly, can be thankful that we avoided relational casualties.)
Once I got on board with realizing I need to be in Relational Mode to have important conversations, I also realized the same need extends to my kids. That means that when the boys are upset because I say no to what they have asked, or someone hurts their feelings, I first validate their feelings “it sounds like you are really upset!” Then I ask them, “Please take some deep breaths and do what you need to to get your RCs back on so we can talk more about this.”
Sometimes it just takes them a few seconds. I still distinctly remember Matthew quickly responding in a calm voice with “OK, my RCs are back on; that was just a little blip.” At other times, this prompts even bigger feelings that land in a tantrum.
When I encounter the second scenario, I again validate “I know it is frustrating, and you are very sad/mad, and you really want to talk about this RIGHT NOW. As soon as you can calm down enough to get your RCs on, we can see what we can do about what is upsetting you, but we can’t talk about it when you are this upset.”
The contrast is amazing between when we have our RCs on for a difficult discussion and the times when we don’t. Rather than spinning our wheels and escalating to the point of exasperation, when we catch our breath and get our RCs on, we can often resolve the issue quickly and without the normal relational fallout.
Have you learned to recognize when you are in relational mode and when you fall out of relational mode? Can you recognize it in others? (The Brain’s Relational Real Estate).
The first step is recognizing when we are out of relational mode. Often those around us can see it before we do, and if we permit them to point it out to us, it can speed up the process.
Once we have recognized our RCs are off, the next step is to restore relational mode. (A 9-Year-Old’s Perspective for Getting Relational).