Managing the Invisible Space in Relationships
Clear your negative thoughts and align with a more loving and warm-hearted energy before you speak or act.
We have all experienced the impact of our words and actions in relationships. When we say something mean or snarky, people tend to react with either a return attack or defensiveness. What we tend to be far less aware of is the power of the energy we are holding when we say and do things. For instance, if you are visiting family during the holidays and say, “So great to see you again!” while thinking far less kind sentiments, the negative energy transmitted may well get a negative reaction in spite of the kind words.
Couples come to me saying that what they want is to have a loving, healthy relationship, but what they are thinking about each other (or themselves) is negative and judgmental. What we often don’t realize is how deeply intuitive and sensitive human beings are—whether we know it or not. We pick up on vibrational messages regardless of what is said, so when someone is thinking something negative while saying something positive we perceive the dissonance. We become confused between the message sent and the message felt. We find ourselves reacting often without fully understanding what we are reacting to since on the surface the words or actions may have been positive.
We need to learn to manage the invisible, energetic messages we send out and aim to align our energy with the intended result. These unseen and unheard messages are capable of creating just as big of a reaction from others as their verbal counterparts, and we would all be well served to develop mastery over them.
I teach an entrepreneurial program for teens and adults and illustrate this concept by teaching handshaking—a common business greeting. We first discuss how not to shake hands. Everyone quickly agrees that the limp or the overdone handshakes are unnerving. With the offer of a limp hand we quickly make one of two assumptions. We either experience self-judgment, “She doesn’t want to meet me” or judge the other person, “He has no confidence.” One way or the other, inward or outward, there is assumed judgment, which causes a disconnect. After discussing eye contact, smiling, and appropriate firmness I then demonstrate the power of the invisible space.
First, I have everyone mill around shaking hands incorrectly, while holding the belief that no one really wants to meet them, and that they have nothing to offer anyone in the room. As they hold this mindset while shaking hands the energy is sucked out of the room. The voices drop, no one smiles, they barely look at each other and the handshakes are pathetic. When I ask what that felt like, the responses include disconnected, lonely, uncomfortable, awful. Sometimes, unfortunately, it feels quite familiar.
Then I have them mill around shaking hands exaggerating or faking their enthusiasm. The internal energy is one of having to impress the other. The room gets loud as people sarcastically and enthusiastically greet each other with overdone handshakes, bear hugs, and pats on the back. When I ask how that felt, the answers are much the same, fake, untrustworthy, and lonely but often scary gets added in.
So then we practice managing the invisible space in a healthier way. I invite everyone to take a deep breath, drop into trust that there are people in the room who will offer value to them and that they all have value to offer others. I encourage them to let go of judgment of themselves and others and simply show up authentically as they greet each other. As they set about their assigned task, the energy in the room changes again. This time it feels warm and friendly as everyone is meeting, looking into each other’s eyes, smiling and shaking hands authentically happy to connect. When I ask them to describe the difference the words used are real, connected, heartfelt. All three parts to this exercise held the exact same physical directions: mill around the room, shake hands and meet everyone. The only difference between what worked and what didn’t work was the mindset or energetic belief that was held internally. This internal shift makes the difference between experiencing loneliness or connection during the exact same behavior.
We can apply this principle in all of our relationships by taking responsibility for the energy or attitude we are holding when relating to others.
The invitation here is to take a moment to clear your negative thoughts and align with a more loving and warm-hearted energy before you speak, act or even press send on an email or text.
Practice this mindful mastery of the unspoken messages you are sending and see if you can shift your relationships into a healthier place.