2020 has clearly been the year when the escalation of tension and the cry for justice has taken, weeks on end to the streets. History is being made before our eyes, due to the courageous action, impassioned work for liberation, and inclusion. We are over capacity to “hold”. Things are spilling over, demanding to be heard, and demanding action and change. Which lead me to write this blog on the relational principles that strengthen diversity, inclusion, equity, and respect.
I believe that through this grief and destruction, hope and justice will arise. It is time to take action as well as listen to the cries of humanity. In this decade, we have marched for ME TOO, the noble work of Tarana Burke, and have seen its impact.
We’ve witnessed the protection for the LGBTQ community through the recent Supreme Court Decision. For Dreamers and the Supreme Court decision being allowed to stay while still needing more permanent action and immigration reform through the courageous voices and civic stance for justice and liberty for all. And so much more.
I believe one of the most things we can do is to pause, reflect and understand deeply. We need to dive into our own lives, our history, our own shame, our stories to meet the challenges of living in empathy and understanding.
What have we learned from our upbringing? What have we witnessed? How are we answering the call? How can I strengthen my relationships with diversity, inclusion, equity and respect?
I love these quotes from I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown:
“I am becoming a better human to treat other humans better”
“We are here to get it right, not to be right”
My story: I grew up in the ’50s in Texas, witnessing segregation, watching those threads overturn. I then lived through Graduate School in San Antonio, savored the diversity; moved to San Diego for the border richness, traveled, lived in the San Francisco Bay Area-loving the salad bowl.
I sought out diversity and yet I realize my privileged way of enjoying the difference. Relishing the election of Barrack Obama with his beloved Michelle, I have witnessed the backlash. Imprinted on my heart and core value is the zest and love of life, all lives, curiosity, appreciation, and celebration of difference. How can I be better to help make this world a better place? Ibram X. Kendi beckons us in his How To Be An Antiracist to make equity a reality, transcend these times and turn the tide toward love.
These reflections brought together two contributing bodies of research that guide and transform relationships; relational cultural theory and the legacy of the Gottman Institute.
Relational Cultural Research
I am so grateful for the research provided by the Stone Center at Wellesley College we used when I taught Human Growth and Development at Regis University in Denver, Colorado. This research described as “relational cultural theory” describes exactly how privilege is created and maintained.
This division of privilege creates a “power over” as opposed to “power with” system marginalizing socio-economic status, race, gender, sexuality, and special needs. When our eyes are opened, we see the threads of disconnection are designed to maintain privilege. Our task as humans is to break these very barriers down in order to love and appreciate our common humanity: fears and joys, laughter, tears, dreams, and desires. We have far more in common than we do our differences.
In particular, Jean Baker Miller (1986) described five good things that characterize a growth-fostering relationship.
1. Increased zest (vitality)
2. Increased ability to take action (empowerment)
3. Increased clarity (a clearer picture of ones’ self, the other and the relationship)
4. Increased sense of self-worth
5. A desire for relationship that moves beyond that particular relationship
These five good things describe the outcomes of growth-fostering relationships, that is, the outcomes when growth occurs through mutual empowerment and mutual empathy; we grow not toward separation, but toward greater mutuality and empathetic possibility.
It seems, now more than ever, we need these principles to restore and guide our relational culture in the world. How can we bring this great wisdom at a time when our relationship with our common humanity, racial divide, and marginalization of the “other”, loses to the fabric of privilege and our “power over” systems?
I believe these principles from the Gottman’s rich research and from the Stone Center can apply and bring us to a better place.
Seven Principles for Making Relationships Work:
There is not a day, that I don’t feel grateful for the research provided and the lives of John and Julie Gottman. They have given us a golden and timeless resource.
As a Gottman Referred Therapist, I work with couples and families to bring clarity, resource, and skill for the betterment of their relationships and lives. I love to share with my clients the richness to relationship these bring for making relationships move from lost, confused, face down, frustrated, discouraged, fearful to wise, hopeful, skillful, heart-forward, and resilient. I have shared these principles with business teams, corporate and legal culture, startups, and entrepreneurs. Now, I believe these very principles can increase our understanding of one another and bring consciousness, empathy, and skill to our diverse and inclusive common humanity with one another across the board.
1) Enhancing Love Maps.
What we know about our loves, strengths, challenges, superpowers, kryptonite, failures, small details of personality, quirks, endearment, and difference, fears, ambitions, and dreams of our partners is what goes into the foundation of our relationships.
It is when we feel seen and understood, our relationships are enriched. To be seen and known is a fundamental need. During this time of culture wars, this need is at the crux of the issue. Do we have an accurate understanding of the history, underbelly of privilege that has left our fellow man, woman, and child this disconnected, abandoned, and alone? How can we deepen our understanding, respect, and empathy?
Do I see you, hear you, believe you, have empathy, and stand with you?
2) Nurturing Fondness and Appreciation:
I believe in turning toward one another in kindness, a connection is created and love abides.
3) Turning Toward Each Other:
In these times, turning towards as opposed to away or against heals the wounds of marginalization and disconnection.
4) Accepting Influence:
Our openness and appreciation are expressed by accepting the influence of cultural differences.
5) Solve your solvable problems:
Knowing that there are perpetual problems that will always be there, problems are distinguished between perpetual and solvable. Solvable are ones that we can actually do something about, through policy and systemic change.
6) Overcoming Gridlock:
When we step out of stubborn division and alienating stances, adaptation and compromise are created.
7) Creating Shared Meaning:
Envisioning a better, more loving, and inclusive world inspires action. Our imagination and courage can lead us toward a brighter, loving future.
Through the practice of these relational principles that greater love, understanding, inclusion, and respect are built for cultural diversity to thrive. May we all look inside our hearts, create a “power with” culture transformed through pain to love and resilience.
Gottman Institute gottman.com
The Stone Center Research https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2010-09280-012
Me Too https://metoomvmt.org
Motus Theatre https://www.motustheater.org
Gay Center https://gaycenter.org/resources/
“What I am Learning From My White Grandchildren from a Black Grandfather”
CNN/Sesame Street On Race Town Hall