I do love weddings (yay for me that I’m in my dream job!) but there’s no getting away from it, wedding stress can be a thing, if you let it. Earlier this week in this little series of Weddings & relationships I looked at why planning a wedding will change your life forever.
And today I’m shining a light on some coping strategies if things get tricky. Most people want to be better people, want to behave better in difficult situations but how to do it? It’s all very well to say take a deep breath, count to 10 – but then what?! I want to give you 3 specific strategies that you can start practicing today that will make your life easier. It’s gotta be worth a try, right? I want you to look as happy as the wedding couples in these photos – I’m aiming for true bliss!
In case you want know what qualifications I have to talk about coping strategies, I can tell you that as well as being a qualified wedding planner, I have a Masters degree in Counselling & Psychotherapy and I’ve been a practising therapist for 9 years. I’ve been studying a new (non-therapy) programme this week which I immediately thought might be useful for couples planning their wedding who are feeling a bit stressed and overwhelmed by some of the things going on either with family or friends or maybe other wedding arrangements and I wanted to share some of it with you today.
The programme talked about 3 strategies to remember when you feel you’re not getting what you want or need in a particular situation.
The first is ‘awareness’ by which I mean awareness of where the other person is in their life right now and what’s going on for them. In my previous post I mentioned my friend Roxanne and her mantra ‘First seek to understand, then to be understood.’ This is the same thing. If a stranger behaves badly towards me, I try to imagine they’re having the worst day of their lives. How do I want to behave to that stranger if that’s true, if this truly is the worst day of their life? If they’ve just had some devastating news about a loved one, would I really want to be yelling at them, telling them how rude/inconsiderate/horrible they are? Of course not. I take a breath, summon up my compassion and try to respond in a positive way, to shift the energy to a better place, not a worse one by responding in kind. And generally it works. But you know what? If it doesn’t work and they can’t get to a better place in that moment, I’m still in a calmer place than if I’d responded angrily – and that’s a good thing, I can’t lose.
The second thing is ‘presence.’ When we feel someone is attacking us or we feel someone’s being unfair, we can give up, shut down, withdraw. Imagine if you could stop yourself doing that, if you could keep your energy level bouyant and positive. That would change the dynamic immediately. If instead of scowling or raising your voice to be heard, you focused on learning more about where the other person is coming from and why (because you’re practising your awareness as I mentioned above) AND bring in a bouyant and positive energy to lift up the other person and make them feel better, well that could really change things.
Picture your ideal wedding in your mind’s eye, focus on that whilst you’re in the midst of the stress, bring that love and joy into the discussions you’re having. Again I’m not talking about making a choice between being a doormat or a dictator, I’m talking about what Booker T Washington the famous US educator said, ‘There are 2 ways to exert strength, one is to push down, the other is to pull up.” If you can find a way to bring a bouyant, positive energy to uplift the other person – chances are, things will change. And it’s the same thing with practising awareness, if it doesn’t work, you’re still better off because you’ve summoned up your positive energy and that’s what’s flowing for you now and it feels better than negative energy. Win, win.
The third strategy for a stressful situation is ‘generosity.’ It might be the last thing you feel like being when you’re in conflict but it’s a game changer. By being generous I don’t mean giving in and letting the other person win the conflict. I mean, are you being generous towards the other person with your time, your attention, your appreciation, your patience. Are you really listening or do you think you already know what they’re going to say? You might be in conflict with them right now but if you have a relationship with this person, can you appreciate the good things about having them in your life? You’re planning your wedding, this is about having the important people in your life around you, on your side, supporting you.
So work to find out what’s really going on for the other person, what’s behind what they’re saying, what’s going on in their life right now. Bring a positive energy to the discussion, be bouyant, uplift the other person. And finally be generous with your time, attention, patience and appreciation for this person, they’re important to you. And if you can truly bring all 3 strategies to bear in your discussions, I guarantee you’ll feel better about having those difficult discussions and you’ll get a better outcome.
In my next post in this series I’m going to look at why compromise is not the answer when you’re facing a conflict with your soon-to-be spouse. The reason will surprise you…
Until then, get out there and practice your awareness, your presence, your generosity and see what a powerful difference they can make for you and those around you.