As promised some time ago, we are going to look at some of the Green Zone tools that we recommend to be used within our relationships. We will certainly come back to focusing on the individual because that is the way we grow – working a little on bringing ourselves to the Green, then bringing our relationships to the Green and then we give some attention to the systems in which we exist, and then come back to the self again. So here we go!
Like individuals, relationships also have a personality, character and lifestyle. As well, intimate relationships have a life cycle of their own. They are born, they grow and they die, either by separation, divorce or death. We encourage people to assess the quality of their relationships and discover the Zone in which each of them is living.
Healthy relationships thrive in the Green Zone and have Green Zone communication styles. In such relationships, people feel free to spontaneously express their affection and are able to resolve their conflicts.
Unhealthy relationships live in the Yellow and Red Zones. In these relationships people feel inhibited and tense. Seldom is there a free flow of feelings and the differences turn into conflicts. Resolving the problems becomes very difficult and in many cases people need a mediator or a therapist to assist them to find their way.
If most of your relationships are in the Green Zone, you are one of the fortunate. However, what ever the status of your relationships, it is important to not only appreciate your Green Zone relationships but also work on those Yellow and Red relationships that are a source of stress in your life.
From our experience, one of the Number 1 abilities that people are most interested in learning is finding ways to address conflict and deal with Yellow and Red Zone relationships. We have grouped those conflict strategies into 3 categories – RESOLVING, DISSOLVING or MEDIATING. Let’s talk about what each of those means so you have a better idea of how to begin.
First of all, to resolve the conflicts of Yellow and Red Zone relationships both parties need to be willing and able to communicate in the Green Zone. You can talk to these people in person or write a letter inviting them for a heart to heart dialogue. Sometimes it is fruitful to first put all your thoughts and feelings on paper before you talk to or write to the person concerned. As you write, you may become aware of the underlying dynamics of the problem. For example, while one of our clients was doing this exercise she realized that she had been harboring anger and resentment for a long time towards the person with whom she was struggling. So she was then aware that she first needed to address her anger.
After identifying your feelings and the underlying dynamics, you are often more able to make a genuine attempt to improve the relationship. You can then write a letter and suggest a face-to-face meeting, or a response to your letter. It is not unusual to write those letters several times before they are Green Zone letters that you feel confident to share. Remember Green Zone dialogue only takes place if both parties are in the Green Zone so that a genuine attempt to resolve your issues is likely to happen.
If the other person is not willing to resolve the conflicts and create a Green Zone relationship, then you may come to the decision that you need to dissolve the relationship completely. With some personal soul searching you might be able to come to the conclusion that it is best to say goodbye to an unhealthy relationship thus putting your mind at ease and not wasting your positive energy in a negative relationship.
If you cannot resolve the painful conflicts or dissolve the unhealthy relationships on your own, you might request the help of a mediator, either a friend or a therapist. Certainly, it is not uncommon for people to seek the help of a third party when the relationship is one that they would rather not lose.
It is true that the choice to resolve or dissolve for many people becomes a paralyzing dilemma. We are all familiar with these situations where we get stuck sitting on the fence. I used to say that you need to get down off the fence because the pickets are very sharp! One of my clients joked that she had been stuck for so long on the fence that she had invited a decorator to add some comfortable seating so she wasn’t so uncomfortable anymore!
Remember to be patient with yourself and you will continue making baby steps towards your relationship and personal goals. Sometimes at the beginning we make accomplishments, and although they may be small, they still deserve to be celebrated and acknowledged because you are moving in the right direction. With habits that are deeply personal it may take some time for the new idea to be absorbed. To adapt a comment from Maya Angelou, you may need to take some time for ‘new ideas to get inside of you, into the marrow of your bones’!
So now it’s your turn. Between now and next week, review the relationships you have with people who are regularly in your life and would therefore have some power to push you into the Yellow or Red Zone. Consider whether you want to resolve, dissolve or get some help for those relationships that are not in the Green. And of course, you are very welcome to write us about your struggles or achievements.
Until next week, wishing you peace in your Green Zone!
Bette Davis RN BN MN