This is the time of the year when we have to start getting used to seeing a new year date, making resolutions, and perhaps, maintaining a sense of hope that with the winter solstice behind us, spring will show up soon. Eastern thought holds that we now go within ourselves, to re-evaluate, ponder, and ready ourselves to the emergence of new discoveries, new growth, and rejuvenation.
Almost universally, we’ve been seeing a decline in civility, in treating “the other” as less than us and to feel emboldened to make our opinion known in less than gracious ways. I don’t want to sound totally negative because I also see green shoots, of people coming to the aid of those scorned, of practicing civil conversations and caring for other human beings.
My question is: Has this atmosphere affected you and your relationships? Do you treat your partner in a different way? Is that reciprocated? If not, how have you kept yourself insulated from this negativity? If so, why have you changed your behavior?
Conflicts evoke anger and hurt. Although it may seem like some people seek them, it just does not sit well with the human psyche because we associate conflict with violence and the fight-or-flight instinct gets triggered. If you have been around people who are rude to one another, it affects you even if you are not involved in the conflict. It is when the rational mind overtakes the emotional that we can be civil and still deal with the disagreement. But this dynamic does not work well in a lot of people. It takes recognizing the destructive effect rude behavior causes, and wanting to react in a more productive way. Taking a deep breath or counting to ten before responding is a simple solution but it helps to slow down the interaction and our blood pressure.
I personally do not believe in new year’s resolutions because I think one can resolve to change any time of the year. But if they work for you, go for it! It will take all of us, in relationships, in friendships, in families, at work, and even in those momentary exchanges, to be civil, to express thanks or gratitude for this tide to turn. In intimate and close relationships, you can’t delete the ugly words you may have used. No doubt that anger provokes the brain to hurl those words we wouldn’t use otherwise, but we do have the capability to monitor what we say and do.
I ask this question: What is more important to you, that you hit the partner back and hurt him/her as you feel he/she has clobbered you, or that you preserve the relationship you want while repairing the wound? The latter will give any of us a feeling of control over ourselves and good feelings. Or you act impulsively and regret your own behavior.
I am hopeful that in a new year, we will all make positive and productive choices, cherish good friends and love our partners and families. Civility rocks, people!
As a psychologist in private practice since 1979, Janan Broadbent, Ph. D. offers individual, couples, group and family therapy, in addition to conducting workshops on topics such as stress management, communication skills and assertiveness. She writes about current issues relevant to relationship building and conflict resolution in LGBTQ and minority populations, with emphasis on health, fitness and education.
Born in Turkey, Dr. Broadbent earned her undergraduate degree in psychology in 1965. At that time, first as a Fulbright Scholar, then as a CENTO Fellow, she received her master's and doctorate degrees in psychology and education from the University of California at Los Angeles. She has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in psychology at St.Mary's College of Maryland, Mt. Vernon College in Washington, D. C., Johns Hopkins University and the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore. From 1981 to 1988, she was also the Director of Counseling at Notre Dame College.
While in graduate school, Dr. Broadbent worked for the Voice of America radio program, writing and recording materials on the cross-cultural college experience. She has been interviewed on various news programs on TV and has received media training.
Dr. Broadbent is a member of the American Psychological Association and has served as the chair for the Public Affairs Board and as a member of the Executive Council of the Maryland Psychological Association.
Dr. Broadbent's office is located at:
Village of Cross Keys, 120 West Quadrangle, 2 Hamill Road, Baltimore, Maryland 21210-1847 phone: 410-825-5577