The Dance of Connection {A Book a Day 8}

“We need words to begin to heal betrayals, inequalities, and ruptured connections.”
– Harriet Lerner

Is there an author you’d like to talk with over dinner?

Because I’ve experienced how tricky our relationships can be, I’d love to sit at my kitchen table for hours with Harriet Lerner, asking her questions and listening to her wisdom about sticky relationship issues.

Her book, The Dance of Connection: How to Talk to Someone When You’re Mad, Hurt, Scared, Frustrated, Insulted, Betrayed, or Desperate, was published over 20 years ago, but it’s just as relevant today as when she wrote it. In it, Lerner role-plays multiple conversations, guiding us through minefields that have surely plagued us all, especially in the past few years.

Without meaningful conversations, relationships can’t grow. But if we can learn to better see and be seen in our relationships, we can each be more loving versions of ourselves.

Lerner encourages us to use our voice and presence to connect with other people, regardless of our differences.

Here are four pieces of wise relationship advice from The Dance of Connection.

1. Be more supportive to persons in distress by simply letting them know you care about them—be emotionally present without pulling back from their pain and without trying to take it away.

2. Never criticize a person who is criticizing you. There may be a time to bring up your own grievances, but that time is not when the other person has taken the initiative to voice her own complaints.

3. A pure apology does not ask the other person to do anything—not even to forgive.

4. When the other person is already in an avoidant mode or heavily defended, you have to lower the intensity—not raise it—if you hope to begin a conversation.

The Dance of Connection

More Quotes from The Dance of Connection

“When speaking to any hot issue with a family member, we should stay focused on what we want to say about ourselves, rather than on eliciting a particular response from the other person.”

~ * ~

“I believe that whenever we diminish and disregard another person, we also diminish our own self.”

~ * ~

“When people suffer, they often suffer twice, first because they have lived through something painful, and second, because family members or close friends either don’t want to hear about it or don’t communicate a wish to hear about all of it.”

~ * ~

“We all need to step back from any problem and view it through a wide-angle lens.”

How hard is it for you to have difficult conversations? I do not like them. But if I think they’ll make things better, I prefer to engage so we can move forward. Share your thoughts in the comments.

You are on Day #8 of the series, A Book a Day {Nonfiction Favorites}.

Each day of February 2023 I’m recommending one book a day from favorite nonfiction books I’ve read recently.

The Table of Contents for all 28 books is here, updated daily.

A Book a Day: Nonfiction Favorites

Curveball” {Book 7}

Talking to Crazy” {Book 9}

5 thoughts on “The Dance of Connection {A Book a Day 8}

  1. Anita Ojeda

    I could have used this information yesterday when I was trying to communicate with a billing agency that had dropped the ball and wouldn’t help me :/. Evidently, customers who want to write to the agency are ‘creating a hostile work environment’ and employees have the right to hang up on them!

  2. Kym @ A Fresh Cup of Coffee

    I don’t think anyone enjoys having a difficult conversation, but I think it’s better to just talk about the problem rather than let it fester! Some of this is helpful today as I’m in the process of tracking down what happened to a check that was supposed to be sent to us from a former employer. It’s uncomfortable enough, given the circumstances, to communicate with them, but it’s obviously a necessary conversation and one in which I need to not antagonize them. Thanks for sharing!

  3. David

    #2 is a very good point — don’t retaliate.

    Re #3, I would embellish with something like ‘keep apology and explanation separate’. The “but” in “sorry, but” more than negates any apology.

    Difficult conversations get a big “nope” from me I’m afraid. I don’t like to say much at the best of times.

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