When your radio’s tuned properly to your favorite station, and the broadcast comes in loud and clear, you can relax and enjoy the program. When a popular love song is played on a well-tuned instrument, you can listen without distraction.
But when the instrument is out of tune, even a master musician can’t make it sound right.
Emotional attunement operates similarly in relationships. When someone listens to you thoughtfully and responds authentically, you’re drawn to that person. There’s no static in communication, there’s no approval seeking or narcissistic ranting. You feel understood and content.
Where can you learn to be so comfortable and at ease in relationships?
How Group Therapy Helps
Individual therapy is a wonderful tool for strengthening your identity. A skilled individual therapist can help you gain a better understanding of your history, your feelings and impulses, your choices: it can help heal trauma, awaken passions, ease anxiety, etc.
As individual therapy focuses on improving your relationship with yourself, group therapy focuses on improving your relationships with others, specifically, how you communicate and behave in relationships. For example:
Do you get anxious or fearful in intimate exchanges?
Do you become controlling, irritated or combative?
Do you feel letdown or unfulfilled?
Social difficulties require a social treatment. Group provides you with a place to practice new ways of being with others. As your attunement improves, you’ll learn to establish healthier, more satisfying relationships. Additionally, you’ll begin to recognize and undo bad habits at the root of your social difficulties. (See 3 Ways Group is Better Than Individual Therapy)
In group therapy, as you strengthen your attunement with others, you’ll:
- Communicate with greater clarity.
- Stress less about conflicts.
- Share your genuine thoughts and feelings.
- Listen with greater empathy and consideration.
- Develop your authentic voice.
The Tuned-Out Person
Have you ever worked for a boss who was constantly distracted, preoccupied, or never available? You get the feeling he’s not listening – and you’re right. You want to do your job well, but if he’s so out of tune with you, you’re never quite sure what he wants or if he’s pleased with your work. One moment, he’s supportive, the next he’s irritated. Sometimes he piles on demands; other times, he abandons you.
He’s out of tune with you – and it’s maddening. Feeling recognized, understood, and valued by others are essential human needs.
Without attunement, relationships are burdensome and unsatisfying. Without the tools to nurture attunement, you’re left with an emptiness that no amount of therapy, self-help seminars or life coaching will fill.
Practicing Attunement in Life
Knowing when you’re in tune – and when you’re not – is fundamental to improving your relationships. If therapy groups aren’t available in your area, here are some basic suggestions to tune-up your way of being with others:
It’s impossible to truly listen to someone when your attention is divided. Multitasking may feel good to you, but it’s an act of disrespect. No one likes to compete for attention. Multitask when you’re alone, but when communicating with others, for goodness sake, stop and listen.
Put Down the Screen
Like it or not, we’re all a part of “Generation Screen.” How many times a day do we stop and stare at a glowing monitor? Cell phones, i-Pads, computers, the TV – you name it. While technology has greatly improved our ability to share information, it’s not a substitute for real human contact. Many folks use technology as a defense against intimacy or to avoid difficult feelings. For mature, satisfying emotional communication, put down the screen and look into another person’s eyes.
Focus on Listening
Today’s world is built for distraction. Is it any wonder that ADD is among the top diagnoses? Ironically, the less quality time you spend with others, the more your insecurities and obsessions mushroom. Listening to someone else and being attuned ultimately strengthens and grounds you.
A distracted “uh-huh” is the empty calories of communication. If you feel someone is not listening, confront them. If you catch yourself not listening, stop and ask questions. If you say, “I’m sorry, what did you say?” more than two or three times a week, you have a tendency toward disassociation; the distance you put between you and another person may feel comforting, but ultimately makes you less interesting, less attractive, and undermines your friendships.
A lack attunement with others frequently stems from a lack of attunement with oneself. Attunement begins with getting in touch with your internal world. A mindfulness practice helps keeps you balanced and grounded you in the moment. It also empowers you to take responsibility for your moods so you’re less likely to blame others or say destructive things to loved ones.
Toward a New Way of Being
Attunement is the beating heart of any relationship; it will never let you down. Group therapy offers the tools to strengthen attunement, live more fully in the moment, and build more satisfying relationships. (See How Group Therapy Can Help You Empty Your Basket of Troubles)
For information on therapy groups or workshops, visit www.seangrover.com