Last night, I was doing the super-exciting task of washing the dishes again. As I have mentioned in other posts, when I have more tasks than energy, I use music to help me get the job done. I reach for my phone, open Spotify and see that they have created a new “discover” playlist just for me.
It was like opening an unexpected gift. The playlist had new songs and artists that were really great. I loved some of the songs and liked most of them. Yes, I know Spotify created this playlist using some algorithm based on my previous choices. Nevertheless, as I was loading the dishwasher, I thought to myself, “Thanks, Spotify. You really get me.”
This is the feeling we search for in all relationships. When we feel like someone gets us, we feel validated, understood, accepted, even loved. This feeling is called attunement.
Attunement is crucial in all close relationships– friends spouses, children, siblings, parents. When your relationship is attuned, you clash less and enjoy each other more. Your relationship feels safe enough to be authentic. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. When someone who should “get you,” suddenly doesn’t, it can be heartbreaking.
Here are some examples I have heard from clients in the last month:
- “My friend should have known how important it was to me that she come to my birthday party.”
- “My wife should have known how stressed out I am about money.”
- “My mother should understand how important it is for me to host a holiday in my new home.”
- “My husband should understand how stressful my day is.
When my clients struggle with the disappointment of un-attuned relationships, we explore 2 things: Did I express my needs and are my expectations too high?
The truth is that, at our core, we have an unspoken wish that our loved ones will intuit and meet our needs without us having to articulate them. This is a fantasy. We must not resent our loved ones for making us ask for what we need. Likewise, we shouldn’t feel ashamed or guilty to admit what we need.
Of course, we don’t intend to make someone feel the heartache of lack attunement. Unfortunately, there is no algorithm to create attunement.
Here are some tips we can all use to work on attunement in our relationships:
- Look people in the eye when you are talking with them. This is also known as put down the f-ing screen.
- Stop multitasking if you want to connect. It is impossible to truly listen to someone when your attention is divided.
- If you are losing focus while listening, get more engaged in the conversation. A distracted, “uh huh”, is not engagement. Tune into the feelings being expressed.
- Look inward. In order to be empathetic to someone else, we must be in touch with our own feelings.When we take responsibility for our own moods, we’re less likely to blame others or say destructive things to loved ones.
Attunement is the foundation of attachment and trust in all relationships. Sharing your true thoughts and feelings, listening with greater attention and empathy– these are the keys to getting more out of your relationships.