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  • Writer's pictureScarlet Gonzalez

The Art of Relating: Work-to-Home Transition

Updated: Jul 12



Clients often discuss their struggles with transitioning from their work life to home life, with some saying they dread  the transition and that the difficulties they experience in reconnecting with the people at home makes it the most stressful part of their day. In my experience working with clients that express such difficulty, I have found that the struggles often result from a lack of self-awareness that impacts their ability to reconnect. While each person’s experiences are unique in their own way, there is one thing that usually rings true:  if given the choice to be connected or disconnected with the people at home, clients  prefer to feel a sense of connection. 


Now, I’d like you to imagine getting home from work, and as you are opening the front door, there are feelings of interest, curiosity, and a desire to connect.  For some, this may be a default mindset, while for others it may be a novel concept that either never crossed your mind, or never seemed like an option.  For the hundreds of families I’ve helped and homes I’ve been in and observed, I have found that the families and family systems that relate most effectively with each other tend to practice similar, specific behaviors. This isn’t to say that these families are perfect and always feel good about connecting with each other, but that they demonstrate patterns of behavior that are predictable while establishing an effective standard of communication.


The points I will share in this article to enhance your art of relating with those at home can be best understood through the lens of Dan Seigel and Tara Bryson’s model, mindsight. Mindsight is an equation for relating that supports connection. The equation is personal insight + empathy for others = mindsight. Simply put, effective connection and communication is made possible by acknowledging one’s own feelings, while getting a sense for the feelings of the other person one is interacting with, and allowing those such awareness to inform how we connect.


Reading this, you might be thinking that this all sounds very nice in theory, but can’t imagine what it would look like in practice. Here are three simple, tangible ways that you can start practicing the art of relating at home.


Energy You Bring Home


Science tells us we are all energetic beings, vibrating at frequencies that are dictated by what we’re feeling and thinking. Because we’re beings giving off energy, we’re also impacted by the energy given off by others. Unfortunately, we can’t control the energy another person gives off, nor can we control the level to which we will be impacted by that energy. If you find that you are sensitive to the energy that others give off, you’re not alone. We all consume far too much content and information without giving ourselves the proper time and space to sort out and process our feelings that result from what we are consuming. 


In the book, “The Whole Brain Child”, Dr. Siegel and Dr. Bryson coined this phenomenon, “emotional contagion.” Emotional contagion is the idea that our brains are wired to socialize with others and that because of this, we all, in some capacity, need a sense of closeness and connection with other people. By just being in the vicinity of others, we share our energy, and others share their energy with us, impacting one another’s state of mind.This important concept helps us make sense of the impact the people around us can have on our state of mind and well-being. 


Because of this, it’s important for us as individuals, to take accountability for where we’re at, our state of being, and how that energy might impact others. A quick check-in with yourself can improve self-awareness, while pausing to identify where you’re at before communicating with others can positively impact the quality of your connection and interactions.

A powerful and effective tool to understand our state of being is S.I.F.T.,(Siegel & Bryson, 2015). SIFT is an effective exercise to help us identify where we’re at. The S stands for sensation, the I for images, F for feelings, and T for thoughts.


Here are questions you can ask yourself when utilizing the SIFT method: “What am I noticing in my body? What images are coming to mind? How does my body feel? What thoughts am I having?”Let’s say, through using SIFT you notice your shoulders and eyes are heavy, you’re having images of your bed, you feel tired, and your thoughts have been leaning towards critical. If you had to guess, someone in this state isn’t likely in the best place to connect, and that’s okay.


Knowing where you’re at can inform what you need. Sharing this information with your people at home can let them know too, which lets them know you may be experiencing lower energy than usual, and that it’s not personal or anything they are doing. .Feeling more attuned to yourself and sharing that awareness with others at home will allow you to avoid the pitfalls that can occur when people feel they are responsible for how you are feeling.


Prioritize Connection


Returning home is a time to feel welcomed and connected. The way in which we reconnect can greatly impact our relationships for that day, and possibly for days to come. Time spent reconnecting with a loved one can change our brains, helping us feel a sense of belonging, togetherness, and love (ADD Whole brainchild reference). Having a cluttered mind or things on our mind that serve to impede connection, such as thinking about things that haven’t gotten done or an argument or disagreement that has lingered and gone unresolved, can serve to de-prioritize connection. For a true sense of satisfaction, prioritize reconnecting and make it the most important part of returning home. If there are issues on your mind that are urgent and must be immediately addressed, I recommend writing them down, or setting a reminder to revisit them at a later time, after reconnection has been established.  When we prioritize connection, it lets others know that they are important, and that the relationship is valued. 


Prioritizing connection also informs us about where others are at. Knowing how a person’s day has gone can tell us how to best relate to them. For example, let’s say your child comes home, and they haven’t cleaned up their toys like they said they would. When you ask them how their day was, they share that their friend was mean to them and left them out of games at recess. Hearing this, you may immediately feel empathy and a desire to console them. This opportunity to be there for them and offer support would have been greatly hindered had the first words out of your mouth been a criticism of their failure to clean up. Or let’s say your partner comes home later than they’d said they would. You may feel frustrated and contempt for their tardiness, and immediately want to call them out, but what this does is put our partner on the defensive, which can then lead to an argument, when what was truly at the core of your feelings about the situation was that you missed them and want to connect. 


Some questions to ask someone when they walk in the door are, “Hey, it’s good to see you. How was your day?”. Another could, “hello my love, welcome home. How are you doing?” These engaging questions, along with some form of physical touch like a hug or kiss can increase the sense of connection. 


Follow Through, Even When You Don’t Feel Like It 


Now that we have a sense of ourselves, and why prioritizing connection is important, let’s talk next about why consistency is necessary. Studies show that consistently high levels of satisfaction in close relationships increase our longevity, confidence, health and sense of belonging. Healthy and strong relationships can increase the health of our immune systems, help us recover from illness, and can even prolong our lives. 


Because returning home can influence how the rest of one’s day is experienced, these opportunities for connection can greatly impact the quality of our relationships. Once your home has found a rhythm for relating and reconnecting, stick to it. Let this be a ritual that is not an option, but a consistent and necessary routine for maintaining ongoing relationship and home life satisfaction.It would be unfair to expect oneself to always be in the mood to connect with others perfectly, and that’s okay.


Being open, honest, and transparent about where you’re at, and what might be hindering the typical desire for connection can go a long way toward increasing intimacy and connection in the relationship.Also, there may be times in a relationship where you may not be speaking, where a rupture has occurred, and connection is being withheld due to an insufficient repair. Let these moments be the exception, and NOT the rule. Ideally, disruptions to connection should be brief and resolved as soon as possible. Withholding connection over time can erode the relationship’s sense of safety and security.


Conclusion


At some point in our collective story, it became acceptable to bring your best self to work, and to leave little to nothing of yourself for home. Valuing our home life and the energy we nurture there is key to increasing our sense of belonging, life satisfaction, and decreasing feelings of loneliness. I hope these ideas provide an increased sense of happiness and joy when you reconnect with your people at home.

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