“How do I know they’ve changed?”
“How can I know they’re safe?”
Patterns of Behavior are how. But we often misunderstand what this means.
Here’s my response to a client’s questions about this:
“Time matters, but so does the variety of experiences. Patterns of behavior show up in the container of time + exposure. When I’m developing a new connection with someone, I’m interested to see how they respond consistently in a variety of situations. Some stressful. Some happy. Some disappointing.
How do they consistently respond to my no’s?
How do I consistently feel around them (body wise)?
How do they handle accountability?
When they make a mistake, what do they consistently do?
What I make a mistake, what do they consistently do?
How do that ask for what they want?
How do they respond to my asks?
Consistently is, for me, defined on a 5:1 basis (taken from the Gottmans’ Kindness Ratio). 5 consistent behaviors for every one inconsistent behavior.
This basically means 80% of the time, they’re on target.
This inconsistency DOES NOT ALLOW FOR ABUSIVE BEHAVIORS.
Abusive behaviors have a ZERO TOLERANCE factor. One shows up, I’m done.
But inconsistency behaviors can show up as:
- Having a bad day, short tongue (snapped back at you or something)
- Forgot a priority or agreement
- Yelled (not aggressively)
- One major mistake (that isn’t abusive, but is a major orange flag – like breaking trust – if owned properly, can be repaired); the 4 horsemen of Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, Stonewalling can be included in these. What matters most in the repair and the change in behavior!
Any behaviors that attempt to :
- 1) Blame
- 2) Control
- 3) Dismiss or Degrade you
- 4) Violate or Ignore boundaries
- 5) Monopolize your life
Are toxic signals. Run.
So to answer your question: Look for consistency in the exposures to different situations over time. The greater the amount of exposure, the faster you see the truth. Toxic people can’t handle exposure since they can’t control it.”