THE BLOG
01/21/2016 04:55 pm ET Updated Jan 21, 2017

6 Steps to Going From Shut-Down to Connection

The other day, I was chatting with a close friend of mine about how the world would be such a different place to live if each of us focused on becoming more self-aware.

By observing our thoughts and actions in a conscious way, we're able to identify and authentically communicate what we are really feeling, wanting and needing -- at any given time.

This is called emotional intelligence.

In my own personal experience and after helping hundreds of women find and keep love, I know that living this way is the key to having extraordinary relationships with everyone in your life.

Below I share a 6-step process that you can use to take you from getting emotionally swept away and feeling out of control (which often leads us to shutting down or lashing out), to making more conscious choices that lead to profound connection.

This 6-step process is especially useful during the holiday season when we are having more interaction with those who push our buttons the easiest... our family and siblings.

Before we get to the 6-steps, here is a story about my husband and I that while we were on a recent vacation in Peru. This is an example of how I practice emotional intelligence each and every day, and to show you in practice what this looks like.

Our trip to Peru was a very active and adventure filled holiday! We hiked up a mountain whose peak was 10,000 feet, went sight seeing on tour after tour and traveled by trains, planes and automobiles almost on a daily basis.

Near the end of our vacation I started to crave a little down time but instead we were on the road again... this time a 3.5 hour bus ride from Cuzco to Paracas... At this point I was feeling DONE! I was exhausted!

My husband sensed my state of mind and asked me if we should have just ended the trip here and not taken these extra days to travel again? I told him honestly, "Yes. In this moment I am really tired."

Then I asked him if he was tired of all the travel, and his response was that he was okay with it all because he wants to see everything he can.

Something about this irked me. It seemed like while I was being honest with him about how I felt, and he was withholding something from me.

I couldn't let go of the feeling and, on top of already feeling tired and wanting to go home, this caused me to enter a state where I was moody and upset.

Still on the bus, my husband starts to put on a movie. But I wanted to talk through some of the emotions I was feeling so I could get myself out of the funk I was in.

I asked him if he honestly was okay with the amount of travel and little downtime we had had on the trip. He answered the same way he had the first time, making me even more upset.

Then I asked if he would rather watch the movie over talking about this, and he said yes.

I reluctantly and somewhat angrily said, "Okay fine watch the movie."

And he did.

He turned on the movie and put on his headset while I stared out the window with my thoughts... "See, he doesn't understand me at all. He wants one thing and I want another. Why are we even together if we can't understand each other."

Truth be told, the entire trip had been amazing! My husband planned every last detail, and he loves me so much he put thought into making sure I was comfortable every step of the way.

Yet, here I was thinking these things about us and our relationship, which aren't rational at all!

I started observing my thoughts and realized there's another way to resolve this for myself...

I started with bringing my thoughts back from the irrational to the present moment, and what actually occurred between us. I asked myself what I was really upset about, what didn't feel good for me and what did I really want.

I was then able to pinpoint what hurt and what I wanted. Instead of blaming my husband I was able to approach him from a place of calm vulnerability.

I said that I could feel that he wasn't revealing something and that I didn't want him to think that I was ungrateful for the entire trip.

My husband then shared he was also tired of all the travel (that is why he asked me the question in the first place), but didn't want to admit to it because he wanted both of us to continue to have a good time.

We were right back on the same page.

This simple miscommunication, left unresolved, could have stayed between us for days...

This is just a small example of what happens for us in many of our relationships. It often starts with feeling misunderstood and turns into shutting down, miscommunication and ultimately feeling disconnected.

Here's another example. Let's say your Mom says something about your weight over the holidays and you feel angry inside. Or your Dad asks you why you haven't found someone yet, and you wonder if that's all he cares about.

You're triggered, the thoughts start to pour in... and the pattern repeats.

Regardless of the specific situation you may experience, here is a 6-step process to help you practice emotional intelligence so you can avoid shutting down and instead feel connected to the people you love the most.

Step 1: Feel it and be okay with it -- Allow yourself to FEEL the emotions first. Often when someone brings up a topic that we are already feeling vulnerable or tender about, we immediately get defensive or upset.

When we allow ourselves to be okay with ALL the emotions that are coming up for us, we can often avoid the instant defensive reaction. Let your emotions -- whatever they are -- be OK, even the emotions that are the hardest to accept like anger or sadness.

Step 2: Watch yourself -- Next, observe your thoughts. Our thoughts can go to an EXTREME place when we blindly identify and believe them. When we simply observe them instead we can more easily recognize when we've made up a story that's untrue because we were feeling emotional.

Step 3: Bring your thoughts back -- Bring your thoughts back to why you are emotional in that moment, ONLY. This can be challenging to do especially when we feel emotionally hurt in some way. Ask yourself, "What is affecting me right now?"

Step 4: Notice what you assumed -- This is where you review what you said, what he said and what you felt and find out what you are assuming right now. For example, if your Mom commenting on your weight triggers you, you might have assumed that she doesn't understand you or was purposely picking on you.

Step 5: Ask yourself key questions -- Ask yourself, what hurt? What do you want from this person or experience? What didn't feel right for you?

Step 6: Connection and curiosity -- Declare to yourself that you are more committed to connecting then disconnecting. Then have a conversation telling the person how you feel, what you assumed and what you needed. Be curious and receptive to what they say. This is an opportunity for you both to express yourself until you come to a place of mutual understanding.

Your Lovework is to share with me if you've had a similar experience recently and how you handled it. Did you use emotional intelligence or come from a place of mostly reaction? There are no wrong answers here.

I want to hear all about it, so make sure you comment below.