The Art of Building Bridges

Welcome back to building bridges series. In this second part, we will look into the art of building bridges with a focus on how to carry out this artistic endeavor.

*This post builds on my first post. If you haven't read that one, please find it here.

**This series is dedicated to my rock, Arda.


How do we build bridges?


Now, let's look into some strategies that will be helpful to start building your bridge.


Let go of Blame & Shame game and acknowledge needs


If you would like to build something new, you need a new perspective. What keeps people stuck in unproductive patterns, is usually the blame and shame game. Dr. Sue Johnson calls this the blame-shame-distance loop in her groundbreaking book Hold Me Tight.


Pointing fingers


The loop goes like this: Someone does something that annoys the other one.


The other party gets annoyed and criticize this behavior and the other person defends and blame back (saying things like "I did this because you did this", or "I haven't done anything, you are being sensitive/paranoid/emotional..."


The more you blame, more they defend and pull back (aka stonewall). The more they escape, the more you feel like attacking to get a response. Any response.


The blame, shame and distance cycle goes on and on. It is unproductive and someone needs to stop this.


Drs. John and Julie Gottman has shown with decades of research that this cycle and defensiveness + criticism are toxic for romantic relationships and marriage.


It applies to all relationships. Criticism, blame and shaming does not take you far.


First thing would be to be AWARE of this cycle happening. Then you need to be very mindful of times when you go into this cycle or protest polka, as Dr. Sue Johnson calls it.


I understand when someone does something that annoys you the best and hurts you the worst, you come down heavy. I do too. But, we now know that this is not a productive behavior - it is more like a hammer on your bridge. That precious connection that you want to build.


So, let's see what we can do instead of hammering our precious bridge.


The magical question: What do you need?


People tend to get upset and blame because they is an underlying need that is not being met.


For example, when you criticize your partner for not taking the trash by saying "You forget to take the trash EVERY TIME, what is wrong with you?", they might defend and say, "That is not true! I took it out last week!"


When a conversation starts out this way, there is some chance that it might spiral out. Instead we can try using I language combined with a need.


I know we need to understand needs first and human needs are a whole body of discussion by themselves and here is a good read on what are the fundamental human needs.


We can short list fundamental needs here as:


Physical: such as food, shelter, comfort

Psychological: such as security, attachment, affiliation, intimacy

Social: connections with others, status, identity

Existential/Spiritual: needs that related to being such as happiness, spiritual meaning


If you think about it, you can see that we are in different types of relationships to fulfill our different needs. If our needs are not being met in a relationship, there is high chance that there is conflict in that relationship.


We need to be aware of our needs (and the needs of others as well) and hopefully understand them (not necessarily fulfill them)


For example: