Episode 20: Relationship Coaching: Balancing The Family Dynamics And Resolving Conflicts with Gretchen Hydo
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Episode 20: Relationship Coaching: Balancing The Family Dynamics And Resolving Conflicts with Gretchen Hydo
I have the pleasure of speaking with Gretchen Hydo, who has relationship coaching as one of her specialties. She is going to share with us her expertise in helping develop healthy and rewarding relationships, particularly within families.
Welcome, Gretchen. It’s a pleasure to be speaking with you.
Thank you so much, Lisa. I’m excited to be speaking with you as well.
I’d like to start off by having you share with our audience a little background about yourself in your journey into coaching.
I feel like I have been a natural coach my entire life. I’m the girl that if you’re in the elevator with me and I ask how you are, you’re going to tell me. I’m going to know a lot of things about you by the time we get to the fifth floor. I went to college to be a publicist and I got my degree in Public Relations and Communications. I do a lot of different work and publicity for many years and so much of PR is helping people with their confidence and helping them with their relationships. One day after I had gotten an executive on CNN, he said to me, “Can you create a workshop for the rest of my staff on confidence and do what you did for me before I got on camera?”
I’m always one to say yes and creating workshops isn’t necessarily something that publicists do, but I thought, “Yes, why not?” I did it. It was great. The board of directors there came up to me and said, “You should be coaching.” I thought, “That’s interesting.” That same week I mentored a lot of women and a woman said to me, “You should have been a therapist.” I said, “That might be true but I’m not going to go back to school for all of that.” She said, “You should coach.” I heard it twice and I thought, “I need to find out more about this.” I did a lot of research, went online, made some calls and went to a good school, Life Purpose Institute to get all of my coaching curriculum from. I went on to get certified by the International Coaching Federation and I ended up selling my PR Company. I have been coaching full-time ever since.
I hear that so much for coaches that coaching found you.
I feel like I came out of the womb and was coaching whoever was around.
You do a lot of different kinds of coaching and one of the areas that you do focus on that we’ll be talking a little bit more is relationship coaching. Share with us some of the different types of relationship coaching you do, but particularly on balancing the family dynamics, resolving conflict and helping the family as a whole. I would be very interested in hearing some of your insights.Sometimes, parents are worse than kids and are just as addicted with technology. Click To Tweet
I feel a special love in my heart for relationships. Remember, relationships can be anything. You and I are having a relationship with what we’re doing. When we’re thinking about the family dynamic and all of the intricacies of the relationships that happen there, whether it’s husband and wife, children, son and father, son and daughter, daughter and mother or daughter and father. There are so many different pieces of the way that the family interacts. I had a calling on my heart to help those that were struggling to have better communication, more satisfaction, more love and laughter in their relationships in the family dynamic. When it comes to helping the family as a whole, one of the things that I like to start with is talking to the family as a whole.
How are they all doing? When they’re honest, what are the things that are getting in the way of unity within the group? It’s interesting because I’ll go in and I’ll talk to everyone together and then I talk to the different members separately and often you get some different answers when we’re alone and when we’re in the group. I like to figure out how to bring harmony and peace and place on this into the family. It’s one of the things that I feel is so important in the world.
Do you find with the pressure media and technology especially with children in terms of the pressure they’re feeling academically, families seem to be struggling here?
Yes, they are. You bring up a good point. It’s so different than any other time in the world that kids have taken on that feeling of always having to be on. If you think about it, when you and I were kids and we’d go into a sleepover, your hair might be in a raggedy ponytail, probably not wearing any makeup, eating pizza in your sweat pants. Now, everything is a selfie opportunity. Kids are not even able to develop basic skills without it being on video, without it being somehow on the photo and without it being on social media. It is putting a lot of pressure on the family unit and our kids are struggling. They’re struggling with self-esteem. Low self-esteem for them is at an all-time high. That fear of not being good enough and the feeling of not being good enough are soaring. Those numbers for our kids are soaring and the having to keep up, it used to just be with the Joneses, your neighbors. Now, it’s with a whole world that you can see on social media. It’s creating a lot of pressure on the family unit.
What might be in those situations, Gretchen? If you had a family come in that was struggling in this. The level of stress you saw amongst let’s say the teenagers, what would be some ways that you might be able to help that family?
The first thing that I like to do is I want to know what does the family want. Oftentimes, teenagers are being forced to participate in activities. Whether it’s going into another dance competition or being in water polo or whatever the extracurricular is. They’re being told that they have to do it for their college applications. There’s a lot of pressure there and academically. I like to take a look at what are the things that the family unit needs. Is the system working? Let’s say that little Johnny who’s fifteen is in water polo and his sister is in dance and gymnastics. Johnny also has to be getting his Eagle Scout award as well and the family is busy.
Usually when I talk to the family and I talked to the kids and to the parents, it’s like, “Who wants to be doing this?” Sometimes the kids do and sometimes they don’t and that’s the truth. Sometimes the parents have a reason that they want them to and sometimes they don’t. The first thing is honesty. Can we be honest for a minute about what you guys want as the family unit? We see if there is anything that we can cut and that we can put to the side. Because over programming does not make people happier. That’s the first thing that I assess and then we look at what would unity within the household look like? A lot of times either the teenagers have taken over or the parents are over catering or they’re overbearing.
Many times teenagers, they’re not pulling their weight as far as it goes with the help around the house because they are in so many extracurricular things. What should that look like? What should their contribution be? With fun, what does this family like to do for fun? What do you like to do for fun as individuals? We come up with some of that. I call it forced fun in the beginning. Where we come up with the day that they’re going to have a certain amount of time that they spend time together as a family unit without their electronics. Oftentimes it’s outside and sometimes it can be uncomfortable. They don’t even know what they should be doing, but I give them some different activities that they can do to get the juices flowing again of creativity and free time.
It’s enjoying each other’s company again.
In those instances, do you typically ask, “Put the phones away. Let’s try to take a little break from technology.”
Yeah, definitely. We talk about that as well. Sometimes the parents are worse than the kids.
They’re as addicted.
I have one little family that comes in and the seven-year-old will say, “I wish my mom would pay more attention to me.” She says, “What do you mean? I’m with you all the time.” She’s a stay-at-home mom and this little guy answers, “You’re always on your phone,” and that’s the truth.
As you were talking, I made a few notes. This fear of not being good enough and one of the things that I see coaches help people with is and I call it the database of your mind, the programming that we get. The metaphor that I always use is the acorn. The acorn being your true innate self. When you’re talking about things living life from the database, it’s like you’re chasing that self-worth. You need to do this to be good enough. You need to get into that top college or you need to be the star athlete, whatever it might be. First of all, I can work on being grounded within myself. I’m trying to create an environment that helps my kids do that, especially as you’re sending them out into the world that seems so much more ego-driven. One of the greatest assets I see with coaching is helping each individual member maybe grounding themselves more in that true self and discovering who they are. Let’s nurture that. I love what you’re doing with the family dynamics saying, “As a family, can we support every individual doing that own journey for themselves?”
Think of this. When you’re stepping into who you are without the ego, without thinking that Facebook’s going to see and doing the thing that makes you shine, it’s a gift to your family. It’s a gift to the world. It’s a gift to yourself. Doing those things creates esteem, but we’ve been steered to doing what we feel “society” wants us to do so that we can check all the boxes. I got to tell you, I coach a lot of people. They’ve checked all the boxes and they come to me and they say, “I thought it was going to feel different than this.”When you’re stepping into who you are without the ego and doing the thing that makes you shine, it's a gift to your family. Click To Tweet
Try to tell people, “Don’t buy what the ego is trying to sell here.”
Yeah, that’s a good line.
The ego will draw you to fleeting moments of happiness, but you’re not going to find that true enduring contentment.
I’ve got a good friend who always says, “Your ego is not your amigo.”
I like that, but it’s true and that’s the thing too. I think as parents, we have a responsibility to try to continue our own growth and development because the more grounded we are in our authentic self and not buying into the ego, then we’re able to model that more for our children.
You touched on something that’s so important that it comes from the top down. Our children are always watching and they’re watching us. They are many times mimicking the things that we’re doing. If it’s always all about buying the newest car, the newest thing, there’s nothing wrong with having nice things, but if it’s about that, you can bet that your own children are going to pick up those cues as well. You’ll notice this too that families have their own system. They have their own thing that they’re known for. With some families, it’s about an organization that they’re a part of. Some families are giving. Some families are quiet. Figuring out what’s your family known for and then leaning in and feeling safety in that, it’s also something that I like to do with my family. It is like, “What’s your mission statement? What is the Johnson family known for? If you went out into society, what do you want them to think of you as?” Ask them, “Are the things that you’re doing equaling up to what you want people to think about who you are rather than this social media version of you?”
Is it safe to say that every family has its own individual culture?
Yes, I think that’s a good way to put it. It is their own culture. Some are uptight, some are funny and some are more laid back. I have one family, they say, “We’re not an academic household.” That’s your culture. It’s all right. They’re okay with that. I have to say it helps them to not be so stressed when you know what your culture is. It’s like the safety zone. You feel better about how you’re going out into the world.
It’s like that secure home base. It’s such an important work that you’re doing for families here, so I appreciate what you’re doing here. You mentioned in your past life you did a lot with communication. I know one of the things you do help in terms of relationships is both more effective communication and then also resolving conflict. I was wondering if you can give us some insights into how you might help people with both becoming more emotionally mature communicators and more effective at resolving conflict.
There are a few things that I like to do. The first one is I like to teach people not to take things personally. Conflict is created because our personal value system has somehow been touched and we feel like it’s been violated. What that means is if you think about the last thing that made you mad, it bothered you. Maybe it was your husband wasn’t on time or your daughter didn’t turn in her math homework when she was supposed to. What that’s hitting up against is that you’re a person. If that’s something that’s important to you, you have a value of being on time. Maybe you have a value of responsibility where let’s say in this case the husband’s value maybe is more like go with the flow. It’s not that big of a deal.
When the husband and wife or whomever it is are interacting and they can see that it’s not personal, this person just doesn’t value this other thing, it takes some of the zing out of it that they didn’t do it too. This is the way they live their life and it looks different than the way that we live our life. One good thing that everyone can do is to write down what do you value. I think most people can agree that they value honesty and integrity and those things. A value system is a good indicator if you’re personal motivators and they’re different for everybody. Not everyone feels pulse about the same things and we’re not supposed to, but when you know those core values and you even can write them down and you know what your family systems core values are, you can ask yourself, “Did my brother do that to get on my nerves or is it something that gets on my nerves because it’s my core value?”
You’re tracking one of the thoughts that came to my mind. I think it’s very important to develop that self-awareness of what are your core values but I’d be curious as to see how well you can guess your partner’s or your kid’s core value.
When you bring that up, it’s usually what we do. I have the family set and we pick whoever’s going to go first. Dad’s going to go first. What does dad value? Everyone says it and we see if we got it right. Because sometimes even though you might think that that’s what a person values, it’s not. Because of that, you can have a mismatch in communication. The other thing that I like to do with families is finding out what their love language is. Many times, we communicate in a way that we think is helpful but to the other person, it is not hitting the mark. That’s because it’s not the way that the other person receives or gives love or communicate. When you know what it is that other people in your family need to receive love or to communicate, you can effectively make them feel important, heard and valued.
For those in our audience who may not be familiar with the different love languages, can you just give us a few examples?
There are acts of service. Those are for people who may be the language looks like, “Take out the trash,” and that’s how you’re going to show me you love me. There’s quality time. Those are for people who they want you to spend time with them. They want to be doing things together. There’s one that it’s all about tone and words of affirmation. That’s not just about what you say, but how you say it. Sometimes you can say something to someone. It’s perfectly fine the wording, but the tone can be very jarring. There are gifts. Some people, the way that they receive love is through gifts or good communication. They get rewarded. There are intimacy and touch. For some people, they need a lot of physical touch to feel loved and to be able to give good communication. They need a lot of verbal stimulation as well with nonverbal eye contact or with nodding so that they know that you’re there with them. You can go to 5LoveLanguages.com and take a test for free to find out how everyone in your family communicates.
It doesn’t take long, but it can be so powerful. Because here you are, if you’re doing acts of service, like I said, taking out the garbage, doing chores or whatever, but you’re missing the mark, it almost feels like you’re feeling a sense of helplessness saying, “Here I am doing all this.” They’re not appreciating it.Our children are always watching us and they are mimicking the things that we're doing. Click To Tweet
Think of your teenagers who they already do not have the same capabilities with communication that adults do. For them, they feel very frustrated or unseen. Maybe they have done the dishes or done whatever, but their mother’s love language is tone and touch or maybe she needs them to spend quality time and they’re always gone. Even though they’re “doing everything” that they should, the mom can’t feel it or vice versa with the teenager. Maybe the teenager needs the mom’s tone or the father’s tone to be different. The parents are saying all the right things, but their tonality is off.
It may be different for each member of the family.
It almost always is.
It’s like with one child or with your spouse saying, “This is what resonates with them.” One child might need to be cuddled more. Another might need like, “Let’s go play basketball together.” I can easily see when you hit the right one, what a sense of connection you feel.
Between that and learning the value system and not to take it personally, most of the time that right there, those two things, although they seem small, they’re so powerful. It can rearrange the power dynamic that goes on in families.
In my work with clients, one of the things I know clients often struggle with is emotional reactivity. In those moments, they’re either saying or doing something that they quickly regret. I could imagine in any time you’re communicating, especially amongst families where emotions are often run high that struggling to manage our emotions effectively can be a challenge. I don’t know if you do a lot of work with that. Give us some strategies or techniques that might be helpful for the people when their emotions have gotten the best of them.
We all have warning signals in our body, but as a whole, we have not been trained to pay attention to what our bodies are saying. I encourage my clients to get in touch with where they feel their trigger point. Is it in your stomach? Do you feel sick? Is it your flight or fight response and you feel that surge of energy in your chest pulling you forward causing you to say the thing that maybe you wish you didn’t say. Does it feel like champagne bubbles all locked up in your throat that is going to spill out? Whatever it is, you need pressure release valves to be able to take the tension out of it. Exercise is a great way to do that.
Sometimes even leaving the room, even if it’s mid-sentence when you can feel your body activated and walking away from the situation, even if it feels rude, is better than getting into a situation where you say or do something that you later regret. I call it the, “I’m going to take five minutes.” Sometimes my clients are able to learn how to say, “I’m going to take five minutes.” Sometimes they have been trained to leave the room and, “I’m going to take five minutes,” comes later. Noticing where does that stored energy go in my body and when do I feel it because then the next thing is the blow. “I’m going to blow. I’m going to explode,” and to pay attention to that so that you can do something different.
Catch it before the explosion. I love the suggestion of paying attention to your body because most people if you are in tune with it, you could feel at time’s your blood pressure rising. I try to tell people, from that moment when the limbic system where your emotions come from, it feels like that’s more in charge than my frontal lobe where I can think things through. I like your strategy of knowing that you need to leave the room and do some exercise and release that energy because the emotions all come with energies, particularly those intense ones of anger and frustration.
I’ve got a great exercise for that too. For some of my clients that are fiery or there’s a lot of frustration in the house, I tell them to keep ice cubes. When you’re going for your, “I need five minutes,” grab the ice cubes. You can throw them in the backyard. They don’t make any mess. It’s very satisfying to watch them shatter and it gets the feeling out.
I like the strategy because sometimes it’s that physical release.
Sometimes you can go for a run or you can go for a walk, but usually throwing ice cubes, you throw a few and you already feel better.
The other thing too and I don’t know if you see this in your work is respecting the fact that that person is flooded and needs to take the walkout. I don’t know if you find this, but sometimes women may tend to do this more because sometimes stereotypically we’re not as emotionally flooded as quickly. If our spouse needs to leave the room, a lot of times it’s like, “Where are you going? We’re not done talking.”
With women, they tend to feel abandoned and they tend to feel the love is being pulled away. This is stereotypical, but if we’re going to put it in buckets, with men, what they want is respect. If they are feeling not respected, they almost always go internal and go quiet. The louder the woman becomes or the more she needs with, “Why are you walking away? We’re not done with this.” The more shut down the male becomes and he is not going to talk. When I create this family dynamic within the system, this is one of the things that we come up with as a ground rule that if you need five minutes, take five minutes and no one gets to be mad about it. It is not a time to be bombarded with questions about why you needed five minutes.
It’s a wonderful way of educating us on how we work differently.
It’s not right or wrong and it’s not also 100% foolproof. It’s nice to know that it’s like, “What my wife or what my mom needs is love. In order for her to feel love, here’s her love language,” “What my husband needs is respect,” or “My son, for him to feel that and hear that, here’s how he needs to be communicated with,” “Their values are just bumping up against mine. It doesn’t mean I’ve raised terrible humans, we just valued different things and that’s okay,” and it normalizes it.Families can sometimes feel so combative, but in the middle of that there's a lot of love. Click To Tweet
When people feel understood like that or that you get me, it seems like there’s an automatic calming down of emotions. It’s such an important work that you’re doing, Gretchen. I truly appreciate you sharing your techniques and insights here. Are there any other things about relationships you wanted to share with our audience that we didn’t talk about?
I’ll share one more technique because I think it’s important. It’s called the embrace technique. Many times, we’re taught that to get what we want. We have to either be manipulative, louder or more powerful than another person in order to get our way. Usually, all that gets us is retaliation or someone saying yes when they mean no and then not doing the thing because they meant no in the first place. The embrace technique’s pretty easy. There are a few parts to it. The first one is we take a look at the other person’s point of view, where they’re at in life. Let’s say that in this situation a mom would like some more help around the house from her teenage son. Instead of telling him, “You’re not going to get your phone for two weeks if you don’t clean your room,” or “No allowance,” or “You can’t drive the car.” If she came at him with, “I know that you have water polo and that you’ve been working hard to get straight As. I know that it’s been a lot of times that you’ve been putting into that.” It feels different. The tones are already different. It’s not accusatory. It’s not like you’re coming at the person with anything. You’re acknowledging where they’re at. We all like that.
The next part is you get to say what you need, not in a nagging way, but it sounds something like, “I’ve been working hard too and, on the weekend, I also would like to be able to relax.” You get to say your own point of view but not, “Because of you, I don’t ever get to relax because I’m driving you everywhere. I’m paying for everything.” It’s, “Here’s my point of view,” in a friendly way and again, not aggressive and you get to make a simple request. “I’m wondering if it would be possible on Sunday after practice for you to help me for an hour in the yard.” You make it a small tangible step that is easy. It’s not like, “I’m going to need you to rearrange the garage, mow the lawn and clean out all that stuff that’s been under your bed since you were seven.” Because there’s stuff under the bed since they were seven, at least at my house. It’s one small request where you can get a yes and then you let them answer and you say, “Thank you.” Even if the person says, “Sunday’s not good for me because I have this other thing.” You don’t then get to fly off the handle and say, “I was trying this new technique.” Instead, you get to say, “What do you feel like you could do?” When and when people come in at nonabrasively, it’s amazing the movement that they get in their family system.
Instead of coming in with that coercion that puts people on the defensive, I love when you say the other person’s point of view first. I’ve heard the statement, “Focus on trying to understand before being understood.” It seems to go right along with that technique.
It does and it can be counterintuitive. A lot of times clients worry that if they come out of that way and embrace the other person’s point of view, that then they’re not allowed to make a request. Instead what it often does is it makes the other person realize that they’re being acknowledged, seen and validated. It takes them off of the stance of that fight or flight feeling and makes it that they can be more present and open to a yes.
What a powerful technique. I’m going to be starting to use that one.
Let me know how it goes.
I like keeping it small and tangible. The other thing that I like about it is if they say, “No, I have practice. I have homework,” or whatever, I love the question, “What could you do then? What could you offer?”
What could be a more comfortable thing for you to free to do then?
Giving them the power of choice here.
Do you have any final words of wisdom for our audience?
Keep loving each other. Families can sometimes feel so combative, but in the middle of that there’s a lot of love and remember to have fun. I think it’s such a nice balm for everybody. Even if you get one of those silly joke books and tell terrible knock-knock jokes, it lightens the mood and we all need a little bit of lightness.
Especially with so many people that are so stressed and with such pressure. I love to bring some laughter back into the family. Let’s have some fun. Gretchen, what is the best way for our audience to contact you?
They can do a couple of ways. They can go to my website, which is GretchenHydo.com. They can find information about me there and then schedule a call. For anyone, I would love to offer them a complimentary 30-minute session to talk about maybe the needs of their family and how to better communicate. As I said, it’s close to my heart and it’s something that I think is important. You can also find me on Facebook and join my community. It’s called Shine On Purpose. There are a lot of tips in there about good ways to communicate. It’s a supportive community where everyone’s sharing the struggle of the daily grind and the ways that they make that better.
That’s wonderful. Gretchen also has a profile on The Coaching Connector, which is www.TheCoachingConnector.com. Be sure to check out her profile there as well. Thank you so much. I appreciate all the wisdom and techniques and strategies that you’ve shared with us. I appreciate your passion for helping families.
Thank you so much. It was wonderful to be here.
That brings us to the end of this episode. Please remember to visit www.TheCoachingConnector.com for more articles on Guiding You Through The Maze to your best personal and professional life. Also, please remember to subscribe to Guiding You Through The Maze and share a link with anyone you think would benefit from the information we’re presenting. We’re so glad to be part of your journey.
- Gretchen Hydo
- Life Purpose Institute
- Shine On Purpose
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About Gretchen Hydo
- Lentino, L.M. (2014). Constructive thinking how to grow beyond your mind. Sudbury, MA: Grow Beyond Your Mind.