David Cunningham Discusses Effective Communication in Families, Part 3
Charlene Murphy: So, knowing that there are going to be disagreements between people, what can you suggest? How do you suggest people actually communicate with each other when there is a disagreement? Some people like to argue for days, they stretch it out for years. Some people wanna walk away and cool off. What’s the secret to disagreeing effectively?
David Cunningham: Well, I think there’s, I’m gonna say two things again. I think the first thing is when the fundamental commitment again in a relationship is that the other person, when you really do have a commitment that the other person loves their life out of being with you, otherwise why should they be with you? Right now, I can be silly and go, this is even like you can spend two minutes in the store and a clerk waves at you. When you walk out the door of the store, is that person better off or worse off ‘cause they spent two minutes with you?
And if we really deal with that as human beings, Charlene, like how is the other person, are they better off or worse off, particularly if you’re in a family for 60 to 80 years. Are those people better off ‘cause they spent those 60 years with you or not? And really, it’s a fundamental question that most people never address. And how come people argue so much is ‘cause they’re not paying attention to that, all they’re paying attention to is what are they getting from the other people. Are they better off because they’re with the other people versus are the other people better off ‘cause they’re with me? And why we have so many disagreements in relationships is because each person’s there taking care of themselves. So if you and I were in a relationship and I was there taking care of me, and I was really there and what I was concerned about is how I’m doing. Well, guess what you gotta do in the relationship then? You gotta be concerned about how you’re doing.
And then the more you’re concerned about how you’re doing, the more I’m going to be concerned about how I’m doing. And the more I’m concerned about how I’m doing, the more you’re going to be concerned about how you’re doing and we’re going to grow further and further apart and have more and more arguments and consider each other more and more of a problem in each other’s lives. So we really do, Charlene, we’ve got to come up with a new paradigm for being related in this world. It’s not difficult, it’s simple. It’s that rather than ‘I’m in this relationship for what I get’ it’s that ‘I’m in this relationship for who I get to be’ and how I shift that is, I ask a different question. Not what am I getting, not is it good for me, but is the other person better off ‘cause they’re with me? And the truth is, Charlene, nobody can give us anything anyway, if you really look at it, right? In other words, nobody can give us love in our life. People can love us but we’ve all had the experience of somebody really, really loving us and frankly, we’ve been annoyed. So just because somebody else is loving us, it doesn’t fill our life with love. And sometimes, we’ve been loving another person and they haven’t been loving us at all and we’ve been really fulfilled in life. So, if we observe life very carefully, really the quality of our life comes not from what we get from the other person but from who we be.
I’m not even talking about something that’s benevolence. It’s how you give yourself a life you love is by making sure that at the end of the day you really can say the other people were better off because they spent the day with you. And that is our whole curriculum at Landmark Education. The commitment of it is living life powerfully and living the life you love and we’re really serious about that; that people really do get to have a life they just love. And it’s possible and people get to live that life powerfully.
Charlene Murphy: David, can we talk about divorce? What about the divorced couples, how can they actually rear their children without discord? I hear families use Landmark Education to cope powerfully with divorce. How is this possible?
David Cunningham: Well, it’s definitely possible, but it takes a major, again, it takes a major shift in how people relate to each other, and it also, Charlene, mostly the thing that led to divorce is the thing that’s gotta get transformed. So mostly, what I just spoke about a minute ago, what leads to divorce, what leads to couples going ‘okay, we can’t be together anymore’ is because each person in that couple is worried about what they’re getting from the other person and that’s what led to the divorce in the first place.
So again, if we can shift people’s attention, I’m gonna go back to it one more time, those three domains in life: who we be, what we do and what we have. Almost everybody, what gets people to the divorce court in the first place is the focus on what they have and what they’re doing, and arguing about that. See, people have been going that way since the beginning of time, Charlene. Trying to have the right things and do the right things in order to be happy. So, that’s what people argue about. It really is simple, not easy. By simple, I don’t mean easy. By simple, I mean it really is clear-cut, is that when people can shift their attention from what they’re getting to who they’re being as human beings and that fundamental shift takes place; when that happens, our work at Landmark Education is called transformation.
When transformation happens, it’s a new realm of possibility for life and it’s new world to live in. What’s in the background of that world is who we’re being as human beings. So, when you really focus on that and you really start organizing your life around who you be as a human being, then what comes natural is that a commitment that the people around you win. What led to divorce is that people wanted themselves to win and they thought that was in consul to the other person, and the remarkable radical things that happens for divorced people in the Landmark forum is they really do get to shift their attention to, ‘wait. How is it going for my ex wife or my ex husband?’ They actually get that their power and their joy and their fulfillment and their satisfaction in life will come when they really, even though they’re divorced now, when they really have that their ex wife or their ex husband wins, they really wish them well, want great things for them, are out to have them win.
I don’t care, I’ve seen people come out of some of the worst divorces and when they flip that over, when they simply flip over what they have their attention on that led to the divorce in the first place. Now what they’re committed to is their ex wife or their ex husband wins. There’s peace where there was no peace. There’s love where there was no love. There’s joy where there was no joy. They’re able to work things out together.
So, it’s simple, Charlene, in that it’s clear-cut, it’s precise. It’s not so simple in like it’s an easy transition to make, right? But that is the work we do and believe it or not, our Landmark forum takes place in only three days. It’s only three days and one evening, the whole program; and in literally three days, we’re able to have a conversation where people can see life from a new view. And it’s a new view that gives them power and makes them able to be effective, even with ex husbands and ex wives. If you can be effective with your ex husband or ex wife, if you really know you can accomplish what you want to accomplish with them, then anything’s possible.
Charlene Murphy: That’s pretty amazing. So, David, tell me then. What is the secret to a great marriage?
David Cunningham: The secret to a great marriage, okay. I think the secret to a great marriage is something I said earlier, but I’ll say it again in a slightly different way, which is that at the end of the day, can you say that your husband, your wife, your partner is better off ‘cause they spent that day with you? Do they think more highly of themselves? Do they have bigger dreams? Did they accomplish more of what they wanted to accomplish than they thought they could ‘cause you were the wind beneath their wings, not to be corny, but really ‘cause you were there empowering them? Standing for them? Cheering them on? Loving them? Creating an environment in which they could win?
So, a great marriage is when each person can go to bed at night and truthfully answer that question: “Is my spouse, is my husband, is my wife, is my partner,are they better off today? Are they happier tonight than they were this morning ‘cause they were with me?” And boy, if people can answer the question authentically “Yes”, you have a marriage that actually stands out in the world as remarkable, as an outstanding marriage.
Charlene Murphy: I really like how you have to take responsibility for your own marriage and that paradigm shift and asking yourself not ‘what am I getting’ but ‘who am I being, who am I becoming’. I think that’s huge. So what, then, is the secret to being a great parent? Would it be the same thing?
David Cunningham: I think so, Charlene. Again, it’s two things. It’s that, but I’m gonna add something. Let’s just say that at the same time, the whole point of being a parent is that you have the profound privilege of having that child really love themselves. At the end of the day that child goes to bed, they think higher of themselves ‘cause they had you as a parent. They have bigger dreams ‘cause they had you as a parent. That’s one.
And I think there’s something else too, right? I think it’s really critical for parents to make sure that they don’t have their child be a reflection of them; in other words, if their child fails a grade in school it’s not a reflection on the parent. If the child fails a grade in school and the parent relates to it like it reflects on them as a parent, then it adds attention. It adds a dynamic that is really counter-productive ‘cause your correction, your discipline, your support of the child has a tension to it. It brings in anger. That’s where the anger comes from. If you can really separate it out and what your child does, what your child accomplishes, is really them, they are their own human being, and you’re there to empower them in every way you can; but they’re their own human being and it doesn’t reflect on you. You can really be free to support that child the way you wanna support them, without all of the anger and disappointment that comes with thinking that their behavior is a reflection on you.
Charlene Murphy: Very good. Well David, we’re coming to the end of the hour here.
David Cunningham: Wow, that went fast, great.
Charlene Murphy: That went really – information or inspiration?
David Cunningham: Well, let’s see I think two things, right? One is I think for what’s happening in the world today, everything that’s happening in the world today, everyone’s asking who are the good people, who are the bad people, who’s right, who’s wrong, what should be and what shouldn’t be. If we could really ask a new question called ‘who are we gonna be as human beings’ and in the face of any circumstance we face, instead of asking the question ‘who’s right, who’s wrong, who are the good people and the bad people’, like okay, what’s possible here? What could work here and who do I get to be as a human being? I think it’s a new question we need to ask ourselves as a society and as individuals, Charlene. And asking that new question gives you power. It gives you life, it inspires you; it literally fills you with life to ask that new question.
So, that new question, “What’s possible here, what will work and who do I get to be as a human being?” Okay, it’s a really important question. Do you know, given what people are dealing with today, it’s really important to break out of that paradigm of blame and fault? If something happens, if you’re child fails a grade in school, it’s not your fault; it’s not their fault either. It’s nobody’s fault, it’s just something that happened. So if we could deal with what happens as what happens and not assign blame and fault to it, and then just ask, “Okay, this happened. Now who do I need to be as a human being here?”
Then a lot of the suffering and arguments will literally fall by the wayside, so that’s one. And the second thing is I believe your listeners, well, it’s just really a privilege, at Landmark Education we consider it our privilege. We’re really proud of the work we do to really empower people to live lives that they love and to be effective in all their careers, their families, their health, their fitness, their finances. We’re just really proud of the work we do at Landmark Education and want to make it as available as we can.
Charlene Murphy: That’s wonderful. Well, David, thank you so much for being here with me today and sharing your expertise with us; and thank you for your contribution to families around the world. Your work is important and I am very honored to be here with you today.
For more information about David and Landmark Education visit the website at www.landmarkeducation.com and thank you for joining us today everybody on Good Life Radio, radio for inspired living. This is Charlene Murphy reminding you of your brilliance and to always, always, always, Let it Shine. Until next week, take good care.
Charlene Murphy: Thank you for listening to Good Life Radio, radio for inspired living. For even more goodness in your life, join our global online community and meet like-minded people who dare to make our world a better place. While you’re there you can create blogs, upload audio and video files, or chat with people around the globe. Visit www.goodlifecommunity.net. Share your goodness.
Here are links to go back to part one and part two of this interview with David Cunningham about families. Also, read David Cunningham’s earlier interview about epiphanies.