Connection is a tricky business. Creating and maintaining genuine connections within relationships is a multifaceted challenge that holds profound importance in our lives. The intricate dance of understanding, empathy, and communication often proves to be a mystery to all of us. Miscommunications, differing perspectives, and the complexities of individual personalities can leave us confused as to what happened. 

connection, connect, together, relationships, love, marriage, relationship, couples


Connection is a tricky business. Creating and maintaining genuine connections within relationships is a multifaceted challenge that holds profound importance in our lives. The intricate dance of understanding, empathy, and communication often proves to be a mystery to all of us.

The journey towards establishing and preserving connections is riddled with challenges. It is my life’s work to connect with people, to help them to connect with themselves and other people. Dr Garfinkel my favorite psychiatrist to refer to said that I was good with difficult people & I’ve always attributed that to having a difficult Mom with a rare mental illness. When I interviewed Darryl Stickel an expert on trust in Episode 114 he taught me that the first building block of trust is someone believing you have their best interests at heart. I realized that is what I bring to my work and even after 50 years (in 2024) of working with people I know how hard it is to get it right with others.

One of my favorite quotes is from Phillip Roth in his novel American Pastoral has a beautiful quote about our difficulty with connection:
“You fight your superficiality, your shallowness, so as to try to come at people without unreal expectations, without an overload of bias or hope or arrogance, as untanklike as you can be, sans cannon and machine guns and steel plating half a foot thick; you come at them unmenacingly on your own ten toes instead of tearing up the turf with your caterpillar treads, take them on with an open mind, as equals, man to man, as we used to say, and yet you never fail to get them wrong. You might as well have the “brain” of a tank. You get them wrong before you meet them, while you’re anticipating meeting them; you get them wrong while you’re with them; and then you go home to tell somebody else about the meeting and you get them all wrong again. Since the same generally goes for them with you, the whole thing is really a dazzling illusion empty of all perception, an astonishing farce of misperception.”
I learned about Today’s guests when I looked up the favorite book on relationships in Blinkist and was surprised I didn’t know about it. The Title of their book is Missing Each Other: How To Cultivate Meaningful Connections by Edward Broken & Ashley Pallathra. They started out doing research in autism. Their book “makes an argument for reinvesting in ourselves and each other by improving the quality of our daily interactions.” Thanks so much for coming to talk with my audience today.
In the introduction to your book you describe the Dalai Lama who offers consistent interest & attentiveness to someone else creates a positive feedback loop, could you share more about that…? It really interested me because of the constant distractions of phone scrolling that we are so buried in as a culture.

Ted Brodkin (04:39.95)
we did start the book out with that example. And I think that multiple people who’ve met the Dalai Lama, I know everyone talks about him, but have commented on this incredible attention he brings to every interaction like his. He feels completely tuned into you when he’s talking with you. I’ve never experienced it myself, but with him. But I’ve heard it described and it it’s been described as a really unique experience because.

Like you’re saying, Rhoda, so many of us are so distracted and we’ve got our phones pinging and we’ve got things to do, places to be. And, but even to have someone completely tune into you for one minute or no less five minutes can seem like a very striking experience. So that’s what we were trying to get at and sort of present a kind of ideal, I guess, of attunement that we talk about in the book. And it’s hard for.

ordinary people who are not the Dalai Lama to achieve that level. But I think our overall argument is that even if we can work on it and get even a bit better at it, it can really make a big difference in our lives.

Ashley Pallathra (05:57.692)
I think in general, like when we started writing this book together, you know, it stemmed from our passion for just connection. From the research sphere, from the clinical sphere, you know, we were always so interested in things that maybe strengthen connection and also things that get in the way of connection, whether it’s, you know, the external factors that we have in our environments or even just unique differences among people. And I know you mentioned, you know, our history of research within.

the autism field and how there are certain things neurobiologically that can also get in the way of connection. But in general, we just, you know, really had a passion for it, which is interesting because that was before the pandemic. So the timing of when this book came out, too, it just sort of was a universal conversation around how to reinvest in community connection and how much that really means to us, especially at a time when we were deprived of it.

Rhoda Sommer (06:58.239)
I just had someone yesterday talk about how they felt, she felt that she and her husband both were still being more isolated than they had been before the pandemic, because of the pandemic. And I think it was really a profound impact. And I do think connection is so hard that sometimes people just feel…

I’m just gonna give up, you know, why bother? People are messy, it’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of trouble, forget it. And it’s also the thing that keeps us alive and loving and all the good stuff in the world. You know? You both talk about the stress and social disconnection feedback loop, which was something I didn’t know about.

Ted Brodkin (07:52.526)
Yeah, well, it’s related to what we were just talking about that we’re so distracted and we’re so stressed. There’s so many sources of stress in our life and the more stressed you are, the harder it is to connect because you’re, you know, if you imagine an extreme example where you’re just in a panic attack, right, it’s really hard to connect with others in that state. But even at milder levels when you’re just feeling chronically stressed and overwhelmed,

you can get so wrapped up in that and so consumed with that. And there’s even a biology to it, like cortisol and adrenaline, that it’s just really hard to connect with others. And then it can become a bit of a vicious cycle because the connections with others, positive, good, nurturing connection with others can help to de -stress us. So you see how that can become a vicious cycle, right? It’s like you’re stressed, you can’t connect as well, and then you…

Ashley Pallathra (08:50.076)
you isolate more.

Ted Brodkin (08:51.406)
Yeah, and then you lack what helps to de -stress you.

Ashley Pallathra (08:58.116)
Yeah, I think it’s a combination right of like your internal state can get hijacked and without awareness of that especially awareness of the fact that it may not be an extreme situation like a lot of times anxiety that people feel nowadays it’s like our brain is telling us that you know we need to be afraid we need to our resources get redirected yeah depleted and also redirected to just sort of survival.

when in reality when we need more of like that calm, relaxed state that we talk about in the book, developing capacity to increase the amount that you can be in that state breeds your ability to be able to connect better, you know, and to feel safe enough to try and do that, which is a risky thing, like you said.

Rhoda Sommer (09:49.535)
I’m thinking about even parents when they’re driving their kids to some function or music lesson or soccer game, but they can be so stressed because they came from work and they’re trying to get the kids there and the kids shoes that they can’t find their shoes. And so the loss of connection and.

I do think I learn so much about the kids listening to them talk to each other in the car. And if you’re stressed, you’re not listening. So I think there’s so many ways you’re right to lose track of connection and be absorbed with everything else that’s going on. Yeah.

Ted Brodkin (10:25.102)
Definitely, definitely. I can relate to that as someone with kids, so I know what you’re talking about.

Rhoda Sommer (10:29.535)
So my third question is simply the title of your second chapter. What is attunement that will improve our connections with others and why is it so important?

Ashley Pallathra (10:43.516)
I mean, I think for us, attunement is really thinking about an ability to find balance among your awareness of your own internal state, your sort of sense of mind and body, like we’re talking about here, the different stress levels, the awareness, the attention of what might be coming up for you, and balancing that with your awareness and tension of the other person, let’s say, if we’re talking about.

two people in a dynamic or the surroundings that you have. And so it’s just like a, it’s a constant dance. And I think for when we think about attunement, whether it’s like in parent -child relationships, in couples, in friends, coworkers, like there is a, there’s a sweet spot that sometimes we are able to get to, which we, I think a lot of people just use the term in sync.

when you kind of feel like you’re on that same wavelength and you’re moving with the dynamics of the conversation, you’re moving with each other no matter what happens and you’re able to kind of stay with each other even in the twists and turns or the high emotions of that interaction. So I think attunement is just sort of like developing the capacity to increase moments of being in sync, of being heard and seeing yourself and then also helping.

make other people feel that way. I mean, we’re never gonna have constant attunement in interactions and be able to find ourselves cruising on that wavelength all the time. It’s just impossible. But I think with everything that you described in the beginning of all the distractors, all the things that make it hard for us to get to that level of attunement, I think it requires investment and time and trust to be able to do that.

Ted Brodkin (12:43.118)
Yeah, and I might add to that. I think sometimes other examples where attunement shows up is helpful for understanding the concept in addition to conversation. Because sometimes attunement can even be nonverbal. And one of the examples I bring up is if you think of two musicians playing together, instruments, or even a group of musicians.

Each of them, to be able to play together, each of them has to, like Ashley said, be aware of themselves. They need to know what they’re doing and what they’re playing. And they need to be listening to the other one.

to be able to play in sync and respond to each other. Or it could be two athletes on a team, a soccer team or a basketball team or something, moving down the field or the court. Like they have to be very aware of where they are, where their teammates are, where the other team is in a kind of flowing dynamic changing situation. And that’s what’s gonna enable them to be successful at scoring the goal or the point or whatever. So,

that idea, like Ashley was saying, of really tuning into yourself and the other person and maintaining this connection during a dynamics interaction is what we’re talking about. And it’s applicable to just so many situations. And I know that, Rhoda, you’re interested in couples and that’s what this podcast is about. And I think it comes up all the time with couple relationships. So.

Rhoda Sommer (14:15.775)
Yes, I think people even that when there’s a long term relationship, there’s a history of interactions and then somebody’s working hard an individual and they start changing and being different, but they don’t get acknowledged and the other person still they’re stuck in their head about how the person is and they’re not attuned to some of the small differences that are steps forward and and trying to help people see that it’s it’s quite.

Quite artistic, I think. Okay, so there are four parts to attunement, which are tools to talk with people instead of at them. Let’s explore each of them, beginning with the first, which is relaxed awareness. What is that about?

Ashley Pallathra (14:47.164)
It’s a great way to put it.

Ashley Pallathra (15:06.268)
Well, relaxed awareness is another balancing game. I think we talk a lot about that theme throughout the book, but essentially it’s just sort of finding a balance between being relaxed and in the moment, so not being panicked, not being sort of driven by emotion, finding ways to be grounded and aware of yourself.

your environment and then also being aware at the same time. So really thinking about it as not a passive state but something that’s very active and dynamic. So, you know, a lot of times people talk about increasing mindfulness, which is part of what we discuss as well. And I think mindfulness sometimes can be very co -opted in the sense of like you need to be very serene and be very focused on one thing. But…

you know, real true mindful awareness is dynamic. It’s allowing things to come and go. It’s allowing your attention to take note and be very actively aware of things, motion, conversation, cues, and sort of regulate the emotion that might come up from that or might be stirred in the same time. So, you know, in conversation, that sort of comes with just sort of staying grounded.

being able to stay regulated, and it just sort of maximizes your potential for those upcoming twists and turns of whatever the interaction entails.

Ted Brodkin (16:43.758)
Yeah, and sometimes when we’ve described this idea of relaxed awareness, people have related it to like a flow state, which I actually think is a pretty good comparison. Because like if you think of yourself, your own experience and…

If there’s been some experience you’ve been involved in, whether it’s, you know, if you’re a painter and you love painting and you just get really like you’re very, very alert and aware in a way, but you’re kind of calm as you get immersed in this painting, or it could be could be playing on a team sport or could be playing music, or it could be just a really, really great conversation you have with someone where.

Yeah, you’re just really tuned in. You’re really aware. You’re relatively calm. Emotions might come up for you for sure. It’s not an unemotional cold state, but they don’t tend to completely overwhelm you so that you’re able to keep that connection with the other person.

Rhoda Sommer (17:41.759)
Yeah, I liked your metaphor before about the dance, like if you’re watching four people in a chamber music and they really are tuning into each other as they’re playing or tapping their feet or whatever. And it’s really a process that involves a lot of attention and a lot of focus. And it all sounds like a really delicious thing if we can make it happen with the people we love, it does, you know.

Rhoda Sommer (18:11.713)
second which is listening. What does that mean and how can we improve it?

Ted Brodkin (18:18.158)
Yeah, listening, we describe as, I mean, literally listening in a conversation, like listening to what the person’s saying and so on, but.

we’re using the term in a much broader sense to include a lot more, just taking in the cues from the other person. So some of it is hearing their voice, hearing the tone of their voice, the emotion expressed in their voice, but also taking in like their body language, their facial expression, sort of taking that all in and…

And some of listening is really, we describe it as resonating. So, you know, you may have experiences where you’re having a really good conversation with someone and you realize kind of unconsciously you’re mirroring each other. Like you’re kind of sitting in a similar posture because there’s a kind of motor resonance or motor mirroring that goes on with really good listening. And then there’s also an emotional resonance. So like if the other person starts to express a certain

emotion, let’s say it’s sadness, you might start to feel a little bit sad too. And you know it’s coming from them, but you’re resonating with them. So when you’re really deeply listening to someone, you’re taking in all those cues and you’re letting yourself resonate with them.

Ashley Pallathra (19:40.348)
I mean, I kind of wish your listeners could get a screenshot of us right now and just the way that we’re sort of leaning in or adjusting your posture, right, or changing your facial expression to just indicate and communicate that the listening is actively happening as well.

Rhoda Sommer (20:01.055)
I think there’s a lot of communication where people are washing dishes or they’re trying to find the boots that the kid left behind or whatever. And when I think about that, I’m a little bit sad that I didn’t learn about this earlier in my life, you know? I think I’m a pretty good listener, but I also would make jokes about how I used up those skills at work.

Ted Brodkin (20:25.87)
Yeah, no there can be fatigue from it and it’s it sounds easy, but it’s really actually it’s quite challenging It’s I think a lot of these things that we’re talking about relaxed awareness listening. It’s the more I

Ashley Pallathra (20:26.716)
I’m with you there, Rhoda.

Ted Brodkin (20:43.022)
sit with these ideas the more I feel like it’s really a life’s work, you know, and no one’s perfect at it. So you, as Ashley has said, you have to show yourself some forgiveness and grace because no one’s going to be perfect at it. But, you know, just baby steps, like a little bit better can have a big payoff.

Rhoda Sommer (21:06.079)
So I read, I like to read science fiction and there’s one called Nexus, N -E -X -U -S. And I can’t remember the author, but he’s a Google tech guy. So, you know, there’s some cretins, but he talked about in this book, people had something in their head and they were able to dive into the other person’s emotions and understand their stories without.

Talking and then it was about how that turned into being scary for people and it was really well done And it made me think about how even when you have technology that could help you do that There’s still problematic issues with it but if the book was It’s a trilogy actually, you know, it really is very interesting. But connection is something I think we’re all hungry for and yet

Rhoda Sommer (22:04.991)
It’s mysterious, you know?

Ted Brodkin (22:07.79)
Yeah, I mean, a quick comment on that. I haven’t read that science fiction, but we do have a chapter just to give it a plug at the end, toward the end of our book called Artificial Attunement, where we talk about some of these new technologies that are developing to kind of mediate human interaction or read faces, facial recognition.

And things like that, but the issues that they raise, the ethical issues, how much do we want to hand this over to machines and robots and all these technologies that are being developed. So that’s interesting that you bring that up.

Rhoda Sommer (22:51.903)
Yeah, I really thought, I thought, hmm. The third is understanding, which we all deeply hunger for, and certainly could you talk about how reactivity spoils our understanding each other and what we can do about it.

Ashley Pallathra (23:10.532)
Yeah, reactivity is a hard one in relationships. I mean, it also, talk about the work, it also requires a lot, it can require a lot of introspection and, you know, understanding of yourself. And I think that’s where this chapter comes into play. Like, again, it’s a constant dance of understanding of yourself, of your own hurt.

of your own history and things that could be influencing and I guess coloring the filter in which you receive information or you hear things. So having an awareness of that and then also in the same way deeply trying to understand and observe someone else’s experience. I mean like you said, to understand someone is to truly to love them and to feel love.

It’s like just that core sensation that I think keeps us alive and is like such a human foundational element that we’re striving for. But that reactivity, I think it can show up in so many ways. I mean, in my work, like in therapy, working with a lot of individuals who have had either traumatic histories or difficult attachment patterns in early childhood, you know, just sort of understanding ways in which you might interpret things.

or receive things and starting to diffuse those interpretations and those thoughts from the reality of the situation. And everyone is gonna have their own interpretation of the reality and of the facts, but essentially just kind of creating some space. I think the visual we use in the book is like the subway in London and how they have an announcement on the tube where the watcher steps.

before you step out. And in conversation, a lot of times we don’t always create that space. Because like you said, we’re rushing, we’re doing dishes, we’re balancing things simultaneously. Or something my partner said just made me furious, which happened this morning. So we’re all working through these situations. And…

It’s hard to take that breath, which comes back to relaxed awareness. Like, how do I regulate that reaction? How do I even catch that reaction in the moment enough to notice it, right, to maintain that connection? So it is, it’s a doozy, and it’s just kind of ongoing practice.

Rhoda Sommer (25:51.295)
Even coming back to it later, I think I was really defensive when we were talking earlier because I just got my anger triggered and I want to come back and finish it up. Even backtracking a little bit can be helpful, I think, because I don’t think we can all conquer all our reactivity and our defensiveness. Yeah, yeah. But we can think about it and then digest it and then come back and create that.

Ashley Pallathra (26:12.316)
in the moment? yeah.

Rhoda Sommer (26:20.703)
So many people that I’ve been interviewing recently have been talking about the pause, you know, having a pause, and I think that you’re fleshing it out with even more information, you know. And a lot of times when we’re reactive, we’re so in ourselves. And one of the things you’ve been really clear, both of you have been clear about today, is how you’ve really got to incorporate the other person if you’re active listening and you’re really attentive listening. that it’s about both of you and a dance between the two. And I don’t think we talk enough about that.

Ashley Pallathra (26:55.484)
I mean, there’s like a humility in knowing that the person across from you is constantly changing and like what you think you know about them may not be true or may not be accurate anymore, right? So to have that curiosity could be part of it. And then also the trust that you’re not under attack. That takes time.

depending on the type of relationship or the conversation or situation that you’re in. But there’s a lot of elements here that sort of can aid in that. Yeah, Ted, I think you were gonna add to that.

Ted Brodkin (27:33.518)
Yeah. I was just going to say,

I really liked what Rhoda was the example that Rhoda brought up before of like when you’re in a long term relationship with someone, it’s easy to think you, you know them completely, right? Like, you know, you, we’ve talked about this a million times. I know exactly what you’re going to say. Like I’ve got you figured out and, but I think like Ashley saying, and like you were saying Rhoda, like people do change, they do shift. And so, you know, having that openness.

to the other person to realize you can never fully understand someone and the other person’s always changing and growing. And so to be open to updating our understanding or learning more is challenging. And like you were, you’re both saying the reactivity can, we have these filters, we have reactivity that.

gets in the way of that. So again, once again, like Ashley said, it’s a doozy, it’s life’s work, but it’s good work. It’s such important work for our lives and our connections.

Ashley Pallathra (28:40.252)
Especially in those conversations related to, or I should say, the difficult ones, the ones where you just clearly disagree with the other person, or maybe you’re coming from completely different perspectives. Or when the book released, we were having a lot of conversations about racial tensions and political divides and being able to have humility in those conversations to acknowledge what you may not know. And you know.

maintain openness yourself even if things are getting triggered or reacted in you. And that’s, I mean I think we’re all still trying to figure that out.

Ted Brodkin (29:21.166)
Yeah, and this book is, our book is mostly focused on interactions between two people and we’re here talking about couples, but you could really take this to a macro level of society, right? Like there’s so many conflicts. There’s so many big issues in the world. And I think the world could use more listening, respectful listening, understanding, trying to work out our differences with less reactivity.

Rhoda Sommer (29:49.279)
Absolutely. I feel like that’s part of why we’re in trouble is culturally is that we’re so reactive and it’s such a trigger thing, you know, it’s…

not even getting a chance to kind of flush it out or getting shut down. This is a complicated business, you know, but it’s so important. It’s worth it. I mean, I think everything in life boils down to is it worth it? And the three of us are saying connection is absolutely worth the work. It is, you know? Yeah. Explain your fourth attunement tool, which is mutual responsiveness and

Ashley Pallathra (30:19.264)

Rhoda Sommer (30:28.799)
Please share your perspective on this.

Ted Brodkin (30:34.094)
Do you want to start Ashley or do you want me to? Okay, yeah, mutual responsiveness. So sometimes the way we summarize this is relaxed awareness. The first one is the state of mind and body you want to be in as a foundation for attunement. Listening is sort of taking in the cues from the other person and yourself.

connection, connect, together, relationships, love, marriage, relationship, couples
Ted Brodkin (30:56.942)
understanding is like processing those cues and understanding them better, but mutual responsiveness, the last one, is what you actually do in the interaction, in the conversation. And basically it’s…

It’s that reciprocity, that give and take, that back and forth of conversation. And we break down mutual responsiveness into starting by trying to meet the other person where they are. So sort of seeing where they are and starting there. Because if you don’t do that, it’s hard to get that connection going. And we could get into some examples of that. But.

Ideally, both people would meet each other halfway, but sometimes that just doesn’t occur. And so.

You know, sometimes one person can sort of take the responsibility of trying to meet the other person where they are. And then having that back and forth, that sort of what the technical term for it is contingent responsivity. But it’s sort of like you do or say something and then I respond to it in a way that is really responsive to what you just said or did. You know, your what you say is.

is eliciting something in me and then I’m responding to you in a way that you feel heard and responded to. I’m not just sort of going off on my own tangent and my own topic in a way that you feel like, did he even hear what I just said? So it’s that back and forth, that reciprocal exchange, that give and take. And then we talk about staying in the flow of that interaction, like trying to keep it going. You can’t stay in it forever. And in practical reality, you have to

Ted Brodkin (32:46.128)
sometimes move on to other things but to the for the time that you have trying to stay with the other person and

Sometimes I say like you brought up dancing Rota I think you mentioned that earlier and I think sometimes dance is a good analogy also for attunement because it’s like if you’re gonna dance with someone like do a ballroom dance or something you literally have to meet them where they are right you have to physically connect at a certain level and then you have to You’re feeling each other’s cues and you’re responding to each other’s cues to try to stay together in this dance

and you sort of stay in the flow of that. And you don’t, if I then start drifting off onto my own thing and I’m not taking in your cues and responding to you, we’re not gonna be dancing together well, right? So that mutual responsiveness is that, it’s that back and forth, give and take, staying in the flow of the conversation or the interaction with each other.

Ashley Pallathra (33:46.46)
Yeah, I can think of, you know, just sort of basic examples as a couple, as like you’re navigating a conflict or a difficulty and like staying with one person is kind of giving their perspective. The other person sometimes can start to develop their laundry list of things that they’re ready to divulge, right? But before taking it off onto that space, sticking with the listening, sticking with the understanding of what…

someone is communicating in that moment. Maybe in that moment I need to do a little more validation to keep staying in sync with this person and stay touching them in that conversation. Maybe I need to stay a little bit more on this point that seems to be important to them that they’re communicating before I introduce something else. So practically speaking, just sort of figuring out ways to regulate and stay in that flow that Ted was mentioning.

Ted Brodkin (34:43.853)
And one additional comment just sort of riffing off of what Ashley said is when it comes to conflict, I think, you know, ideally we can stay in the flow and stay in the interaction. But going back to the reactivity part, like when you’re in a conflict and you’re feeling really reactive or really overwhelming, there is something to be said for taking a break and stepping away and not forcing yourself or each other to try to stay in a flow together. Like sometimes you just need a little breather. You need some time to yourself to re -regulate and then…

Ashley Pallathra (35:15.132)
Or there’s just straight up rupture. And that happens too.

Ted Brodkin (35:17.582)
Yeah, that’s true too. Yeah. Or if something’s toxic or abusive or something like that, then you may choose to, this is not right for me. This is not a safe situation. I’m not going to stay in this flow. So it really depends a lot on the situation, but.

Ashley Pallathra (35:35.036)
But repair is definitely like a whole other part of it, of how do we restart that.

Rhoda Sommer (35:35.487)
and what’s happening.

Rhoda Sommer (35:42.719)
I just had someone the other day and I can’t remember what the example was, but she was saying, I’m going to imagine, let’s just say her husband died at 50 and people come up to her and say, and my father died, you know? And she’s like, yeah, your father was 87. It’s got nothing to do with what’s in my life. And she was just riffing on how upset she is that people just land with some kind of story that has nothing to do with her.

no connection to what she’s feeling. But I think it’s because it’s so hard to get it right and people leap into something, death, that’s the link, and leap into it without doing the things that you’re describing and talking about as being so important if you’re really going to tune into somebody else.

Ashley Pallathra (36:34.78)
You mean and try and like identify what it is that they’re asking for, what they might need in that moment.

Rhoda Sommer (36:40.895)
I also think it’s our natural tendency to tell a story about ourselves in a subject that…
really takes away from the person who’s sharing because it spoils their own. If you’re trying to be there for them because they’re sad and you start talking about your father who died six months ago, it’s not the same and it’s interfering. It’s bringing something, adding something in that you believe could be a connective tissue, but it’s really a disruption.

Sure, yeah. And I think what you’re mentioning too comes back to how it can be so uncomfortable to stay in the flow of negative emotion. And people might have a tendency to want to avoid it or want to bring us all back to homeostasis and stability and happiness. But I think what you’re alluding to is sometimes that connection is better preserved by leaving space.

Rhoda Sommer (37:22.175)

Ashley Pallathra (37:43.484)
for that negative emotion, which might mean that listener needs to regulate whatever that’s bringing up for them as well.

Ted Brodkin (37:51.31)
Yeah, and I think it kind of goes back to what Ashley was saying earlier about humility and understanding because it’s sort of like, you know, when the person says, well, my husband died at 50.

Ted Brodkin (38:03.086)
in hearing that you have to have a certain humility that you may think you’re connecting to them or supporting them or relating by saying, well, my father died at 87, but actually that may make the other person, you’re not really understanding them because you never had a husband who died at 50. And so you having that humility to say, you know, I want to be supportive to the, I want to listen and I want to be supportive, but I don’t really know what it’s like to be them in this moment, you know, and I’m not going to pretend that I do.
because then they can feel misunderstood or something.

Rhoda Sommer (38:36.575)
Yeah, and that’s what she, whoever, I made up the example, but whoever was talking about this with me said that was, they were just so, I’m so upset with all these people that are coming up and saying things and it has nothing to do with what I’m feeling. Yeah, yeah. And it is about heart emotions. It’s about grief. It’s about loss. It’s about, you know, all the, yes, hurt, pain, yes.

Ashley Pallathra (38:59.068)

Rhoda Sommer (39:02.943)
And we do want to walk away. One of the things I try to say, particularly to partners, is sometimes just being a witness, just that, it can be enough. You don’t have to figure out the right words to say. That being a witness can just, if you’re really paying attention, can be enough.

Ashley Pallathra (39:22.94)
Absolutely. I mean, I think you could be attuned in silence. Like you can be just with someone and those energies are aligned and in tune as well.

Ted Brodkin (39:36.366)
Yeah, totally. Totally, yeah.

Rhoda Sommer (39:39.047)
Okay, when there is loss of connection between two people, what are your suggestions about helping that?

Ashley Pallathra (39:51.484)
Take a deep breath. I mean, just start there. Because I will say, when there is rupture, even if it’s relatively speaking on the lower intensity level, depending on the person, it can feel all sorts of ways. It can feel terrifying. It can feel painful. It can feel triggering. And so understanding that about yourself, taking that breath, taking that pause,

that you may need, you know, reminders, that self -talk to support that trust, that it can start again, that you can start again. And I think that’s part of like the beauty of attunement that we try and portray too, that it is this ongoing dance. Like if you come back to that dancing metaphor, if two people have a misstep and someone goes off in a direction that was not well aligned.

rather than stopping the whole dance, taking that breath and moving back in and trying again and just starting to build that capacity for grace.

Ted Brodkin (41:04.686)
Yeah, and like Ashley is saying, I mean, one of the examples we bring up in the book is, because some of the research on attunement has been done with mothers and infants or parents and infants, which is a kind of ideal attunement situation, right? Like a mother, let’s say, who’s deeply attuned to her infant. But when people have done careful research on that, they find that,

even in the best mother -infant interactions and relationships, there are moments of misattunement, of falling out of connection, and then a need to kind of reconnect. So I think that’s important to realize that, saying again, no one’s perfect at this, to kind of normalize that there are going to be at least micro moments of feeling disconnected or misunderstood, that’s almost inevitable. I mean, there’s no such thing as perfection. But then thinking about, well,

When that happens, how can we then start again and reconnect? It’s a different issue though, if you’re talking about like longer term kind of chronic falling out of connection and drifting apart and misunderstanding each other over long periods of time. And that can be much more kind of corrosive on a relationship. So that’s a different issue. And I mean, there are ways I think to rebuild and reconnect, but there’s those micro moments of disconnection within interactions and then there’s kind of longer term issues, which is a whole other thing, I think.

Rhoda Sommer (42:42.015)
That’s a good distinction. Yeah, I agree.

You, your experience is that focusing on attunement instead of potential outcome worries helps desired results. And I do think we all, well, is this going to work? Is this going to be OK? You know, the idea of how’s the outcome going to be. Sell us on why this is true to motivate us to learn more about how to be more attuned instead of worrying about outcome.

Ashley Pallathra (43:17.084)
I think I see this so often with all of the individuals with anxiety that I work with, right? If we just take anxiety for example, you know, in situations where you’re so consumed by just rumination on how every moment is going and how it might turn out. And when that is happening, anxiety is fear. I mean, it’s a fear response that is internal.

and it leads you to go inward, which is taking you completely away from your ability to balance attunement in that moment. So, you know, in a lot of ways, you’re just can get lost in your thoughts and it can result in then this domino effect of missing the cues, of missing opportunities for listening, or understanding, which just leads you away. So thinking about, you know, motivation -wise, what’s our goal?

Is our goal to move forward and are our actions taking us closer to what we’re hoping for? And obviously we want to be mindful if there’s significant things like anxiety or trauma that are getting in the way, that requires a level of care and intervention to help regulate that enough to increase capacity for being able to redirect attention. But for the day to day,
you know, I think that would be the goal.

Ted Brodkin (44:48.206)
Yeah, an example of that that I often think about is even like, let’s say like a job interview or some kind of high stakes, let’s say work related meeting. And you’re going into it thinking like, I really, I’m hoping for a certain outcome, right? Like I really want this job.

And if you, but I think if you go into the interview hyper -focused on the outcome, like I want this job, I want this job, what if I don’t get this job? And like Ashley’s saying, surrounded by fear and anxiety around the outcome, that can distract you from the interaction. So with the interviewer. So I think maybe a better way to go into that is to think, okay, I know I want this job.

but I’m gonna take a breath, sort of set that aside, and I’m gonna really try to just connect to this person and have a good interaction and tune in and like have a really good conversation. And I think that ultimately is gonna help you do better in that interview to focus on the moment to moment of the interaction and connection with the person than to be so focused on the outcome that you don’t have a good interaction. I mean, I think a lot of people could relate to that idea.

Yeah. And I think it also comes back to like the foundations of what we’ve based a lot of this work on, which is mindfulness and even like Buddhist philosophy of thinking about how that present moment is truly the only thing we can have, quote unquote, control over. We don’t have the future or the past. And so just sort of strengthening capacity to be present minded and just aware of what’s going on in that moment is essential.

Rhoda Sommer (46:40.895)
Laura Pearls said, we place our bets and make our choices on the maybes of life.

Ted Brodkin (46:51.662)
Yeah, that’s a good one.

Rhoda Sommer (46:54.271)
Yeah, I got to work with her twice. It was great. So my last question, what would you like to add that we haven’t covered?

Ashley Pallathra (47:07.42)
I think I would just add, I feel like I do this a lot, but I would add that it is so important to validate how difficult this journey can be depending on the situation or relationship that, you know, a listener right now may be interpreting all this and thinking about it in the context of it’s hard. It takes a lot of effort. It takes a lot of time.

And we just, the only truth we know is that we don’t get it right all the time and we never will. And so even to end this journey, like if you’re interested in developing these skills and developing and strengthening certain relationships around you, really also at the same time, cultivating space for grace and room for error is a wonderful line of therapists once told me just to have that for yourself and then also for those around you and just to know that you can keep trying.

Ted Brodkin (48:13.646)
Yeah, I completely agree.

I also want to highlight in the book, we have exercises we suggest that people can try out to develop some of these capacities. And, you know, we talk about attunement as an overall concept and then we break it down into these four parts, relaxed awareness, listening, understanding, mutual responsiveness. And we have a chapter on each of those four parts. And at the end of each chapter, we have some suggested exercises and we even have some videos online that you can support.

you and doing some of these exercises and my general recommendation like with any skill you know is focus on the fundamentals so and I think the fundamentals of attunement are the relaxed awareness and listening so even just starting with those that those are the foundation for for the other things that we’re talking about and

You know, if you’re walking into an interaction that could be difficult, maybe with your partner or it could be a job interview or whatever, just thinking like some simple steps, like in the book, we literally have physical exercises, like, okay, I feel like my head is gently suspended, that my shoulders relax down, take a breath.

and then just really try to listen, you know, and just simple things like that, simple foundational things like that, well, could really help in getting you started. And I think even just always coming back to those foundational elements.

Rhoda Sommer (49:47.935)
Please share again the title of your book, which has a quiz and is chock full of exercises, as you just mentioned.

Ashley Pallathra (49:57.628)
Yeah, thank you. It is Missing Each Other, How to Cultivate Meaningful Connections, and available most places.

Rhoda Sommer (50:06.099)
I hope you all enjoyed today’s episode. Come back often and make sure you subscribe and review. There are over 450 pages of free information on my website,, which does take a few seconds to load, those of you who might be impatient.

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