Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

My sister and I go way back.  Well, of course: she’s 43, and I’m 48.  We have always been close, sometimes struggled for connection, and again and again found the place where we enjoy our friendship.  I have supported her to trust that her  authenticity and vulnerability are strengths, and that when she honors her true self she can create the life she wants.  She does.  She is creating amazing results at work, beyond what I imagined possible.

Today I decided to offer something else than empathic listening for feelings and needs, and do a ‘just listening’ exercise.  I invited her to bring her open heart and clear mind to the table, while I shared my feelings and physical sensations.  If I would tell a story or share a thought, she could say “That’s a thought, not a feeling.  What are you feeling?”  After seven minutes we would shift roles.

She is open and adventurous and was up for the experiment.  So we started.  First me, then her.  Seven minutes is a long time.  Seven minutes sheer attention is quite something.  It feels uncomfortable.  I want to explain, I want to reassure.  Without the stories, I feel naked.  Nope.  That’s a thought, not a feeling.  What am I feeling?  I don’t know.  I am stuck in thoughts.

My whole life I wanted to be heard, I wanted to be seen, and now that I get full attention, I am scared.  What will she think of me?  Will she think I am a nut case?  Will she  think I am a nervous wreck?  Will she laugh that the only feelings I have are fear in all it’s variations?  Why is only fear coming up?  Why don’t peace and calm come along?  Fuck!  Why don’t I  have sweet and happy feelings?  Why can’t I prove how mindful I am?

Then I calm down.  It is like being on a boat on the river.  We see this, we see that, we get stuck, we get unstuck, we go in loops, we float by.  And there is just the being in the boat.  Just watching, just observing.  Just being.  That’s it.  It is not a listening exercise, it is a being exercise.  Just being in the moment.  Right here, right now, and enjoying whatever comes up.  Or not.  And accepting all of that.

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