Bring your life into balance

Empathy works. It always does.


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Making requests is NOT about getting what you want. It is about building relationships.

Making requests is NOT about getting what you want.

Making requests is about collaboration. More precisely, it is about building relationships. It is about turning to your friend, and engaging them in a creative process to support all needs, yours, theirs, and those who are impacted by your strategy, even those in future or far away places. (After all, you don’t want to walk away happily with your solution, if others suffer the consequences of your choices).

Image courtesy to everydaylife.globalpost.comI believe it takes honesty and empathy to build relationships.

Honesty, so you can share your feelings and needs, and where you are coming from. Empathy, so you can listen wholeheartedly to what comes up for them as they hear more about your inner world.

Imagine a friends tells you -in a moment of disconnect- that you’re full of yourself.

Ouch.

That hit you unexpectedly hard. You wait with responding, till you received enough empathy for your pain. Then you invite your friend for tea. You remember Thich Nhat Hanh’s invitation to start with appreciation, so you start by telling your friend how she contributed to your needs. This first step immediately conveys you’re invested in the relationship, that you care about her, and that you’re talking about her behavior, not her as a person. It helps your friend to open up to your request for help, and not close down in anticipation of an attack on her as a person. This is about connecting, not criticizing.

The second step is sharing a regret, something you wished you had done differently. This shows you acknowledge you are in this relationship together, that you are co-responsible for the dynamic.

Then, finally: the request. Simply observation, feelings, needs. “When I heard you say I was full of myself, I felt hurt, upset and anxious. I want to be seen for my sincere intention and efforts to contribute to joy. I want acceptance and understanding when I fail to do so. What did you hear me say?”

I LOVE that question! Just checking how your message was heard. Did they hear blame? ‘I feel, because you did.’ Or did they hear self-responsibility? ‘I feel, because I need.’

The second question? “How does that land for you?”

After all, you want to build the relationship, so you want to understand what is going on for them, before you continue with a solution request. You want to establish connection, before you try to resolve the situation. You want to bring your relationship to the next level.

Honesty and empathy it is all you ever need.


 

You want help to be honest and empathic in your relationships? Contact me for a free, discovery session. I would be delighted to help, 512-589-0482.


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When was the last time you turned toward conflict?

When was the last time you felt angry with someone? Do you remember your response? Did you close off and suppress your anger to maintain some sense of acceptance, emotional safety, peace? Or did you blame, judge, criticize in an effort to support your needs for transparency, being heard, emotional safety? Or, maybe, did you turn toward your friend, expressed yourself with compassion and listened with respect to understand your friend better and restore the connection?

Image courtesy to Wikimedia.orgJohn Gottman has 40 years of relationship research under his belt. Married couples, friends, siblings, co-workers, parent-child relationships. You name it, he researched it. He describes all interactions between people as bids for connection. “Honey, will you pass me the sugar?” “Dad, I need help with my homework.” “Will you come to my birthday party?” Even a bitchy “You’re late.”, or an enraged “Get of my back, f*ck off with your anger.” are bids for connection, a longing to be understood for our experience.

It took me a while to get the concept. Usually I see anger, dishonesty, blame as clear signals to disconnect, and I feel relieved to do so. One less conflict in my life.

The truth is, it doesn’t work that way. When we habitually turn away or turn against bids for connection, including conflict, we have less and less intimate relationships that help us weather the storms of our lives.

Let’s take the example of “F*ck off with your anger.” Not the most inspiring bid for connection, and we can respond with empathy and compassion. “I hear you’re fed up with the way I express my anger. Do you want more respect, harmony, support for your sense of well-being?” Sounds pretty open, doesn’t it? That’s what turning toward does. It conveys a message of acceptance, ‘your experience matters to me’, and a willingness to understand and restore the connection.

Turning away shows up as silence, disregarding, interrupting, being preoccupied. Turning away seems to be devastating for relationships, because the implicit message is ‘I don’t care about you, or your experience. You don’t matter.’

Turning against is more contemptuous, belligerent, contradictory, domineering, critical, or defensive. There are many flavors. It could sound like this “As if you’re such a sweetie-pie.” “What did I do? Nothing! It is you who is angry!” “You’re blowing it out of proportion, as usual, drama queen.” Painful responses, because I am arguing your experience. In the long run partners lose trust that they’ll be heard, and they’ll retreat within themselves and withdraw emotionally.

What is your habitual response? Turning toward? Turning away? Turning against? And how does that impact your relationships? Do they deepen, grow stronger, build up trust? Do they evaporate, dissolve, disappear? Or does conflict, distrust, withdrawal increase?

You want help to give turning toward a try? Contact me for a free, discovery session. I would be delighted to help, 512-589-0482.


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Offering your request with Santa-Claus energy

When I first started my vegan diet, back in 2008, I felt self-conscious and even a bit embarrassed by my vegan choice. I thought I was too much of a burden for others, and if not, certainly a weirdo. someone from another planet. Whenever I asked for support, I carried some shame in my request, and even the mildest “No, so sorry, gosh, I wished I knew how to make you vegan food” confirmed my belief that there was something wrong with me wanting what I asked for. I was more or less convinced that I was not worth the trouble to accommodate my wishes. I tried to escape situations where I needed to speak up for my truth, so I would not feel the pain of my own lack of self-acceptance.

Reading The World Peace Diet transformed my fear of rejection and disconnect. The more I read about the horrors animals face as food commodities, the more joyfully I embraced my vegan preferences. In no way did I want to contribute to suffering, if the alternatives were so easy.

Image courtesy Creative CommonsI changed from a self-conscious mumbling “Do you have vegan food?” into an enthusiastic, happy vegan. The level of self-acceptance changed the way I make requests. I am so excited about my choice, that I cannot imagine anyone not wanting to accommodate me. I offer my request with Santa-Claus energy: “Ho Ho Ho, hi there! I am so excited about my vegan diet! I am happy I don’t eat meat, fish, birds, eggs, milk, cheese, or any other animal product. I love veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, and grains and beans. This chicken salad looks yummy. I wonder if you can make me one without the chicken, or the sauce, and give me an extra doses of avocado and sesame seeds instead?” And yes, for sure, they come back with the most beautiful dish on the table in a restaurant that hardly even has vegetarian food.

When you offer your request with Santa-Claus energy, as an unique opportunity to make your life more wonderful, a gift for them to contribute, you’ll probably get all the collaboration and support you want. Try it out. And if you need help to let go of your shame and embarrassment: contact me for a free, discovery session. I would be delighted to help, 512-589-0482.


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Creating your dream, one step at a time

You didn’t like the last board meeting. At all. One of the board members raised his voice, in an attempt to be heard. You left feeling upset, anxious, agitated. You want more respect, safety, mutual understanding, and -of course- collaboration. A real sense of working together for a shared purpose, in a way that nurtures the relationships between the board members.

You are aware some old pain is being triggered from your family of origin. So, -Nonviolent Communication savvy as you are- you decide to get support from your empathy buddies. And after five empathy sessions, role plays, and mediation exercises you realize the issue is not just this one board member, it is also the way the meetings are facilitated, the group dynamics, and historical baggage that some board meetings carry into the meetings.

4. Creating Your Dream One Step at a TimeThe whole situation seems so overwhelming and complicated, that you have no confidence that you can contribute to more compassion and collaboration. You are ready to resign and give up on your dream of a harmonious, collaborative, respectful board. Done. You just can’t do it, it’s too hard…

Well?…

Is it?…

You hear this voice in your head ‘Creating your dream is one conversation at a time. Creating your dream is translating your vision into concrete, do-able, action-oriented, time specific, tiny steps and getting support to take these steps.’

So you set-up your support system: empathy from your buddies, advice from your mentors, encouragement from your friends, and self-care from yourself.

You are ready to take the one step that maximizes your chance of success. A small step, sure, and still: one first step. You invite the board member for coffee to talk about this board meeting, so you can understand where he was coming from. You rehearsed the one sentence you want him to hear. You enter the conversation with confidence and trust in your compassion and empathy skills. And that is enough. No matter the outcome of the conversation, you succeeded. Because you showed up in a way that was in alignment with your dream of collaboration, respect, and safety.

What could be your first step? You want help to set yourself up for success? Contact me for a free, discovery session, 512-589-0482.


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My appreciation for the life and contribution of Marshall Rosenberg

Today I learned of the passing away of Marshall Rosenberg, founder of Nonviolent Communication.

“Empathy is a respectful understanding of what others are experiencing.”

It is the ability to postpone judgment, interpretation, and evaluation, so you can be with someone’s observations, feelings, needs, and desires. It is the willingness to be vulnerable and accept their perspective, to understand the world through their eyes.

Image thanks to thomas.theo.kuleuven.beMarshall Rosenberg’s teachings helped me to acknowledge the fact that I had needs, a fact that was unknown to me at that time. Yep, I always thought that I didn’t need anything or anyone. Never considered I wanted acceptance, belonging, respect. After the first revelation that I had needs, I learned that my feelings arose from my needs…. Du-uh?!… Aren’t others responsible for my feelings? I can’t blame them? Or thank them? Don’t I make people happy? (or sad, angry, lonely, scared) Am I not responsible for what they are feeling?

After a few years of calibrating the ideas that I have needs, and that my feelings are a result from my needs being met or unmet, I started to experiment with Marshall Rosenberg’s insights on requests. Making requests that are an invitation to collaboration and connection. Different from a demand, isn’t it?

Six years later I can tell that I think I am getting it. Maybe not completely, and I am getting there. Even better, last night I taught a class on collaboration. I used all my understanding of Nonviolent Communication. The assistant professor thought it was a phenomenal session that exemplified collaboration.

I want to share one precious memory I have of him. I participated in a training that he led. I was invited for a healing session with him. He impersonated my three-day old sister, who died when I was two. I had always seen her in my mind’s eye as an incapacitated person. Then he started empathizing with me, as her. And while I was talking with him -Marshall Rosenberg impersonating my younger sister- I clearly saw her aura around him.

I cried tender and much needed tears. After the session I realized that the younger sister that I always held as handicapped, had transformed into a mature woman, who was there whenever I needed her. This transformation was so profound that my life opened up, and I made choices I would never have dreamed of making.

Not everyone was happy with my choices. For me they were an expression of my autonomy and authenticity. I am deeply grateful for Marshall’s contribution to my courage to be honest with others and following my dream.

Marshall, you didn’t die January 7, 2015. You continue to live in my heart and through your contributions to this world. Thank you.


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Six steps to work with your anger

Image courtesy to PixabayI’m feeling angry. I’ gonna practice holding my anger with compassion and rehearse the lines Thich Nhat Hanh gives us: “Dear Anger, I know you’re there…. I’ll take good… F*ck… I… hate you being here!”

Hum. Not exactly it. Let’s try again.

“Dear Anger, I know you’re there… I’ll take good… You know what!!! I’m gonna ignore you. I’m gonna pretend you’re not here and continue doing what I planned to do, even though I’m shaking.”

Hum. Okay. That didn’t work either. Third try.

“Dear Anger, I know you’re there… And you know what!!!… I’m gonna lash out and yell!… Commitments and mindfulness practices, get out of my way, and let me go on my rant!”

My goodness, holding my anger with compassion and mindfulness is much harder than I thought. I feel shame that I have anger. I think I am a lesser person, because I don’t receive every remark, every action with insight and love, see them as an opportunity to deepen intimacy and learning. Oh my goodness, I think I am a failure on the path of mindfulness and Nonviolence.

Gosh, after all those years of practicing with my Sangha, and learning -even teaching- Nonviolent Communication, I still struggle to say: “Dear Anger, I know you’re there and I will take good care of you.”

I resist my anger, I don’t want to have it. Stephen Hayes has an exercise to work with anger ànd your resistance to it.

  1. Scan your physical sensations and put your hand on the spot, where your anger lives.
  2. Invite your anger to sit with you. In front of you, or next of you, far or close. Whatever you feel comfortable with it.
  3. Observe your anger: the smell, sound, taste, form, touch. Maybe it has an age, a name.
  4. Ask two set of questions. 1. What is the important message you have for me? What is it you want me to know about you? 2. What do you want me to do for you, so that you can relax and calm down, and let me live my life grounded in my values, dreams, and aspirations?
  5. When you are ready, do the same thing with your resistance, and ask the same two questions.
  6. As soon as you have a sense of completeness, bring your feelings back into your body and put your hand on your heart. Ask your heart which step brings you closer to your aspired future self.

Image courtesy to Pixabay

I have always found this process helpful being more at peace and whole within myself, and getting unstuck. I hope it helps you too.


You want help embracing your anger and your resistance to it with compassion and understanding? Contact me to schedule a free discovery session, 512-589-0482.


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Goodbye, beloved laptop

“Dear beloved laptop, travel companion on my trips to the Netherlands, NVC-trainings and work,

Thank you so much for all the support you have given me in the last 4½ years. You have been crucial in expanding my business, keeping in touch with family and friends, writing my blog. You were light and small, and you easily fit in my purse. I loved your periwinkle color. You were a precious gift of my dear husband at exactly the right moment. So many needs were met with your presence: support, efficiency, safety, reliability, connection.

Image courtesy to Wikimedia.orgAnd now you’re growing old. It takes you ten minutes to start up. You’re out of breath if I open three applications. You freeze if I give you two assignments at the same time.

You can rest now. My beloved husband gave me a new notebook. Again, exactly at the right moment. You gave your best, you gave your all, and now you reached the end of your life. I don’t want to squeeze out the last drops of life in you. I honor your limitations and celebrate the contribution you made. I will store you in a peaceful place, and hold you in my hands once in a while, with gratitude for all you did for me, and appreciation for the support my husband offered me when he gave you. I acknowledge my needs for efficiency and order, respecting my longing to live a life of ecology and mindful consumption. And maybe, in the far future I will bring you to the Ecology Center, so you can be recycled and start a new life. I know that you will always make someone happy, whatever form you take. Thank you so much, dear friend.”

Mindful consumption doesn’t necessarily conflict with efficiency and order. It can add to it. Do you want help to balance your needs for mindful consumption with other needs? Contact me 512-589-0482. I would be excited to work with you.