Bring your life into balance

Empathy works. It always does.

Empathy with my judgments

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Remember The Corleones?  Sonny, the hothead, who gets killed in the Five Families War? Fredo, the traitor, who sells out his family to Hyman Roth and is killed for it by Michael’s gunman? Michael, the cold-headed strategist who is willing to order the killing of his older brother to protect his family? And then of course Vito, the first Don, the founder of this mafia empire.

20-corleone-familyWell, just so you know, they are living in my head.

All the time. And if not all the time, a lot of the time. They are ready to take down anyone they judge as a threat to the safety and well-being of the family. They will jump at you, drag you out of your house, roll you in a carpet and bury you under the concrete floor.

If I don’t listen to them and their judgments, if I don’t promise to include the values they stand for, well, heck, all hell breaks loose. At best they dominate all my thoughts and impact all my feelings, leaving me unable to share my truth in a way that supports understanding and collaboration. At worst, they hijack my vocal ability and speak in such unpleasant terms that any chance of understanding and connection evaporates. Most often, I am so scared they will strangle the person I have an issue with, that I withdraw and avoid any dialog.

For the longest time I have tried to pretend I wasn’t part of the Corleone family, that somehow I had nothing to do with their judgments and black-and-white thinking. It worked for a while, sitting on my meditation cushion, bringing my awareness to my breath. Till they found out I had excluded them and broke down the door of my meditation sanctuary.

They don’t take ‘no’ for an answer, and only make offers I can’t refuse.

I have learned my lesson. I have accepted them as family, with their sensitivities for respect and safety. I call them out in a joint meeting, before I even think of addressing an issue with someone else. I sit us in a circle and invite each of them to speak. I listen with respect until they know I get them. And I don’t talk to the person I have an issue with, till they express their trust. Sometimes it is hard and it takes several rounds of empathizing with their perspectives and needs.

It is well worth it. I have clarity and peace of mind when I talk to this other person. I know how to include The Family’s and this other person’s needs.

And isn’t that what life is about: finding ways to support all needs?

I see my family nod in agreement.


You want to listen to the judgments in your head? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a free discovery session to see how I can help.

Author: Elly van Laar

I am a coach. I specialize in helping mission-driven professionals bring their lives into balance. I have a Master's degree in Political Science, Leiden University, the Netherlands. I'm currently in an ICF-coaching certification program. I love meditation, walking, gardening, biking, and hanging out with family and friends.

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