Turning toward bids for emotional connection

Image courtesy WikipediaEverything we do and everything we say is a bid for emotional connection. We want a sense of emotional connection with the people we feel close to. We want to know that we matter to them. We would love them to respond by turning toward us, even when our bids show up like anger, frustration, blame, withdrawal, criticism, contempt, or stonewalling. We would love them to see any of these behaviors simply as a request for help, even though it sounds like a demand. “Please, help me get unstuck from this place of suffering and isolation. Please, help me find ways  to support my unmet needs in a way that includes your needs as well.”

As the receiving person it might be challenging to have compassion for the anger, stonewalling, criticism until you find the precious person with a beautiful, universal, human need in the behavior you don’t like.

Instead of turning toward by responding with acceptance, empathy, and compassion we might much rather turn against or turn away. “As if you are such a perfect person, asshole that you are!”, we might yell back in despair of the hurt that’s triggered (amplified by our personal baggage). Or we simply walk way, close the door, and shut down our heart to protect us from feeling, hurt, despondent, dejected.

Image courtesy David ShankboneRelationships where partners, friends, siblings, coworkers habitually turn away from each other don’t last long. Relationships where people have a pattern of turning against each other last a little longer, although they end too, eventually. Partners who practice turning toward, no matter the challenges, create long-lasting, intimate, fulfilling, joyous, and stable relationships. (Gottman & DeClaire, The Relationship Cure, 2001, p 1-57). That is not to say that it is easy to turn toward when you are triggered. You might need time alone for self-care. You might need an empathy buddy for support. You might need self-expression to meet your needs for consideration, emotional safety, and inclusion.

And I can promise you: it will improve any relationship.

Which choice are you making the next time your partner, friend, sibling, coworker, or child makes a bid for emotional connection that is hard to decipher? You want help to practice “turning toward” as your new habit? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a free discovery session to see if and how I can help you.

Turning toward each other

Have you ever reached out for connection, and your partner didn’t respond? Or walked away? Or talked about a completely different topic? Maybe something like this: “I had seven participants in my class today!”… Silence… (second attempt) “I made $60!”…She walks away… (third attempt) “The group is so enthusiastic and committed. They really try to get it.”… “My aunt called, she wants to come over for Thanksgiving.”

Image courtesy to FlickrGottman calls these responses “Turning away”. In his 40 years of research on relationships he found out that the key to happy, stable, and healthy (literally: happily married couples live on average 4 years longer, have better functioning immune systems, and are more resilient) relationships, is turning toward bids for emotional connection. The response itself is less relevant, as long as the act of turning toward conveys the message: “Hey, I hear you, I see you, and you matter so much to me, that I want to connect with you and hear what’s going on for you.” I guess turning toward works so well, because it acknowledges that the other person is worthy to be seen and respond to.

Turning toward might look like this: “I had seven participants in my class today!” “Wow, that’s great. That’s the third time you had such a big turnout.” “Yeah, people are loving it and bringing friends. I made $60!” “I can imagine you feel proud and relieved that your commitment and efforts are helping people.” “Yes, I do. The group is so enthusiastic and committed. They really try to get it. They even practice in between.” “I am so happy for you. It sounds as if your needs for contribution, community, and appreciation are met.”

Feel the difference?

Turning toward invites more dialogue, and more connection and understanding.

Turning against is the third possible response to bids for emotional connection. Your partner starts arguing, criticizing, making sarcastic remarks, judging, ridiculing, or anything else that conveys disrespect, conflict and disconnection. “I had seven participants in my class today!” (sarcastic) “Wow, my goodness, isn’t that something. I had 18 in my class today.” (more timid, still trying to connect) “I made $60…” “As if that’s gonna help.” (almost discouraged, still hoping for connection) “The group is so enthusiastic and committed… They really try to get it…” “Who cares? You spend six hours on that class, and come home with nothing.”

In this week of atonement, this day of Yom Kippur, I invite us to ask ourselves how often we turned away or against a bid for emotional connection. We might ask ourselves how we can convey to our partner, friend, child, sibling, parent, co-worker, neighbor, anyone that we care enough about them to acknowledge and appreciate their bids for emotional connection.

We can start a circle of connection, community, and appreciation.

Wouldn’t that be lovely?


You want help to turn toward bids for emotional connection? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary discovery session.

We don’t chose the times we live in, we only chose how to respond

 My grandfather and I are standing on the porch, ready for our daily 30 minutes of connection.

He stops and listens to the birds. “It is so beautiful here, so peaceful. I feel so happy to just stand here with you and listen. To feel the breeze on my skin, the sun on my face, to hear the songs of the birds. Just quiet. Nothing to do. Nowhere to go… I loved that back home. Sitting in the yard with my wife, your grandmother, watching our children run around. I loved working in my office and seeing your dad play with his cars on the carpet. I loved being with my family… It’s all I ever wanted…”

Tears drop down his eyes.

“You live in the world I dreamed of… Peaceful, safe, welcoming… I never wanted to be a hero. I much rather had lived a quiet life, full of love, laughter, togetherness. Much like the hobbits in Lord of the Rings… But we don’t chose the times we live in, we only chose how to respond to them…”

Tears roll down his cheeks.

Image courtesy to Wikimedia

“It is like you clearing up the poison ivy. Of course, you much rather read a book, or go for a hike, or relax in the sun. But that’s not your choice. Your choice is to eradicate it now or let it grow till it covers your grounds and blocks your path. I knew that if we didn’t stand up against the Nazi’s now, the consequences would be far worse, for far more people, than any risk I took individually. I didn’t chose my time, I only chose how to respond. I wished I had never had to make that decision.”

He starts sobbing.

“I wished I had seen your dad graduate, marry your mom, have her kids, be promoted at work… I wished I could have held you in my arms, your siblings, your cousins… I wished I had lived to be old enough to witness your dad grow into the source of support he is, for your mom, for you and your brothers and sisters, for his siblings, for his family-in-law… Gosh, he is a rock… An incredible son… An amazing man…”


“I never chose the time I lived in, only my response… You honor me most by enjoying and appreciating the world I tried to contribute to.”

We sit together, quietly. Then his sobbing calms down.

“Your times are different. And it is your choice how to respond to them. I hope you bring your delight and gratitude into your response.”


You want help to respond to the time you live in? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session.

Everything always starts with connection

You want to ask for a raise. You have been working in this job for several years, and you feel confident that you add value. You want appreciation for the unique qualities you bring to your clients, acknowledgment for the results you’ve accomplished, and support for your financial sustainability.

You feel anxious even thinking about it. Expressing yourself vulnerably, is just not something you’re good at. You have some shame around your feelings and needs, and you fear rejection, ridicule or simple lack of interest. How can you ask for support for your needs?

It starts with connection.

Everything always starts with connection:

Sharing your feelings and needs. Your fear, your anxiety, your vulnerability. Your needs for acceptance and support. Maybe just your needs, if your boss is not a touchy-feely person.

You can ask for a reflection to make sure that the message intended is the message received. The other person might hear blame, or that you’re playing the victim, or a demand, even if that was not your message. Asking for a reflection allows you to clarify your message.

You can also ask for a response. Maybe she feels irritated, upset, or embarrassed. Maybe she needs understanding, connection, or acceptance. Giving her space to tell what’s going on for her deepens the connection.

This connection creates a context for your request.

Well. That’s easier said than done!

At least for me. I so often struggle with asking for what I want, that I often don’t even try.

The Mediate Your Life Intensive helped me.

We did a neat exercise: ‘the need behind the no’. You share your need for appreciation, acknowledgment, and support. You share your vulnerability and anxiety. You make a present-tense, action-oriented, positive-language request: “I want to earn $20 an hour starting next week.”

Your practice partner says ‘no’.

Hum? That’s not what you want! You’re stuck… Now what?

Well, the simple next step is to ask your partner which needs would be unfulfilled if he would say ‘yes’! Invite him to think of something that would support his needs and your needs!

To you it probably sounds as simple as 1+1=2. For me it was an eye-opener.

Engage your partner in a collaborative effort to brainstorm solutions that nurture ALL needs.

Not just his, not just yours, but everyone’s.

I’m gonna practice this right now with you, hoping to support your need for choice, and my needs for connection, acceptance and support.

It’s about my blog. I feel tender, excited and honored when I imagine you subscribe to my blog, because you find it funny, interesting, and encouraging. More subscriptions help me build an ‘author platform’ and -eventually- publish my book. Are you willing to decide today if you want to subscribe? I post five blogs a week, it is free, and you can always and easily end it. And if not, are you willing to share in one sentence why not? To support our need for understanding, and hopefully connection?


I am way bigger than my perspective

The cool thing about expressing what you want and being open to hear what’s up for the other party, is that you’re actually owning up to your needs and your experience of whether they’re being met. It’s about you validating yourself. You’re accepting and honoring your truth, whether other people get you or not. And the fun part is that in this stage of emotional liberation, there are no demands. There is just the acknowledgment “Hey, this is what’s going on for me. This is how I think you can enrich my life. How would that be for you?” Just like you would listen to the special needs of your bougainvillea. And in this happy space of offering your needs as beautiful and precious you open up to options that you never considered before.

I haven’t come from this place too often. Usually I demand that the other party validates my needs, because I carry so much shame for having them. I wished that acceptance, belonging, love weren’t that important to me. I wished I could do without them. And if not, my god, I wished I didn’t need to ask your help supporting them. And if I do, you have to say ‘yes’, because a ‘no’ would confirm that there is indeed something wrong with me. Like fundamentally wrong.  A ‘no’ is not a message about what’s going on for you, but a reflection of me.

Image courtesy to wikipedia.org

This time it’s different. I notice that I completely accept my need for appreciation and to be seen for my contribution and commitment.  Very matter of factly. ‘Yup, that’s me. I flourish most if these needs are met. Yup. Isn’t it wonderful?’ The self-acceptance allows a curiosity about what’s up for them. ‘Wow, that’s fantastic. Is that how you see the world? Is that how you would thrive? Wow.’ The openhearted curiosity invites a profound understanding. ‘Ah, yeah, I understand your experience, if you see the world from that perspective through these glasses. Now, take a look through my glasses and look at the same situation from my perspective. You understand that I don’t receive my salary as meeting my needs for appreciation through my glasses of habitual thoughts of not-mattering? Makes sense, hey?’ And the understanding invites a spontaneous desire to support all needs.

And maybe for the first time in my life, I understand, own, and accept that my experience in the world is determined by the glasses I wear. And, even better, that I am not my glasses. That I can take them off and put on other glasses. Or no glasses at all. Just as I chose. Just a perspective. Nothing more. I am WAY bigger than that.

Pretty cool, hey, for spring?


You want help to validate your own needs? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help.

I want to matter to myself

I want to ask for a raise. I don’t receive my pay check as appreciation for the value I add. I think my empathy and mediation skills are unique and contribute to the emotional, social, and academic development of my clients. I empower them to be autonomous, authentic, and responsible. I teach them to include all needs and figure out strategies that work for everyone. I want to be seen and appreciated for these qualities.

I talk with my empathy buddy about this. I tell him I should earn more, that I deserve it with the level of commitment I have for my clients.


I just read in Nonviolent Communication that ‘should’ and ‘deserve’ language conveys that a request is actually a camouflaged demand.

I fall silent. I check in with myself. I am making a demand. I am so scared I will hear a ‘no’ that I am using force to get a ‘yes’. I’m too afraid to hear the ‘no’ as proof that I don’t matter, that my employer doesn’t care about my needs.

“Mattering to whom?” my buddy asks. Duh. To my employer, of course! I need to know that I matter to them.

Then I fall silent again… Or is it mattering to myself? Am I afraid that I will walk out on myself, as soon as I hear a ‘no’? Am I scared that I will give up on myself and my needs to accommodate the relationship?

Image courtesy to wellness.nicolepresents.com

Silence… Yes… That’s it… And I realize that if I matter to myself, I would use this request as an opportunity to express what’s alive in me, what my inner experience is. Not to get what I want (NVC is never a good tool for that purpose), but to be known for who I am and what I need. To create a relationship that’s based on honesty and empathy.

And all of a sudden I realize that this conversation is actually a chance to support the inner child in myself. The little, stuttering child who so often thought she didn’t matter, that no one cared what was going on within her. Who was too scared to speak up, because she feared disconnection. This is the time to invite the adult within me to squat next to her and encourage her to speak, to help her find the words. This is not about a salary raise, this is about healing. Learning to ask for what I want, in a way that conveys to myself that I matter. That’s all that matters.


You want help to matter to yourself? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help.

Emotional potty training

Image courtesy to Wikimedia

I am so happy with my emotional potty training. After I realized that I’m emotionally incontinent, I went on a quest to learn how to stand my anger, jealousy, fear, and other unwelcome feelings. I learned how to have my feelings, connect, accept and understand them and respond with compassion, mindfulness, and care for everyone.

I can proudly say that I am a little bit more emotionally continent. I still my accidents where my painful feelings overwhelm me, and I yell, blame, and judge despite my value of compassion and connection. And I’m noticing moments where I feel anger, jealousy, fear arise and maintain my calm.

I couldn’t have done it without John Kinyon and Ike Lasater’s self-connection process. This is how it might work for you.

So there you are. With your husband. You come home, and, again, he didn’t clean the counter, as promised. You think you don’t matter and that what you want doesn’t count. Angry thoughts are piling up one after the other. Yep. That sometimes happens.

Then you catch yourself. You’re getting triggered. Oops. Just in time to do the self-connection exercise. You move to a spot on your right (I always chose my right, so my body builds up an instinctive routine and doesn’t get confused in times of challenge) and focus your awareness on your breath. Just noticing it. Nothing else. Breathing in, I know I’m breathing in. Breathing out, I know I’m breathing out. Maybe a first sigh of relief of pausing.

Then you bring your attention to your physical sensations. Just an invitation to get out of your head and into your body. Maybe you’re sweaty, maybe your stomach is tight, maybe your heart is racing. Just bringing body and mind together, and ground yourself in the present moment. Your body cannot be anywhere else. Maybe a second sigh of relief of self-connection.

In this safe container of breath and body awareness you connect to your feelings. Wow. You might be surprised by your feelings. You might notice that there is sadness underneath your anger. A tender sadness. Maybe a fear too. A fear that you don’t matter, that there is not enough care and support for your needs. Ouch, maybe the pain of the thought that you are not good enough, that you are not worthy of connection, love, belonging.Maybe a third sigh of relief and self-compassion.

Breathing in, breathing out. Physical sensations. Feelings. More clarity about your needs.

This is it. Just some spaciousness to listen to yourself before you respond. Just an opportunity to hold your own experience with love and gentleness.

I’m curious to hear if this self-care helps you to respond with more loving-kindness, compassion, and understanding. It does for me.


You want help to ground yourself in your breath, body, and feelings? Contact me 512-589-0482512-589-0482 for a complimentary, discovery session. I would be delighted to work with you.

Screaming in giraffe

GiraffeMy friend is unhappy at work. She wants her boss to understand her troubles and acknowledge their shared responsibility in the problems. She hopes this will inspire him to support her finding a position where she will be seen and appreciated for her qualities.

Current conversations haven’t helped. She wants my advice how to proceed.

I tell her that I would start with “Beginning Anew”, and use feelings and needs language. As I talk, I notice that she grows quiet. I ask her how this idea lands with her.

It doesn’t. At all. She is sick and tired of having to listen first, of being the empathic and compassionate one. So far it turned out that her listening ended any conversation. The other responds to her accurate reflections of feelings and needs with “Exactly, that’s it” and walks away. No interest in her experience. No intention to include her needs.

I understand my friend.

Listening is just another strategy for connection. Reflecting feelings and needs can help to establish trust and understanding.

And it might not be sufficient.

Nonviolent Communication is not very nonviolent if it sustains an imbalance in resources. It is not very nonviolent if it excludes the needs of some and emphasize the needs of others. It is not very nonviolent if it silences the have-nots and favors the haves.

Sometimes we need self-expression as a strategy for connection. Sometimes we need to “scream in giraffe” (a term coined by Marshall Rosenberg) to be heard. Sometimes we need to take action to make sure all needs are included, also ours. Peace, connection, understanding are not possible if not all needs are supported.

Let’s practice using NVC to express our anger and unmet needs AND maintain connection. Let’s practice using NVC to support ALL needs. Let’s practice using NVC to awaken our awareness that our needs are interdependent, and that none can be happy if not all are happy.


You want to learn to scream in giraffe? Contact me 512-589-0482. I would be excited to work with you!

How to change commitments and maintain connection

CommitmentI take my commitments very seriously. My yes is a ‘yes’ forever. At least, as long as they work for me. If they don’t, I do my utmost best to make them work until I give up and walk away. Just like that. “I want a divorce.” “I’ve found another job and am gonna leave.” “I’m moving to the USA and won’t be your big sister anymore.”

Balancing autonomy and togetherness

Gosh. Even after all those years, it hurts. My heart aches with all the broken commitments that were so important to me. I wished I had known thén what I am starting to learn now: how to balance my need for autonomy and pursuing my own dreams and my need for connection and supporting what you want.

I suck at that. I tend to accommodate others. And if  my needs go unfulfilled for too long I assert them. And forget those of others in the process. I just can’t believe that I can have my autonomy ànd our togetherness.

Asking support for our needs

So when I noticed how overwhelmed I feel with all the empathy calls, mediation triads and business support groups I’m in, I decide to drop one. Just tell my colleagues “Hey, I need more spaciousness, I have too much on my plate, I’m getting out of here.”

And so I do. I tell Adam that I want to end my participation in our collaboration. He empathizes with me. Then I ask how that lands for him. (I have come that far!) He feels sad and a sense of loss, he values our connection. As I listen to him and feel touched by his feelings and needs, something dawns on me. Something new I learned in Mediate Your Life. What if I include his needs in my choice? What if we work together to find a strategy that supports all needs? Not just mine, not just his, but ours?

I feel surprised. This is new territory for me. Instead of dumping my choice and running away, I engage the other person in finding a strategy that works for both of us. I let the results follow the relationship.

Including all needs leads to better solutions

It works out beautifully. We decide to talk once a month, and experiment with a new format. Then evaluate and maybe adjust the agreement. This solution is better than anything I thought of before, because it not only supports our needs for autonomy and connection, but also for learning and challenge.

Gosh, it sounds so simple. It probably is. But for me it is revolutionary: I can hold on to what is important to me ànd maintain the connection. I can have the best of both worlds.


You want help to change your commitments? Contact me 512-589-0482. I would be excited to brainstorm together how to do that ànd include the needs of others.

How self-connection deepens connection with others

Connection10:30, I am excited. My first mediation triad! An opportunity to mediate my own conflict! Mediating your own stuff might not sound yummy to you, but to me it sounds empowering. If I have the tools, skills and consciousness to navigate difficult conversations -especially those where I think my sense of worth and mattering are on the table- I am sure that I can create happy, healthy and safe relationships with anyone I want.

We start with me being the disputant, Faith as my counterpart and Candace as the mediator.

It works fine. I’m getting my point across, and I understand what Faith -as my counterpart- is saying.

Then we change seats. I am the mediator, Faith is me, and Candace is my counterpart. Faith -as Elly- starts to speak. I am immediately triggered by what she says, and especially how she says it. It sounds very much like me, but not the ‘me’ I want to be. And certainly not the ‘me’ I want to be seen.

I move to the self-connection chair. An empty chair next to me, where I can move on to, when I am triggered. To practice such a safe space in my own mind. And while I sit there, I focus on my breath. Real simple. One breath in, one breath out. Then I focus on my feelings. One breath in, one breath out. I feel anxious and scared. Then I connect to my needs. One breath in, one breath out. I want acceptance for who I am, from others, and certainly from myself. Then I switch back to the mediator seat.

During this whole self-connection practice, I listen to Faith playing me. I reflect her back and check if I get her, to nurture her need to be heard.

This self-connection practice doesn’t take me out of connection, it takes me more deeply in it. It expands it, by adding self-connection to it. While I am connecting to you, I am connecting to myself as well. And this self-connection helps me to bring the full me to the table, all of me. My fears, frustration, sadness, joy, anything I feel and need in this moment. And the awareness that those are just experiences in this moment, that I am more than that.

It enriches the connection to an extent that I find surprising. You don’t need to express what is happening inside, as long as you get it yourself and you embrace it with compassion.

It allows you to acknowledge your pain, and putting it on hold for now, and relate to the other from the heart, instead of from  your subconscious trigger.

And that creates a whole lot of freedom, and a whole lot of loving.


You want help to practice self-connection in the heat of the moment? Contact me 512-589-0482. I am honored to help you.

Thank you, Ike Lasater and John Kinyon for this practice and insight.