Everything always starts with connection.
Image courtesy to David Nayer
Well, maybe not always. Maybe not even so very often. Maybe, just maybe, hardly ever. Maybe, we usually start with a judgment, a counterattack, a criticism. We hear a message and something in us gets triggered. The message doesn’t even have to be a difficult one, it can be a neutral one, or even a positive one. Instead of listening, wanting to connect, trying to understand, we stand ready with our well-trained battalion of jackal thoughts.
“Michelle is offering a free intro Nonviolent Communication at church.”
Just that one sentence, and off you go. ‘She is an idiot. She has no clue what Nonviolent Communication is about, she has only be teaching it for half a year, she didn’t even study with Marshall Rosenberg himself, she just took some classes with Peter, who is an idiot too. Why didn’t they ask me? I have facilitated classes for more than three years, participated in all kinds of programs with renowned trainers X, Y, and Z, etc., etc.’
An endless stream of angry, blaming thoughts.
Oops. No connection there. Just disconnect through labels, judgments, criticisms. Doesn’t sound very NVC, does it?
And yet, these thoughts contain an immense richness, a whole world of inner experience, a wealth of feelings and needs if we would just empathize with them.
Maybe you feel hurt, you want acknowledgment and appreciation for the value you add. Maybe you feel frustrated, because you care about the integrity with which Nonviolent Communication is taught. Maybe you feel scared, because you want people to really get the support they need. Maybe you feel sad, because you were hoping for more collaboration and inclusion. Maybe you feel lonely, because you want more connection and acceptance.
Behind these jackal ears outward is world of beautiful, precious, human, universal, and timeless needs. And that is the basis for connection.
You want help to translate your jackal ears outward into feelings and needs? Contact me for a complimentary, discovery session 512-589-0482. I would be delighted to talk with you and see if and how I can help.
The kids want someone else to babysit them tonight. Not forever, just this once. “She’s more fun, because she plays games with us.” Ouch. Well, honestly: ouch, ouch, ouch. I’ve been with them for so long. I try so hard to support everyone’s needs. I care about them. And I want acceptance and appreciation for all of that.
It hurts. It just hurts.
I think of my ex-husband. I told him five years ago that I wanted to leave him for someone else. We had been together for 14 years. He had supported me through some of the most difficult periods of my life. He was unconditional in his acceptance, always supportive, and deeply loving. I can only imagine how devastated he might have felt when I told him, “I’m leaving. I found someone more fun to be with.”
And yet, he has never stopped accepting me, supporting me and my choices, and, I think, loving me. I experience him as the epitome of unconditional, selfless love.
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And now, as I feel this hurt, I feel some of that too. I do feel the pain of what I perceive as rejection, ànd I also feel a love that is way bigger than me. It is a love that is personal and non-personal at the same time. It is love for for the kids, love for myself. It is a quality of love with no object, no subject. It has nothing to do with what’s done, what’s said. It’s not even about who is. It is love for love’s sake. It is not my love, it is a love that is universal and timeless. It flows through me, it touches me, the only ‘I’ in this love is that I’m the vessel for it.
I feel relieved. Apparently I can feel unconditional love, at the same time that I feel pain, loneliness, sadness.
This must be my true nature. Some call it basic goodness. Some call it the Christ-essence. I call it Love.
You want help to touch your own true nature? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help.
I get in my car to drive off for my salary negotiation. I feel anxious. A deep fear comes up that I have to face I’m not that important, that I don’t matter that much, that I won’t be heard.
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I do a quick self-connection practice. Breath. Physical sensations. Feelings. I relax. What, if I view this conversation as a holy practice of loving speech and deep listening. What, if I see this as an invitation to meet my inner demons? What, if I use this as a journey into my fear of conflict, disconnection, and not mattering, like my tree climb was a journey into my fear of heights? What, if I commit myself to stop, breath, and connect to myself as soon as fear arises? And trust that our connection offers support, so I won’t fall? Imagine that my friends are here to be my belay to catch me if I do fall, so I won’t hurt myself?
I relax. A peace comes over me. I can do that. It’s not about a salary raise, it’s about the practice of sharing honestly what’s alive in me, what I want, and hearing deeply what’s alive in them, what they want.
And about using every sign of anxiety, fear, discomfort, as an invitation to connect. To myself. To take good care of my fear. To own it, and be responsible for it.
I walk into the conversation with an open heart and a clear mind.
I walk out of the conversation with pride and appreciation. For all the times I shared honestly from my heart, vulnerably. For all the times I caught myself being scared and stopped talking, breathing into my fear and letting it be. For all the times I listened to really get what my employers are saying. For all the times I captured their message and reflected it back. For the level of integrity and courage I showed to myself.
I leave my employers with appreciation and gratitude. For all the times they expressed themselves directly. For all the times they listened. For the offer they made.
And the salary? That is just a strategy to support our needs for contribution and to be seen for our contribution. We can work that out. Easily.
You want help to negotiate? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help.
Something is jammed in my neck. It is stiff and painful. I can turn it -carefully- to the left and right. I can bend it forward. I can hardly bend it backward. Drinking my tea is a challenge.
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I tell my husband about it. He immediately comes up with advice: take a ten minutes very hot shower, roll your back, let me give you an ortho bionomy treatment.
I love it. I love all his advice and faithfully follow up on all his suggestions.
Sometimes advice is much better than just empathy.
Marshall Rosenberg defines empathy as the ‘respectful understanding of what others are experiencing’. It is the slowing down to really get what it’s like to be the other person, to see their world through their eyes, to imagine walking in their shoes.
My husband could have responded with guessing my feelings and needs, our usual form of empathy. ‘I hear you’re in pain. Are you confused what happened? Are you worried about your neck? Are you scared you have a herniated disk and your insurance won’t pay for treatment? You want health, reassurance, physical safety?’ What if he had walked away, after I affirmed that he got it?
I would have felt sad, lonely, confused, maybe even frustrated that I didn’t get the support I so desperately wanted.
For me, true empathy always leads to the opening of the heart and a natural longing to relieve suffering and to contribute to life. For me, true empathy is not only guessing feelings and needs, it is also guessing the implicit, unspoken request hidden in what’s being shared. For me, true empathy leads to an openhearted curiosity to figure out how to support the other person’s needs and honoring your own. My husband got that without many words. He acted on it right away with his advice and offer for treatment.
Sometimes, advice is the natural result of true empathy. And more than welcome.
Thank you, David, my neck is much better and my trust that I can heal much increased.
You want help to empathize with implicit requests? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help.
You struggle with your co-worker. You feel frustrated and upset and you want more collaboration, understanding and support. You’re looking forward to talk about it with your friend. Alas. As soon as you start talking about the situation, she responds with advice. “You should sit down with him and tell him what’s going on for you and what you want from him. If that doesn’t help, you should go to your boss and let him intervene.”
You’re noticing you’re getting triggered. Something doesn’t work for you. You don’t want advice, you want understanding for your struggles, acceptance of your experience, and trust that you have the inner wisdom to navigate the situation with care and compassion. Maybe even some encouragement ‘You can do it!’. Or hope that the situation can and will be resolved.
You’re about to tell her that her advice didn’t work, when you remember ‘Empathy first’. You have heard yourself say that só often, and now -when it would be really helpful- you almost forgot. ‘Empathy helps. It always does.’
So instead of expressing your frustration, you start guessing her feelings and needs. “Are you sad, because you want me to do well at work?” “YES!” “Are you hoping that your suggestion will help me to move through this situation with grace and resolution?” “YES!” “You just want to support me and see me happy?” “YES!” A sigh of relief… A pause… Then she starts talking. How hard it is for her to see her friends being stuck. How this reminds her of her childhood, when she was expected to resolve situations she was unable to resolve. How scared and powerless she felt.
And you listen… Just listen… You give her space to share her pain when other people are struggling. And your frustration dissipates. Instead of judging your friend of doing something wrong, you now see a human being who wants support and understanding. Just like you. And in this space of compassion, all you want is connection. From one human heart to another.
You want help to empathize with advice? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help.