Don’t think you know what people are talking about
Even if you’re absolutely sure you understand the words they’re saying, those words can have a very different meaning to them than to you. “Well, how is that important?”, you might ask. Let me tell you a short story.
Last week, I was camping. When I checked in, I received a green reservation card “to clip on the pole”. I felt confused about how to do that. The poles of my tent are round and on the inside of the outside layer, so I how can I clip that card on the pole?
Eventually, I decide to shove the card under my ground cloth and trust they will find it, if they want to check my reservation.
The next day, new campers arrive. As I walk to my tent, I see those same green reservation cards. Clipped on the pole. But not the pole I thought the registration lady was talking about. Nope. The pole at the entrance of their camping spot. With two clippers. And the number of their site. Never even thought of looking at that pole. Let alone check how to clip my card on it.
Same word, different meaning
It dawns on me that even a simple word like pole, has a different meaning to the registration lady than to me. And because the meaning seemed so obvious to me, it never occurred to me to ask questions what she meant with it. As a result, I got confused and couldn’t implement what she was asking me to do.
This was a pretty innocuous misunderstanding with no consequences. And we can all think of situations, where the consequences can be more harmful.
When someone is calling you a jerk, you’ll probably get defensive. You either withdraw or turn against them. You disconnect or you call them names, or worse. As a result, conflict lies around the corner.
Reflect, before react
The solution is to reflect, before we react. You either literally use their words, or ask about their meaning. “You want me to clip this card to my tent pole?” (“du-uh, no, silly, the pole at the entrance of your tent spot”). “What do you mean when you say I’m a jerk?”.
In the reflection of their words they have a chance to self-connect and check if they’re expressing themselves in the way they want to be heard. Sometimes people realize they mean something different, when they hear their words reflected back.
And reflecting gives you a chance to take a deep breath, calm yourself down, and connect to your values, before you react.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, I can tell you from more than 11 years of practice it isn’t. We need sincere dedication and perseverance to make this a daily habit.
Schedule your discovery session to see if I am your accountability partner to help you make this your daily habit.
Let me know how this landed for you: shoot me an email.
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I handed off the parenting group to Kayla Rose Yoder, one of my students in Nonviolent Communication and a dedicated mom who I deeply admire for the level of unconditional respect for and support of her three year old.
She starts Tuesday, April 23. She asks $195 for the whole series. Contact Kayla with any questions.
Where is the We in Me?
Probably not in my thought that he abuses his power to exclude others. Nor in the thought that she should listen before she speaks. And certainly not in the thought that they should change their minds at minimum, if not their hearts.
I recognize all those thoughts as us-versus-them thinking. Right-wrong. Better-worse. More compassionate versus less compassionate (ouch, how can I think that as a student of Thich Nhat Hanh?).
And yet, my life would be so much simpler if I see myself as the protector of the underdog, and “THEM” as the bullies. What can I say? I fight for all that is good and pure, for inclusion and compassion, for mindfulness and loving speech. And they? They want more power. They want to exclude anyone they don’t like. They want to operate in secrecy. It makes all my anxiety, anger, and self-righteous indignation acceptable. Who wouldn’t be upset in the face of such ill-intent?
I am pretty sure that, since I have such an abundance of compassion, mindfulness and empathy, I should teach them to open their hearts, listen, and include everyone. I should show them how to transform our community in a delightful place of peace, harmony and joyful connection. I, me, Elly van Laar, the compassionate one, has the wisdom and they should listen.
So in my quest to make sure that everyone is heard, even those that speak in pretty unpleasant terms, I shut others up? In this mission to see us all as one, I am actually seeing us as the “we” party and them as the “them” party? In my care for the underdog (at least, in my view) I forget to care for the perceived bullies?
What if they are not the enemy? What if there are no underdogs and no bullies? What if I drop the compassion competition? What if there are just people who do their best within the limitations they have? Who sometimes act and speak in ways I don’t like, and who always deserve a chance for understanding, support, acceptance, love, and belonging? What if I try to expand my inclusion to those I see as the bullies?
Gosh, I imagine I start listening to the “bullies”. I imagine I move over to their side and try to get what it’s like to see the world through their eyes. I imagine I see the beautiful, universal needs behind their feelings of frustration, exhaustion, and exasperation. I imagine I understand the values behind their unwillingness to enter into yet another dialog.
Yep, that’s where I should start. With listening.
Listening to understand. Not to reply. Just listening.
That is where I find the we in me
You want to learn to see the we in you? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a free discovery session to see how I can help.
Listening to the bell, I feel my afflictions
begin to dissolve.
My mind is calm, my body relaxed.
A smile is born on my lips.
Following the bell’s sound,
my breathing guides me back
to the safe island of mindfulness.
In the garden of my heart,
the flower of peace blooms beautifully.
Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya
Thich Nhat Hanh, The Great Bell Chant, Youtube
I sit on my meditation cushion. I breathe in and feel my somberness, my listlessness, my lack of purpose and meaning. Who cares whether I live or die? I’m not sure I do. Do I even like my life? I don’t know. Do I even like myself? I don’t think so.
A wave of shock rushes through me.
I would never talk to my clients, my friends like that. I would never judge them as losers, failures, nobodies, when they experience this much despair, this much existential fear and sadness.
I would sit with them, listen carefully, opening up to their pain. I would embrace their suffering with compassion, letting them know that I am here for them. My heart would soften as I listen to their despair, their struggles.
I feel tender as I see myself sit on my cushion. A woman with such a sincere intention to contribute, to relief suffering, to bring joy, love and harmony. A woman who’s just trying, really trying and sometimes feels overwhelmed by her inner demons. Her sadness and despair, her regrets and sorrows.
This woman doesn’t need disapproval and rejection. This woman needs a tender, loving embrace. Someone who tells her how special she is and how much happier their life is with her in it. I feel a tenderness growing. Like a little daffodil, arising from the dark earth into the sunny meadow.
I can do that. I can hold myself with that gentle love, accepting all parts of me.
A smile is born on my face.
I don’t have to be happy and cheerful all the time. I can accept myself as I am, right now. And in that tender, safe embrace the flower of peace blooms in my heart.
You want help to embrace all parts within yourself? To bring loving-kindness to yourself, because it is such a miracle that you’re here? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a complimentary, discovery session. I would be honored to help you bring self-acceptance and compassion to yourself.
Can listening be too slow?
I giggle. It is like saying that meditation is too slow. “Hey, can’t we meditate a little faster? I can meditate in five minutes, what you need 20 minutes for!” Or: “Can’t we admire these paintings a little faster? I can admire this Van Gogh in ten minutes, where you need 30 minutes!”
Some things are not about speed, how much you accomplish, or the results you create, or the insights you gain. Some things are just about the joy of being present. Just sitting and watching a butterfly: the splendid colors, the way it flies, the delicate balancing on a flower. And then watch it fly off again.
Listening can be like that too. Just being present with what someone is saying, feeling the tone, sensing the meaning, hearing the energy. As if you’re on the bank of a river, seeing all these thoughts, feelings, and needs float by. Calmly. Peacefully. Sometimes not so calmly. Sometimes wildly. Your friend may get scared by everything drifting by. He may be afraid the objects will grab him and drag him in the river. Harm him. He may be scared he will drown in the river.
You just bring your presence to the fear, the anguish. “I see you’re overwhelmed, caught in the grasp of your feelings and thoughts. Your needs don’t seem precious to you at all. They seem harmful. You’re afraid. You want help to maintain your calm, so you can watch your feelings and needs float by, and maybe even enjoy watching them.”
This kind of presence may be enough for your friend to calm down, and experience her feelings, thoughts, and needs as something she is having, not being.
I have found this kind of listening healing, especially when emotions run high. Giving space to them -without fixing- is a message of unconditional openness and acceptance.
I don’t consider that slow. I consider that empowering.
You want deep listening and unconditional acceptance to explore your inner world and heal yourself? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a complimentary, discovery session to see how I can help.
I wake up this morning, ready for my conversation with the director of an organization I want to work with.
Ready? Well. Not exactly. I feel grumpy, unmotivated and confused. It takes some effort to get moving. I take a shower and put on my snazzy outfit. My shirt looks shabby, my pants baggy. I put on my mascara. My eyes start tearing, the mascara gets smudged. I work on my eyebrows, they resist and keep hanging like downward dog. I look like a mess. And that’s just the outside.
The inside is even worse. I am anxious. I am sure I’ll screw up. Stutter, talk too much, be too pushy. Forget to ask the right questions. And sweat. Of course, sweat in my arm pits, for everyone to see.
And I need the income. I cannot afford to lose this lead. She has to hire me.
Then I hear this voice in my head “How can I help her? How can I help her help her clients? How can I add value and be part of the solution, how can I focus on serving her needs, instead of mine?”
A peace comes over me. This is not a sales conversation. This is a discovery session. Of two people figuring out if collaboration makes sense. She needs to assess whether she knows, likes and trusts me enough to engage me as a solution. I need to hear what her goals and challenges are to know if my services are a good match for her needs.
I remember an Irish saying “There are no strangers, only friends I’ve never met.”
I always loved that attitude. Just friends I’ve never met. She is not the big judge of my competence. She is a friend I’ve never met. She is a woman who might want my help to achieve her vision, dreams and goals. I am a woman who wants to contribute the best I can.
I left the conversation joyful, excited and honored that she asked me to write a proposal. She thinks I can help.
Do you want help with your team to achieve your vision and goals? Contact me for a complimentary, discovery session. I would be proud and honored to help. 512-589-0482