Unfortunately, we usually hear them as a message of wrongness of us, of who we are in our core being. We take the message personally and defend or doubt ourselves, or we withdraw within.
It is often easier to hear criticism, blame, and judgment from a stranger, from someone who is not that close to us. As soon as the message comes from someone who matters to us and the issue is tied to our sense of self-worth, we struggle.
Empathy with a partner, dear friend, or sibling when they express blame, judgment, or criticism is harder, because they are more important than a stranger. Their opinion of us matters more than the opinion of someone we don’t care about. We spend so much time with them, that they become our main strategy to meet our needs for love, acceptance, belonging: essential needs for our human existence.
David Schnarch talks about differentiation as “your ability to maintain your sense of self when you are emotionally and/or physically close to others-especially as they become increasingly important to you.” Differentiation would be very helpful to hear hard-to-hear messages more easily. Unfortunately, differentiation is not something that’s being taught at school.
I offer two tips that can help you reach enough differentiation to hear hard-to-hear messages without too much upset.
Localize the criticism
Translate the negative message about you as a person into an event that is localized in time and place. Transform an evaluation of you as a person, into feedback about something you did. It is about, for example, the fact that you left without saying goodbye yesterday afternoon, instead of being judged as a cold and uncaring person. When you help your loved one distinguish between you and your behavior, it is easier to empathize with what they are trying to say.
Guess feelings and needs
We experience our shared humanity at the level of feelings and needs. We all know what it is like to feel sad, lonely, angry, disappointed, scared, ashamed, embarrassed. We all have needs for acceptance, love, support, understanding, safety, reassurance, connection, belonging, play, autonomy. When we move beyond the details of the story into the depth of feelings and needs, we develop a sense of understanding. We might even ask questions to better understand the other one: “Tell me what saying goodbye means to you?” “What rituals did your family have around saying goodbye?” “In an ideal situation, what would saying goodbye look like?”
I am pretty sure that these two tips help you to hear your spouse, child, co-worker share their hard-to-hear-message with more acceptance, compassion, and understanding.
You want help to listen with empathy to hard-to-hear messages? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a free, discovery session to see how I can help.
How do we make commitments we can honor? I hope these six steps will help you.
1. Connect to the underlying needs you’re trying to serve
In my desire to be an aspirant-member of the Order of Interbeing I try to nurture my need for help on my path of mindfulness and compassion. It also supports a need for belonging to a group I feel welcome and at home. I have a need for contribution, to use my practice to benefit others and relief suffering. There is a need for peace, to be more open and accepting of reality, and more joyful of what is in this moment, instead of what I want it to be. And there is a need for harmony and trust. This community handles conflicts with such peace, ease and grace.
2. Brainstorm other strategies
Write all your needs down on a big piece of paper, step back and look at the overall picture. Are there other strategies that might support all those needs?
I see my needs for support, community, belonging, contribution, peace, harmony and trust, and wonder which other strategies would nurture those needs. My marriage, moving back to the Netherlands, seeking certification with the Center for Nonviolent Communication? I don’t see they support all of my needs. This choice stands out as the best.
Maybe more needs come up at this stage. Jot them down, and re-do step 2. Do they reinforce your choice, or change your strategy? I realize my need for purpose and clarity reinforces my choice for being an aspirant-member.
If you have more strategies available, you can use the polarity matrix to check which one stands out.
3. Imagine yourself six months from now, after your commitment
Look at your future self, and feel, see, hear, taste, smell all the aspects of your life. What are your experiences, activities, surroundings? Do you like this future version of yourself? Do you get excited and enthusiastic to be that person? If so, go on with step 4. If not, this is not the right strategy.
4. Sleep on it
Let it go. Repeat “Everything is in divine order, everything will be resolved in God’s love and wisdom” or anything else that rings true. Trust your subconscious’ wisdom and guidance. Relax in the miracles of sleep.
5. Express your intention
You wake up with the same commitment? Express your intention to an accountability partner. Someone who is willing to check if this is really what you want. Hearing yourself express out loud what you want to commit to, will help surface any fears, hopes, reservations and longings. With empathy you can address them and include them in your choice.
Go for it! That is the only way to know you made a true commitment. Even if it turns out to be the wrong choice, you can celebrate your sincere intention to consciously commit.
You want help to clarify your commitments? Contact me for a complimentary, discovery session 512-589-0482
Time for celebration
Today I want to celebrate my successful implementation of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Beginning Anew!
I have been part of a small group of Nonviolent Communication coaches/trainers. We talk on the phone once a week. I value the level of support, encouragement and integrity I find in this group. And yet, somehow, I started to dread the conversations, more and more.
My favorite strategy when something doesn’t work for me is to disengage, then disconnect. I am well-trained at that. Rescheduling calls, not making them, coming up with a lame excuse that I am too busy and have to quit. Stuff like that.
I love that strategy!
Trying something new
This time I decide to try something different. I decide to express my dread and take it from there. I’m gonna use Thich Nhat Hanh’s three steps of Beginning Anew, and use Nonviolent Communication to express myself in feelings and needs.
I first ask Priya and Adam if they are okay if I talk about our group interaction, using Thich Nhat Hanh’s steps.
I start to sweat, feel anxious, see doom scenario’s of how they will react. I am absolutely sure I will be rejected, criticized, discarded. (Yep, these are not feeling words, these are feelings mixed in with a thought, but you get the picture of the racing dialogue in my head).
I did not expect to hear “Sure! We would love to listen and support you. Take your time. We’re here for you.”
I take the first step: appreciate what I like in the connection, maybe even in the current situation. That is their commitment to empathize with me, their willingness to open up to my struggle, their ability to hold my fear and anxiety with compassion.
They reflect me back. They guess my feelings and needs. They give me space to talk.
I’m starting to relax. A thought pops up in my head: “Maybe it is possible to express myself authentically and still belong and be accepted? Maybe I can find a balance between autonomy and togetherness?”
I didn’t get to the next two steps: expressing my regret for my own behavior, and sharing what actually bothers me. I don’t mind. We will continue this Friday.
Try it for yourself
I feel relieved, open and trusting. I get the brilliance of Thich Nhat Hanh’s advice to start with appreciation. It builds relationship, a safe container for our feelings and needs. It supports seeing the other person as human, instead of the enemy in our head. We can see the positive in them, the good, the pure, the beauty, beyond anything that doesn’t work for us. They are not enemies, or obstacles to our happiness. They are human beings in their own right.
I feel excited about our next group call. I would never have believed that that was possible. It is. Try it for yourself.
You want help to begin anew, with yourself or someone else? Contact me for a complimentary, discovery session, 512-589-0482
Should I stay in Austin or should I go back to the Netherlands?
As soon as I decide to stay, going back seems better. As soon as I decide to go back, staying seems so much yummier.
Miller and Rollnick write about ambivalence and counseling with neutrality (Motivational Interviewing, 2013, 231-242). The counselor grounds herself in neutrality, unattached to either this or that choice. Her only focus is to support the client make a decision, even if that is to not make a decision yet.
Of course I am struggling to coach myself! I am completely invested in the “right” outcome. I am impacted whichever choice I make. How can I be neutral?
When you’re in a hurry, take your time
To make matters worse, I have this sense of urgency: if I don’t go back now, I might as well go back never. My parents are growing older, and now is the time to spend time with them. If I don’t decide now, they might be dead before I made up my mind.
There is something helpful in writing down the different thoughts I have in my head. Miller and Rollnick suggest making a decisional balance sheet with the advantages and disadvantages of each choice. That’s what I am doing in my head. It might help me to write it down.
What does love have to do with it?
I liked their paragraph on affirming best. Silent Unity makes a point that “God’s love and wisdom guides you every step of the way.” It is an affirmation that I am okay and lovable, whatever choice I make. Gosh, my choice has nothing to do with my self-worth. I will receive love, belonging and acceptance from my husband ànd my parents, no matter what choice I make. They have been trying to tell me this over and over again. Only now do I understand what they actually say: “Elly, follow your heart’s desires, be happy, and know that we will always be here for you, no matter what choice you make.
I feel 20 pounds lighter. I have more space to make a decision that supports the needs of everyone involved. This ambivalence has nothing to do with who I am, just what I chose. And I’ll always receive love, acceptance and belonging. Wow, that makes it a heck easier to stand my ambivalence and let God’s wisdom guide me.
Should I Stay or Should I Go? The Clash
Contact me if you want help to resolve your ambivalence. I’ll coach you with neutrality 512-589-0482
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