A Common Last-Ditch Effort That Could Save You So Much Time and Suffering
July 27, 2017
Drop In. Use This Winter to Reset.
January 15, 2020
Sharing your heart, having your heart heard, hearing the hearts of other people
September 17, 2016
“Generally, when we look at an object, we do not allow ourselves to see it properly. Automatically we see our version of the object instead of actually seeing that object as it is. Then we are quite satisfied, because we have manufactured our own version of the thing within ourselves. Then we comment on it, we judge, we take or reject; but there is no real communication going on at all.”
~Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Buddhist teacher, from his book Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, page 202
I can’t tell you how many times I catch myself reacting to something that actually isn’t really happening. Embarrassing, huh? Sometimes we hear someone say something and it triggers an old thought pattern or belief and we get stuck in that old pattern rather than interacting with what’s actually unfolding before us.
I recently took a weekend Non-Violent Communication (NVC) workshop and it blew my mind! More significantly, it opened up my heart and helped me renew my commitment to not get stuck in myself and to get vulnerable enough, real enough, and curious enough to look at an “object” (whether it’s an actual object like a piece of art, or a weather pattern, or another human being, or anything else that my attention can focus on) from a different angle, or at least with an awareness of how my default ways of thinking are impacting the scene.
Non-Violent Communication, in my new and somewhat limited understanding at least, is primarily about cultivating an honest and open relationship with yourself, which then allows you to gain perspective about where you’re coming from so that you can begin to have beautiful and meaningful relationships with the people and the world around you.
My boyfriend Hanbit and I are very different people. We’re both introverts, though I’m a more friendly, fairly-social kind of introvert. I like to say hi to people and hear what’s happening with them. Hanbit, however, came to live with me after living alone in the woods for several years. So, needless to say, he’s not as likely to be as outwardly friendly as I am.
While we overlap in terms of having needs for simplicity, order, and ease, we often depart in terms of how we interact with other people, which also sometimes includes how we interact with each other.
I recently came home from work and started talking to him about my day non-stop for half an hour. This seemed completely normal to me, and it happens fairly often in our house, but after 30 minutes, Hanbit made a request: “I need a break, can you stop talking for awhile?”
My default response would have been: “WHAT!?! I’ve been out of the house for 10 hours and we’ve only been talking 30 minutes [ie, I’m only warming up here!] how could you possibly need a break?”
And actually, I literally did say something kind of like that but then I calmed down and realized that this situation was kind of ridiculous in a funny way.
Hanbit’s experience of me coming home and talking for 30 minutes straight was completely different from my own experience of what was happening, even though we were technically having the “same” experience together.
Instead of taking this personally (and defaulting to the beliefs that my partner must listen to me whenever I want, or deciding to make this mean that Hanbit doesn’t care about me, which is definitely not true), I used NVC to help figure out how Hanbit was feeling and to make a suggestion/request about different ways we could both get our needs met.
Me: When I hear you say that you need a break and you would like me to stop talking, I feel disappointed and sad because I’m wanting to connect with you. Can you tell me how you’re feeling right now?
Hanbit: I feel overwhelmed and agitated. It was quiet in the house and then suddenly very loud.
Me: You say you want a break from talking. Would it be ok if we sat on the couch and held hands for 5 or 10 minutes without talking instead?
Hanbit: I can do that.
After our ten minute couch cuddle, I made another request.
Me: Would you like 30 more minutes of silence, after which we can check in again and see if you want to listen to me for awhile? Also, I want to call my mom instead, would you like me to go into the bedroom to do that, or can I call from here where you might be able to hear me?
Hanbit: That sounds good. Let’s check in after thirty minutes and I don’t mind if you call your mom from the same room. I’m going to put in earbuds and listen to a podcast for awhile.
So this language might sound stilted, and that’s not exactly how we talked to each other, but, basically, I disentangled myself from my projection of what Hanbit was saying and I got my own needs met without bulldozing what Hanbit said he was needing.
It is possible to connect and to work together with someone to find a strategy that will work for everyone involved. I encourage you to try this sometime. The most essential first step is being honest about how you feel and what you’re wanting.
Having your heart heard without judgment or commentary can mean so much in terms of healing. If you have trouble feeling heard or respected or listened to, I would be honored to hear your heart.