Recently I’ve been taking a class in what’s called “Non-Violent Communication.” If you don’t know what that is, it’s a way of communicating that involves giving empathy, as well as a way of trying to understand your partner’s feelings and needs. If you agree we’re partly on the planet to learn how to love, then learning how to communicate compassionately is one of the premier tools to help us achieve this lofty goal. In the class, I’ve learned a lot about how to use words to open up my own and other’s hearts. Here are a couple of highlights:
First, I have a deepening realization that we’re all just trying to get the same needs and desires fulfilled. We all want to feel understood; we all want to be respected, approved of, and loved. Yet, we sometimes go about getting these needs met in ineffective or even self-destructive ways. When we learn to communicate better, it opens up the possibility of giving and receiving love more easily (and frequently).
Secondly, I’ve seen that people (including myself) really, really want empathy. Empathy is defined as “the understanding of another’s feelings.” People don’t want to be fixed, analyzed, or classified. They want their feelings heard and even emotionally shared with the people they care about.
Recently, my wife shared with me her feelings about a situation that was giving her trouble. Normally, I might suggest what she should do to remedy the situation, or how she should change her own attitude and behavior. Instead, I bit my lip and just listened. I imagined how I would feel if dealing with a similar situation. In fact, I started to tear up as I began to feel her pain. I held her hand and continued to listen. When the urge came to tell her what to do, I instead just stayed with what she was feeling. Finally, her pain seemed to dissipate and she told me, “Thank you for your help. I really feel so much better.”
Later that evening my wife told me how she planned to handle the situation that was troubling her in a different way. It ends up it was exactly in line with what I had wanted her to do—but never expressed. Instead of giving her “the answer,” she came up with it herself. Having come up with it herself, she was much more likely to act on it than if I had told her what to do.
How is your ability to communicate with the people you care about? I once wrote a bestselling book called “Communication Miracles for Couples,” but I’m finding there is still so much more to learn and practice. We can always get better at expressing our vulnerable truth and listening empathically to those we care about. Good communication takes a lot of practice.. In this day and age of high stress and little time, it’s more important than ever that we learn to communicate in compassionate and heartfelt ways.