Last but not least in our series on The Art of Connection is the practice of being responsive. Being responsive involves hearing and acknowledging the other persons’ view, feelings and values, while also being true to our own view, feelings, and values. When we can acknowledge and hear what the other person is saying, we can then begin to empathize, understand and keep open minded for connection with each other.
Be responsive differs from being reactive. Generally, reactions are quick responses initiated from triggered feelings, perceptions, and assumptions of the situation that often short-circuit our hearing to understand. The amygdala (emotional centre of the brain) is activated and if perceived to be threatened, then relational circuits quickly shut down. When this happens, it is a good practice to take a moment to assess what feelings are being triggered and take a breath before speaking or connecting to another person. This is often easier said than practiced!
When communicating from a place of anger, anxiety, or fear, we inevitably block and side step the truth of the matter or our true needs. We are less likely to convey what we need and more likely go into fight, freeze or flee mode. In other words, everyone loses! However, there is good opportunity to correct the situation by taking courage to express the need behind the feelings. For example, “I feel sad that our need to understand each other did not happen when we last spoke, perhaps we can try again when we are both willing.”
Being responsive is a position that not only allows us to repeat what we hear for clarity, but also gives us opportunity to state our feelings and ask for what we need. For example, a response may sound something like:
You: ‘Let’s see, what you are saying is that you need more freedom to choose how you use your time, is that right?
Other: Yes, exactly!!
You: Oh, perhaps I haven’t been very clear, let me try again, I feel sad because I miss chatting and touching base with you. Would you be willing to consider choosing a time to meet me when it is convenient for both of us? Does Wednesday work?
Here in this scenario, we are checking our understanding or perception of what is being said by another, and then adding what it is we need in a clear and direct manner. The aim of connecting is to work out how best we can meet each other’s needs without being prey to demands, judgements or blame shifting. In the same thread, we can check ourselves on how best we can meet our own needs without being predatory of others, without us victimizing others, demanding a specific response, judging their actions, and blaming others for our feelings.
The practice of being responsive to others who have similar challenges as us may require us to openly sharing our own challenges as it relates to the conversation. Sharing our personal values, attitudes, values or events that are relevant helps to relate and reassure the other person they are not alone. Responding by relating to others is a way of reducing anxiety, especially when entering in with differing views. An example of this type of response, may be saying something like, ‘Like you, I never felt comfortable expressing myself in a group. ‘
Being responsive may involve asking open questions for information and/or develop a point. Open questions help us focus on the other’s general situation, feelings, and needs. A caution is to note is that ‘why’ questions that are directed at the other person often pressure for an explanation or express a sense of disapproval or criticism. Sincere questions will seek understanding and invite dialogue. For example, questions such as “Can you tell me what is confusing you?” or “What do you like about the new school?” Good questioning responses are open and promote communication, exploring what is blocking connection.
Interestingly, the root word to responsible is response.* I love that ‘response’ is within this word because it inadvertently suggests that it is our responsibility to account for how we communicate and connect with others. !re we willing to take this up? Every time we communicate there is the opportunity to be intentional and practice some of the tips from this series.
Learning to observe, empathize, and express needs are three ingredients that Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, founder of Non-Violent Communication (NVC) schools, has so effectively studied and shared with many organizations as a world peacemaker. I am grateful to know of his work, and it is my joy to share some of these strategies.
Indeed the art of connection in our communication is experienced as JOY when we discover the reward of expressing and meeting each other’s true needs in our real life situations.
*French word "responsible", itself coming from a Latin word "responsabilis", the past participle of "respondere", meaning "to respond". The word did not come to imply any measure of accountability until the middle 1600s. https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/345981/did-the-word-responsibility-come-from-the-two-words-response-ability/345987
In Part 1, being reflective in our communication for connection is about saying what we see or hear the other person doing. A step further to this is asking, rather than telling the other person what they might be feeling or needing. For example, I can see you are pacing, are you excited?
Part 2 of The Art of Connection, the next ‘R’ in the area of communication, is being Real.
Being real with the sincere desire to connect heart to heart requires a courage to share what your own feelings and needs are. Often the idea of being real is interpreted as letting the other party know what you really think about them, or how you perceive their action without apology or restraint. Ah!
Such an approach often shuts the door to each other’s heart and the outcome is ultimately conflict or disconnection. So much for this definition of being real!!
So then, how can we be Real without a pretense and keep a true heart to heart connection? The courage to own one’s feelings and needs requires a process of self-reflection and then the boldness to share them. Boldness for connection does not mean blaming these feelings or needs on the other person’s actions or behaviour. It requires a determination not to blame, label, excuse, demand or fix the other person we are speaking to.
For example, this statement “I am angry because you are always late” puts responsibility for feelings onto another person. In this scenario, being angry is dependent on another person’s actions, and deems us as powerless to change the situation. We are the victim. Moreover, our fixed conclusion that the person is “always late” serves to evaluate them as an enemy. So then how do we communicate this contention without deeming the other person an enemy, and ruler of our feelings and needs? Ah, yes. It is quite a challenge when we have learned a language that seeks to evaluate and conclude.
To say, “I am angry because my need for trust isn’t being met” helps us to articulate and own our own state of being. Communicating the real need is powerful for communication because it empowers us to know ourselves and to share it truthfully. There is no pretense or insincerity posed in this. The other person hears your need without the attack on their actions or being. It is not easy to be sure, especially with trained mindsets to evaluate and assert our opinions.
Courageous communication requires restraint and self-reflection. Self-reflection takes a pause and begins to zoom in on our real need behind the feelings. Marshall Rosenberg’s study in this type of communication points out that when our feelings are negative, there is a need behind it that is unmet. Instead of proactively fulfilling this need in our communication, we often use our negative feelings such as anger to push away and deflect others from knowing our need. Many times, we are unaware of our needs, let alone how to articulate them with clarity. To pause and practice the discipline of self- reflection is a step towards being real. Another word for this is “self-control.” Using “self-control” proves to fare much better than being under the power of “others-control.”
Being Real is indeed the art of becoming aware and truthful about our own needs, and sharing them for genuine connection with another.
Next R is Response. How do we respond to others’ needs? That is, sharing our needs, while being both reflective and being real?
Stay tuned for Part 3.
Embedded in each of us is a need to connect with each other; to belong, to contribute and to share something of significance. It is a need that is apparent by the increase of social media and technological advancement in this area of connection to each other.
Today we have hundreds of ways to connect with each other through technology and social media; Skype, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, What’s App, Messenger, Text - email, and old fashioned mail, to name a few. Pictures, emoji’s, video clips, acronyms are a few ways we express our feelings and needs. Despite all these ways to connect, the ‘face to face’ conversation with another individual remains a definitive and sacred commodity in our lives. The ‘face to face’ conversation often requires courage to express and hear each other’s feelings and needs.
Courageous communication, we might say, entails a heart motivation to converse face to face without fear. Conversing without fear of what we may express or hear is the art of connection in a face to face conversation. Communication without fear inspires a desire to meet each other’s needs and practice what I would like to call the 3 R’s of communication: Reflective, Real, and Responsive.
Reflective communication is the freedom to observe what is happening inside and outside of ourselves. When we choose to be reflective, we will take note of what another is doing, or expressing, and also what is happening inside of ourselves. We purposely grant ourselves permission to take a step back. We reflect what we feel and need and/or we reflect what we see, hear, or sense another person is doing. Reflective communication positions us to take the time to observe rather than conclude on what we hear or see.
Reflective communication is without evaluation or assessment. Like a mirror, we can reflect the facts without our opinions or assumptions. What we see, hear, and notice comes from an objective stance. For example, “I see you are looking away from me when I am speaking.” and NOT “You are ignoring me!” Jumping to conclusions about a person’s actions provokes a defensive response.
Challenge yourself to use reflective communication and then perhaps ask what they may be feeling or needing. Ie. “I see you are looking away from me when I am speaking, are you feeling anxious?” Then wait for their response. The courage to communicate reflectively with each other is a choice to connect or disconnect with each other every time. Our opinions and judgements about someone’s actions are speculative, and although we may think we are spot on with them, these opinions are unlikely to inspire dialogue or heart to heart connection. Recall your response the last time you heard an unsolicited opinion about your actions?
Try the practice of reflective communication. Indeed, a step to understanding in the art of connection with each other. So what about the next step of being Real? Glad you asked.
Stay tuned for Part 2 - Being Real.
Life Change Solutions – www.lifechangesolutions.ca
Health has become a focus today in society, physical, emotional and even spiritual health. We throw everything at our desire to be healthy...and by “we”, I literally mean most of the world. Yoga, meditation, vegetables...especially non-GMO or organic, counselling, salt crystals, magnetic bracelets, fitness classes, diets and more. Most of society agrees, rightly I believe, that health is important, and those that don’t want to be healthy are given opportunities to realize why they don’t want to be healthy and then, in turn, join the quest to become healthy. Health is good.
Now I would say, gently, that as long as we are human, there will be areas of our life that are unhealthy. This is not an attack; this is recognizing our inability to be perfect. People are not designed to be perfect, if we were, we wouldn’t need a Saviour. And if by some miracle Jesus made you perfect, truly I have never heard of anyone reaching perfection. All you would have to do is live another few hours and something would occur, you would react imperfectly, and you’d have to ask for forgiveness and start again. Our journey with Jesus is one about dependence on Him. We will always need Him because only He is perfect and died for us. Praise God!
Now going back to health, a common problem can be that someone who may have realized a truth about being healthy may in their joy, start to look down on others who haven’t learned whatever nugget of truth the learner has gained. So, in our very recognition of a truth about becoming heathy, we can in fact risk falling into pride or a judgemental or critical attitude towards others. This my beautiful friends is something we must be very careful of. Judgment and pride are lethal. Especially when we look at the Body of Christ. Paul talks at length about different roles in the Body of Christ.
The book of Acts shows us how the believers worked together as an organic organism, growing, and supporting each other while reaching out to the Roman Empire. And grow they did...and with growth comes more people, who bring more imperfection. We are after all human. We see in Paul’s letters the issues that come up that he needs to address. Areas where they were getting off track. Paul doesn’t leave them because he disagrees with their behaviour, but he doesn’t stay silent either. Because he passionately loves the body of Christ. Not Paul’s church, not Timothy’s church, not Apollo’s church or Cephas’s church...the body of Christ. He pleads with us:
"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." - Ephesians 4:1-6
I believe Paul couldn't have cared any less about where the believers met...just that they met, broke bread, fellowshipped and listened to the apostles.
"And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved." - Acts 2:42-47
I know there can be a tendency to focus on the signs and wonders on this passage. I think the bigger and more attractive miracle was that the believers were “all in”. Fully committed to following Christ and supporting each other in that journey. They literally sold everything they had to provide for each other. They met in homes and the temple...but those that weren’t in Jerusalem just met in homes. They were all in, not in supporting their own particular fellowship group, but in following Jesus. They didn’t care where they were meeting as much as who they were following. When they got bigger, yes, their humanity, their imperfection complicated things. Paul corrects the believers:
"For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarrelling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”" - 1 Corinthians 1:11-12
Let’s be all in, loving our Jesus as the body of Christ, walking in humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with each other, in love enabled by the Spirit, pursuing his Kingdom on Earth. Our buildings aren’t the point, where we meet isn’t our focus. But our unity in following Jesus and who He is, that is crucial.