Have you noticed….we’re having trouble talking to each other lately? There are countless reasons—not the least of which is that we can’t HEAR each other through the layers of our masks. There are the big barriers like the deepening divide and polarization in our nation’s politics and the continued debate about what to do with the huge disparity and injustice in our social service networks.
And then there are the smaller, but no less persistent difficulties that include things like how to tell your mom that you’re just not ready to attend the family reunion yet; or your kid that a big birthday party is not in the cards this summer; or how to tell your friends you’re just not ready to meet them for dinner at the “hottest new restaurant”.
But I am also keenly aware, it’s a fact of human nature, that it’s always been hard to “hear things” from someone else’s perspective, and to “see things” from another’s angle.
It’s called “confirmation bias.” Our brains are actually “hard wired” to take in data and filter it toward what we already believe. It turns out we are genetically not very open to adapting to new perspectives. And when we are in fear or distress, it gets even harder.
That’s why the art of healthy communication is so important.
Speaking your truth from the heart and listening with the intent to understand are the basic but necessary skills to connect deeply to one another and to solve life’s problems big and small.
And often when we are under stress, any communication skills we might have fly right out the window. I see it daily in my practice: parents and children who can’t agree on family rules or values, couples who can’t agree about how to manage their time or their finances, or employees who don’t feel their opinions or feedback are valued.
“The number one reason most people describe when they come to me for therapy is that they want to communicate better with the people most important to them.
“She just doesn’t understand me”, or “I just can’t get through to him” are common refrains in my work with either individuals or couples.
Healthy communication is at the heart of healthy relationships.
We all share the same, basic human needs, and most behaviors are strategies to meet one or more of those needs. To be seen and heard and understood is essential to our well being.
The ability to ask for what we want and to hear and respect each other even when we disagree, is essential to living well together.
A big part of my job is to help people first figure out what’s important to them and then to be able to communicate that effectively to their partners or children or bosses or family and friends. To be able to ask for what they need and want and to tell their partners/children/boss or friend about it.
And I’m actually pretty good at it. My clients have said things to me like “You can tell me what I need when I don’t even know what it is,” and “You always know just what to say and how to say it.”
It’s kind of a super power that I’ve honed over my 30 years as a therapist, but also because I can’t help but see from the heart. I can look underneath the “presenting behavior” and ask myself, what is really going on here, what is the core need and longing? I look for the attachment needs, and help to form the question from that angle.
People say the way to find your purpose is to figure out where your gifts meet the world’s needs. And I guess I’ve been trying to figure out a way to contribute lately—a way to make a difference in this “mess of a world” we find ourselves in.
As Mother Theresa says, “We can’t all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”
And my small thing is to be a “heart whisperer.” To help people figure out what they are longing for truly and deeply in their hearts and to tell the people around them what that is and figure out a way for it to happen.
Toward that end, I’m launching a digital series on communicating authentically from the heart—with honesty, compassion and empathy—and to learn to listen with the intent to understand rather than to change someone.
New HEART TALK Social Media Series
I’ll be writing about it here in my blog, posting about it on my Facebook feed and sharing some live videos on my Instagram account….sharing all my tips and tools with helpful examples and stories to teach and model.
So be sure to tune in and watch for the next in a series of missives about what I call “Heart Talk.” It’s communication-based on self-compassion, empathy and heart-felt authentic connection.
I’ll be talking to you soon and listening for your responses…
Take the best of care,