Authentic and compassionate dialogue with others can be as trying as the dialogue with ourselves, and at times even more challenging.
We all need to acquire communication skills or, better put, connecting skills. None of us are exempt. Since relationships are absolutely essential for well-being and success, we need to keep developing the ability to relate and connect constantly.
Q: What is it that we want most when we communicate with others?
A: We want a sense of connection.
Q: What contributes to a sense of connection between people?
A: The following:
• All sides need to feel heard.
• All sides must feel respected and honored, even in the heat of a disagreement.
• All sides need to feel supported and enhanced, if there is an agreement.
• All sides need to be able to share their experience, knowledge, insight, or feelings.
• Differences need to be accepted, if they did not get resolved.
• All sides must show willingness to continue the communication to further the connection.
• All sides must strive to come to a resolution that is satisfactory to all.
When we connect, we are able to exchange knowledge, support, and joy. We give and receive. Connecting is one of the most fulfilling aspects of living. We long for it, and at the same time we sabotage it regularly.
Q: What are the obstacles to creating true connections?
A: In the same way that our Defensive Self blocks our connection with our Emotional Self, it blocks our ability to connect with others. Here are some of the ways that our Defensive Self prevents us from connecting to others:
• Resistance: A reluctance to open up, trust, let in, accept, or share with others.
• Automatic Reaction(s): A habitual pattern, often unconscious, of avoiding the experience of being present.
• Judgment and Comparison: Forming opinions without real knowledge or understanding of whom or what we judge; classifying and stereotyping are some defensive tactics to maintain separation from others.
• Denial of Responsibility: Lack of ownership for our actions, feelings, or needs.
• Communication of Desires as Demands: Inability to express authentically to others our needs and desires in the form of requests.
• Blaming and Dumping: The habit of focusing on the other as the cause of one’s trouble.
• Manipulating and Controlling: Using another as a pawn in order to pursue or achieve our own agenda.
All of these patterns of being originate from a defensive stance. Our Defensive Self has a tendency to withhold true feelings and to keep others at a distance. It creates a separation between ourselves and others and resists the possibility of being vulnerable—all in order to protect us from hurt. When we try to achieve defensive power, we judge, we deny responsibility, we blame, we dump on or punish others. It makes us feel right, versus the other, who is wrong. It makes us feel better than… The goal is to be on top of “the game of life.” It is a “me against you,” “dog eat dog” world perspective. Within this perspective, we try to control, manipulate, pretend, lie, or use force. These are ways of war and emotional violence, and they are not conducive to compassionate communication and connection.
We all have a Defensive Self—it has a protective role—and if we intend to be fulfilled, we need to soften and transform our rigid, contracted, and stubborn Defensive Self into a compassionate protector, a peaceful warrior. This is quite a job. We can use all the help we can get to accomplish it.