Monday, October 23, 2006

Communication: The Challenges

Let me begin with a quote from one of the participants of last month’s call: “I find that I do already apply the principles of NVC communication with a few adults who I am close to, but that these principles are difficult to apply (judgment here) with people who are difficult. There are a couple people in my life who are so hardened that no amount of compassion seems to soften them. While I go away feeling better if I communicate with compassion with these people, I have a limit as to how much communicating I am willing to do with them.”

Ah, yes, the perennial question, how do we keep our center in the difficult places? I was tested on this one last week and failed miserably. I was faced with a teenager with predictable teenage attitude and I couldn’t hack it. The irony is our exchange was based on communication – exactly what I am “suppose” to be focusing on this month! This individual prides herself on being literal and exacting in her language and expects the same out of others. The challenge is she perceives things from her limited, human perspective (as we all do) and often misunderstands the situation. She then assumes she is the only one seeing clearly since she is the only one who was “exact” in her communication, that there is only one way any words said can be taken. This is a hot button for me. I usually can keep my compassionate state, but in this situation, I was energetically exhausted and feeling under pressure, and I just couldn't keep my center. I could no longer see her perspective and became blinded by my own.

Isn’t that what is often at the base of “difficult” situations? -- the fact that each party gets mired in their own perspective and cannot see another way? That they each have limited perspective? It can be remarkably difficult when faced with such rigidity in others much less ourselves. But good communication is not about changing them, showing them "the light", so to speak, it is about grounding yourself so strongly in compassion that you can maintain your perspective even in the most difficult situation.

So what do you do? I have two suggestions. The first is to practice holding your compassionate place consciously in easy situations. Get adept with your loved ones, the ones with whom it is easy to practice compassion. Then practice with those with whom you have neutral feelings. Then begin to imagine yourself with the challenging person in an easy situation. Then in a more challenging situation. See yourself as remaining grounded and loving and compassionate no matter what that other person is saying or doing. You may begin by only holding on to your loving place for a few seconds. You will get stronger and it will get easier.

My second suggestion is soul preparation. When you know you are going to be with that person again, do all that you can before hand to fill yourself full of love and compassion. Get yourself in an amazing place so no matter where they are, you will only be sending compassion. It doesn’t matter whether they accept it or not – you can only control you. (We will discuss that more next month with Spiritual Practice).

As for me, I plan to practice this myself. The challenging individual for my is also someone I love very much – someone for whom all of this work is worth it. I want to know how to send her love and compassion even when she is in her challenging teen years (or perhaps especially when she is in her challenging teen years.)