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  • Beach Break
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  • Blue Mountains
  • Beach Bird

Committing to Connection, not Judgment

mary-mackenzie-150I’m in Hawaii for three weeks offering a variety of trainings.  Nearly every day I express my gratitude that I get to do work that I love so much, in a place that is so beautiful to me, and to work with people whom I love.  Ahhh.

There have been many moments that I have thought, “remember this for the blog, Mary,” but have been distracted by all the beauty and joy and snorkeling and hiking with friends.  So, this morning, I will write about one thing and I hope to write again tomorrow.

I was in the second day of a 4-day retreat and I noticed that I felt uncomfortable with one of the participants and my inner chatter was saying, “He’s not satisfied with the workshop” and “He’s smirking” and “I actually have no idea what’s going on with him!”  I became aware of my jackal howling at the lunch break.

Does your jackal howl in your ear for a while before you notice her?  Sometimes, mine howls for a while before I become aware of her.  I believe this is because it is so familiar to have judgmental or critical thoughts.  NVC is teaching me how to become more aware of my jackal inner voice and to respond to her much more quickly, rather than be complacent in my judgments.

Anyway, when I became aware of her, I spent a few moments empathizing with the jackal and then became genuinely curious about what was actually going on in the participant.  I asked him if he’d be willing to talk with me for a few minutes at the start of lunch and he said yes.

I expressed what was going on with me, paraphrased here, “I’m noticing that I am thinking that you aren’t enjoying the workshop or not getting enough out of it, and also that I’m not even certain what you are hoping for.  So, I’m uncomfortable and would like clarity. Are you enjoying the workshop, or is there something you’re disappointed about?”

We ended up chatting for about 15 minutes and in the end I had understood more deeply what was going on with him. I don’t want to reveal anything about him out of respect, and so I’ll just say that his learning edge was asking for what he wanted and it felt a little awkward to him, and so I had interpreted his awkward attempts as discontent.

I enjoyed our connection very much and walked away with a soft and loving heart, grateful that I had taken the time to connect with him, grateful that I have a way of talking with others that creates connection (rather than disconnection), grateful that I could spend the rest of the workshop enjoying him (rather than judging him), and grateful that now that I understood where his learning edge was I could support his learning when opportunities arose throughout the workshop.

My interactions with him from that moment on were like night and day – enjoyable and relaxed.

This is just one more reminder (I’ve had many over the years) that when I’m honest about what’s going on with me I deepen connection.  It actually shifts everything – my perceptions, my judgments, my interactions with others.

It’s true that I’m not always received as well as I was in this case.  Sometimes when I express myself honestly I receive judgment and criticism back, but this doesn’t happen often anymore.  When it does, I simply move into empathy (for myself silently and for the other verbally) to deepen our connection.

I remember hearing Marshall Rosenberg say that killing someone was the easy way out.  At the time, his statement hit me in the gut like a punch.  This one small example demonstrates his point.  I could have spent the rest of the workshop judging this participant and my judgments would have colored my entire experience of the workshop – of him and everyone there.  That would have been the easy way out.  I choose connection, honesty and relief.


Tags: challenges, compassion, conflict resolution, Empathy, love, NVC Consciousness, relationships

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