Compassionate Communication

Humans. Why do we have so much trouble communicating our feelings and our truth? Especially to those we are closest to? It doesn’t make much sense. Here we are, sharing space, bodies and emotions with our loved ones, mates, family and friends, in such close quarters. Yet, when it comes down to sharing what is really going on with us, we fold in on ourselves, lie and hide truths. We do this in the name of embarrassment, fear of being misunderstood, past trauma and, “I don’t want to hurt their feelings.”

When the truth comes out, and it always does, the shame, misunderstandings, trauma and hurt feelings are magnified a thousand fold.

Why is this stuff so hard? I get it, we haven’t been taught to tell the truth. For many, we learned that lying was somehow safer. We want to sugarcoat and be nice and tip toe around issues, hoping they will go away. Only, they never go away. They fester and rot, sometimes for years. Suddenly, the bow breaks and someone is bringing up stuff from eons past and the other is left blindsided. Suddenly, someone follows their intuition and catches the other in a lie. Families are torn apart, relationships, once trusting and loving dissolve in anger and frustration, friendships meltdown. All because we are too afraid to say what we mean and mean what we say.

So, how do we begin to share our deepest feelings with the ones we love, without hurting them?

First of all, we probably have to let go of the idea that we can live without hurting each other. Hurt is a fact of life and relationships. It is not our intention to hurt each other, and maybe if we started out acknowledging that in order for us to have healthy relationships, sometimes, it’s going to hurt. There are going to be times when we have to have rough conversations and interactions – it doesn’t mean I love you any less. It’s like deciding to let our children go through hard times, without putting them in a protective bubble. Yep, stuff is going to feel icky and painful. Don’t we want them to know that life inherently contains pain so that they aren’t completely traumatized by tough events when they happen?

Second, maybe we quit making agreements that we can’t keep? Like, because I’m married to you, I’m never, ever going to be attracted to another person and I’m certainly never going to talk to someone I’m attracted to. Or, our friendship, parenting, roommate situation is always going to be smooth sailing and we don’t’ need to address expectations, boundaries and beliefs in advance?

What if we acknowledge our human nature and say, “babe, I love you always and I’m finding myself anxious because I really want to have a friendship with so and so, that I’m super attracted to.” Ouch! I know hard stuff. But, now, it’s on the table. The other gets to respond and yes, they may be hurt and angry! Still, communication has now been established and the situation can be talked through. Maybe, a new roommate or friendship agreement needs to be made. People change. Hopefully, people grow and mature. We are all psychic anyway, so the conversations most likely won’t come as a complete surprise to your friend, partner or child.

Are you going to know how to do this with expertise? Probably not. This level of communication requires courage, kindness and flexibility. It comes with compassion for ourselves and others as we navigate uncharted territory.

So, who does this with skill? Some of the most talented communicators are those humans whom choose open relationships and marriages. They must travel these paths with integrity and boldness, mixed with humility and care. Seeking out books on the topic such as The Ethical Slut and The Yama’s and Niyamas, Yoga’s Ethical Principles can be eye-opening to say the least and relationship bridging at its best. Talking with people that live this life-style (setting your judgements aside!) and gleaning knowledge from their experience, with the right intention, can open up your heart and world to greater levels of trust and understanding between you and your loved ones. And, no, you don’t have to adopt an open relationship lifestyle, just the excellent communication skills.

People whom have experienced substance abuse can be another great resource (choose wisely) as these individuals came from the gritty truth of, “I’m an addict and might die this way.” If they are living a life of sober integrity, they will have some insight into how to tell the truth and have hard conversations with self and others.

Beginning your process with an ethical and trusted coach or therapist can be very supportive as you sort out what works for you and how you want to go about being someone that can communicate directly and honestly.

Everyone involved gets to learn about their own emotions and how to give self-care to each other and most importantly, ourselves. Remembering, that there is a kind, compassionate reason for everything we do and experience can be very supportive. Take things slowly. Even statements like, “I need to talk and I don’t know what to say,” can open up new lines of conversation between lovers, friends, co-workers, parents and children.

We must step up and firmly lead the way to non-violent honesty. It will feel direct and sometimes blunt.

 It will also be kind, true and necessary.

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