Empathic Understanding

Connection via empathetic understanding is the real connection between two people and is the most endearing act of love and honor which one can present to another. This connection is the most meaningful part of any relationship. You know it. You remember when you’ve felt it. When your friend finishes your sentences, when you’ve had a strong bond with a teacher or mentor, you felt connected, understood.

You know this. Yet, surprisingly, I see a lack of empathetic understanding as the underlying indicator of trouble ahead in the most important relationships, between lovers. Maybe you felt a connected and/or understood in the beginning (though that was likely a more powerful driving force than connection) but after a while, you realize that the connection you felt was simply you projecting your desire to be connected and understood onto your partner.

When you’re in the projection mode, you see everything interpreted through your special lens which is rose-colored and sees synchronicity in all things. Following the passing of time, things that used to be “cute” are becoming annoying, and you’re no longer feeling as though you are connected or understood, as you once thought you were.

When you’re projecting your feelings onto your interpretation of another person, you feel as though they are feeling your feelings, even when no such connection exists.

It is this feeling of another’s feelings that Stephen Covey refers to as his, “Habit number 5: Seek first to understand then to be understood” in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This is the connection which exemplifies the highest integrity and connection between two people, whether used in business relationships, or more importantly, at home. It is a powerful connection which promotes and deepens respect, trust, and intimacy.

This simple method of joining the worlds of two people into a united vision felt by two is the secret of the most successful relationships. Sometimes it just happens organically, and the two people don’t even know they are doing it. For the rest of us, we need to first understand the concept before we can even think about attempting such a thing. And it’s on you to proactively take the first step.

Understanding is not giving advice, being over-protective, or fixing things for another person. Empathetic understanding is simply the process of actively listening, inviting them to dig deeper, and even more deeply, until they have gotten it all out, while you are using your imagination to feel what it might be like to be in that other person’s shoes, empathizing with him or her.

Empathetic Understanding

If you’re unaccustomed to this higher level of listening, it may take some practice. Creating a safe and sacred atmosphere can be an important component when someone is sharing something close to their heart, so eliminating distractors, such as the TV, music playing in the background, or retreating to a place where more privacy can be established are excellent ways to honor your partner’s sharing.

Nodding your head and looking them in the eye indicates you’re listening, while you are resisting your inclination to interrupt or interject when they are sharing. Let them speak their piece and listen carefully. When they pause, simply try to restate what they just said in your own words, starting with, “Let me see if I get what you’re saying…”

Then ask them if there’s anything more they’d like to say about that? And let them continue. Repeat this as many times as necessary, until they’ve announced that’s all they have to say.

Rather than give in to the urge to counsel or help him or her fix something your partner is concerned about, after first imagining what he or she might be feeling, feeling it as though you were feeling them yourself, offer up validation of your partner’s feelings. Something like, “Wow, you must have felt devastated.” And allow them to either agree with you or reclarify what they are feeling about what they were sharing. If they reclarify, imagine what it would feel like from that perspective.

If you have different opinions about something like your partner was terrified by a ride at the amusement park and you found it exhilarating, you can validate your partner’s feelings while agreeing to allow each other the right to their own experience. For instance, you might say, “I can feel how terrified you must have been on that ride,” (empathy, and continue) “but I was having the time of my life.” It’s okay to have different points of view, but very important to deeply understand where your partner is coming from and honor them by allowing them to have their experience any way they want to.

If they’ve intimated their story to you devoid of feelings, it might be helpful to lightly probe and encourage them to share their feelings by simply asking, “How did that make you feel?”

I think you’re ready to take your relationship to the next level.

How to See People as They Really Are

You know, you’ve met someone who seems to have so much in common with you, you immediately take a liking to them, only later to find you wish you could know how to see people as they really are.

You let them into your inner circle, then after a while, you see them for who they really are. This person, who seemed so transparent, open, honest and the perfect person for you to work with, or spend your quality time with; you were simpatico. Then, as you get to know them better, you discover they are not the person you thought they were.

You find that they are not even close to who you thought they were, and you’re ashamed of yourself and think,

“How could this person have deceived me, like that?”

It’s easy to jump to conclusions and assume that this person tried to pull a fast one on you to throw you for a loop, which could be true, if he or she is a psychopath or sociopath (which would be rare), while the more likely truth behind this conundrum is that the responsibility for your being “duped” lies solely on you.

It’s all your fault.

In most (if not all) cases, the only person to blame is yourself, so go ahead and give up the notion that you must blame anyone for you’re being fooled into believing that someone was not who you thought they were.

How could I have been so wrong?

Forget the inclination to try to beat yourself up for not seeing this person as they really are. Why? Because you’re a good person. So good, in fact, that you tend to see the best in people. You give them the benefit of the doubt and see them in the most positive light. You see their potential, who they could be, if they embraced all the gifts, talents and special abilities, following their own life’s path to their highest and best.

Why do I do that?

When you meet someone for the first time, you have seven to fifteen seconds to fix in your mind an image of the person you’re meeting. Your mind tries to identify people quickly so that you can posture your method of communication with this person to navigate the conversation in the best possible manner. Your brain quickly tries to identify and categorize this person, so that you can find common ground to communicate effectively, or to protect yourself and not open up, if you’ve determined that this might be a toxic person.

If you’re an expansion explorer, you tend to see things through the eyes of love, or “rose colored glasses.” That is to say you are seeing people and things in all their empowered potential, as the highest and best version possible.

My daughter, Jaycie, is like that. She is a multi-media artist who sees potential magnificence in everything, whether it’s a rock, clump of earth, piece of wood, whatever she sees, she interprets as a blank canvas, and see’s the beauty of the completed project when no one else could. To you and me, it just looks like a piece of rock, but Jaycie is like Michelangelo who saw only David in the rock.

And you, too, are just like that. You see the David in everything you see. David was the potential, but without doing the work, the intricate chiseling away of everything that was not David, we would have never seen the real David realized in his full potential.

You’re Perfect

You are the visionary. In those first few seconds, you saw this person as who they could be, if they did the work. Unfortunately, most people do not do the work, or maybe this person is not unlike you and I, and he or she is in the process of growing, changing and evolving into a higher version of his or her self.

You’re not to blame for seeing someone as the highest and best version of themselves.

People Are More Transparent than You think

While your impression of this person was interrupted by your ability to see them in their best light, more often than not, people are quite transparent about who they are.

If you review your interactions with this person, in retrospect you will notice that they give you clues about what to expect from them at the get-go.

You could have paid more attention to their lack of punctuality, truthfulness, attention to detail, selfishness, or hundreds of other indications clearly warning you about what to expect from this person, but you didn’t take heed to the warnings.

Why? Because you’re such a beautiful person that you overlooked all the warning signs to see only the best potential in this person. After some time has passed, you become more and more aware of their current condition.

This person, whoever it is, is who and where they are in this moment; a work in progress, just like you and me. Only now, it’s (possibly painfully) clear about who and where they are.

What do I do now?

Love and bless them.

He or she is not broken, good, or bad; only who and where they are in this moment. So, accept them as such, and love them just as they are.

If they are not a good fit for you in your inner circle, make the adjustments necessary to reposition them. Move their position to a safer location within your social organization, or extricate them as gently as possible. Thank them, bless them, reposition them, or send them on their way. There is no need for an apology. Things just are as they are, and we all change and grow,  but do not expect this person to change to accommodate your vision of their highest and best.

You Can’t Change Someone Else

Everyone is responsible for their own personal growth and change. It’s not up to you to change them, and you couldn’t if you tried.