Grist For The Mill

I have come to appreciate this saying, that I often read by Ram Dass. This refers to how every moment of our lives can become something to work with to increase our self-awareness. I have found empathic communication by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg to be so helpful in becoming more self-aware. When you start to figure out what you are feeling and needing in each moment, when you have a framework of a new way to think, everything is possible.

authentic communicationAuthentic Communication by Martha Lasley

Before I explain the most recent grist for the mill, I want to share some thoughts about the process of Non-violent communication from an article by Martha Lasley. She explains the process of authentic communication as starting with a stimulus (something you see, hear, experience) and then moving through a reaction, awareness and an action. We have been trained to go through this process in this way: stimulus (judgment), reaction (thoughts), awareness (position) and action (demands). In other words we experience a stimulus and make a judgment about what is going on, then we start thinking about it, then take a position about it and then make a demand. This process is guaranteed to produce disconnection, both within us and with each other.

We can instead guarantee self-connection and connection with each others if we learn another way to be in this world. When we experience a stimulus, instead of judgment, we can make an objective observation. Instead of having thoughts about it, we can identify the feelings it engenders. Instead of taking a position, we can identify the needs associated with it. And instead of making a demand, we can make a request.

The “grist” for me was a post someone put on their Facebook page. It was a political figure, (those often seem to be “hot buttons” anymore), and the article that went with the picture didn’t even matter. The stimulus for me was in the comment thread. Sometimes I like to get in a thread and empathically listen to people who have a different view than I do. The connection is always amazing. This thread was so full of anger that I didn’t even make a dent. Every few seconds someone would post a thought or position that was just pure anger directed at the political figure in the picture.

I was very stimulated by this situation. I initially shared the post on my page and added that although anger is a very natural response to unmet needs, we can choose how we respond and “hateful” words are not going to get us any needs met unless we just want to connect to other people who think the same thing. That didn’t feel right and I took the post down within minutes. Using the Authentic Communication wheel above I started over. I put the “grist” in the mill.

I certainly was being stimulated. And I was immediately going to judgment. When I use a word like “hate”, that is judgment. As long as I’m using judgment, I won’t be able to connect. Although I was identifying my feelings of fear and sadness, I was still slipping at this point back into thoughts. I was having a conversation in my head about the difference between anger and hate, about when is the time to use the protective use of force, about what life must be like for the family of this politician. And I certainly was taking a position, these comments were wrong! Although I thought my post was empathic, I was really demanding that the people making these kinds of comments stop. Not just stop, but wake up!

It doesn’t matter what kinds of words you use, people can feel the energy behind them. If they sense that I’ve taken a moral “high ground”, that I want them to change, that isn’t going to happen. We humans naturally take the defensive position when we sense someone is taking the offensive position. The only way to real connection is with an open heart.

Our training of how to experience this world is so engrained that it just keeps sneaking back in. Every time I thought I was observing, feeling, identifying needs and requesting, I really wasn’t. I was getting closer. The mill kept grinding. I had the most success when I imagined the comments were in a language I couldn’t understand and I was hearing them in person. I could then just hear the tone, the volume of the sounds coming out of their mouths. There it was! The anger and frustration. I imagined they were wanting more choice in who was running their government. It’s the start to an open heart.

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