The Mindful connection
- Do you want to feel close to your partner?
- Do you want to have fulfilling relationships with friends?
- Do you want to get along more easily with work colleagues?
- Do you want to connect with more people?
You care. And yet sometimes it doesn't seem like people know that. You don't want to feel alone and isolated but that's how you end up feeling a little too often. You don't understand how it seems to easy for some to make friends and have great relationships and so hard for you. Do they know something you don't or are they simply born that way?
It may be easier for some to forge new relationships than for others. Perhaps they are less shy and more extroverted. However this does not predict whether those relationships will last long term or whether they would be truly satisfying to those involved. The quality of your relationships in the long run is more important than their quantity. And the quality of a relationship is measured by the quality of the connection you have together.
A true connection with someone is a vital experience that you feel in your whole being. Cultivating connection takes skill, and skills take time effort and commitment to develop. Let's have a look at what gets in the way of true connection and what enhances it.
How to cultivate true connection
It's easy to make quick judgements when meeting people for the first time. You can judge someone by their appearance, their job, their friends, their sexual orientation and other scraps of information you happen to have.
Do you form a lasting opinion of someone based on first impressions? Or do you consider first impressions as a flimsy basis on which to build a firm conclusion about someone's character?I would urge you to expand your awareness and open your heart a little.
When you resist pingeonholing people you give them and yourself a chance. By choosing to cultivate connection by smiling at someone, making a joke, or being kind it will be easier for you to see through cultural cliches and discover common ground with people you would have normally not given the time of day.
ACTION POINT: To clarify to yourself areas of improvement I would invite you to sketch a map of your most important relationships. You could choose up to ten people among your friends and family. Use overlapping circles to indicate the degree of closeness you feel with each. Then ask yourself:
- How do you nurture each of these relationship?
- What isn't satisfying and what would you like to change?
- What can you do to make changes happen?
- What gesture of commitment and love could you do offer to each one?
Now write down what the kind thing to do would be for each relationship. Make that your action plan.
'If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.' - The Dalai Lama
The Five Pointed Star of More Rewarding Relationships
Here are five practical attitude shifts that will help you make your existing relationships more juicy and will attract new ones in your life.
PRACTICE LOVING KINDNESS: if you are familiar with loving kindness meditation, also known as 'metta meditation' make sure you practice this often. Make time for it once a week.
PRACTICE PRACTICAL COMPASSION Use your empathy to turn insight into practical acts of kindness. Be open hearted to your work colleagues and your neighbours as well as close friends and spouses. Think about their needs and how you can help.
PRACTICE MINDFUL COMMUNICATION When talking to people tune in attentively not just to the words but also to unspoken messages and body language. Check in before responding, use touch when appropriate as well as warm and kind words.
BE FORGIVING Notice resentment in yourself: what is stopping you forgiving others? People may have wronged you in the past but you could choose to learn from those occasions and forge a better relationship in the present.
STEP BACK FROM CONFLICT During a disagreement, if you feel frustration or anger rise up take a pause and pay attention to your emotions. Take a step back before responding and if necessary continue the discussion when you are feeling calmer. Connection is more important than being right.
Empathy: How to tune into others
Empathy is the essential ingredient in any fulfilling relationship
Empathy means being able to walk in someone else's shoes. It means using your imagination to sense what it must be like for someone to be where they're at.
Make no mistake: when you project yourself into someone else's being it's not going to be a walk in the park.
If you have ever empathised with someone you love who was in distress you will know what I am talking about. However, the alternative is to ignore someone's suffering just because you find it too upsetting. Not an option if you want fulfilling relationships
So how do you know what to do or say when someone you care about is, for example, in distress? While empathy allows you to understand where someone is coming from and what they are feeling, compassion allows you to act on that understanding by offering the warmth and support they need.
So how do you know what someone in distress needs? The simple answer is you don't. But you can ask them. If they don't know themselves you could ask yourself : what would I need if I were in their shoes? Check in with them if that would be something that would benefit them.
The reality is that we get better at helping others when we learn how to help ourselves. So make developing self compassion your number one priority. Begin to think of yourself with less judgement. As you learn to be more kind to yourself and to give yourself what you need you can start to extend your understanding, forgiveness and kindness to others.
Remember: empathy feeds on awareness, understanding, compassion, forgiveness, kindness and giving.
4 KEYS to DEVELOP EMPATHY
Q&A of the month: How do you remain present when talking to someone?
If you find it hard to implement these practices you may need extra professional help. Feel free to give me a call and discuss your case with me in detail.