Why Do We Disengage? – by Kind Communication

KindCommunication.orgRe-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/10/02/why-do-we-disengage/

Disengagement is the number one problem in communication.  Whether it is between parent and child, boss and employee, coworkers, friends, or significant others.  When one person disengages, compassionate communication quickly becomes difficult to near impossible.

Disengagement takes many forms.  Most of you probably saw that word and thought “walked away, left the conversation”.  And that certainly can be one form of disengagement.  Other forms it can take are attacking the other person, attacking oneself and stonewalling.  And you may be able to imagine a few other forms too.  Disengagement is basically any time one person stops the flow of open, honest, compassionate dialogue.

And why do we disengage?  And how can we counteract it?

Let me lay out just three reasons we disengage and how to counteract them.  The first is shame.  Shame is the feeling that I am bad, wrong, or unworthy.  And all sorts of things can trigger shame.  It can be something as aggressive as criticism or as banal as making a mistake.  Either way when someone feels shame they disengage to protect themselves.  They will either attack the other person, start attacking themselves, stonewall, or even just try to escape the conversation.  Shame can be hard to address because people usually don’t vocalize “I feel shame”, shame is so powerful that people don’t want to admit to the experience of it.  So some questions for you to determine if shame is at play: are they avoiding making eye contact?  did you just criticize them or give them critical feedback?  did you just catch them making a mistake?  If the answer is yes to any of these three and the other person is disengaging, the reason is probably shame.

The best way to address shame is to remind the person that you care about them.  Spend time trying to rebuild connection with this person.  What do you admire about them?  Can you see something positive in what they were trying to do?  Have you ever made a similar mistake?  Share your answers to these questions with them, and try to rebuild your connection, to show them you care and are on their team.

The second reason we disengage is that we view the other person as a hypocrite.  We don’t see the other person as living in integrity with their values.  Basically, we see them as being dishonest, and as long as you perceive someone as dishonest you are very unlikely to be open, honest, and compassionate with them.

Obviously the first precaution against this reason for disengagement is to be honest.  To live in integrity with your values.  Don’t say one thing and then do another.  And of course sometimes we can do that, and someone else can still perceive us as being a hypocrite or dishonest, so what then?

Try to talk about it.  Try to ask them “I’m concerned that you think I’m not being fully honest, is that true?” or even simply “why are you mad at me?”  When people perceive you as being dishonest they are usually more than happy to point it out if you give them the chance.  When they do point it out, don’t take it personally!  When someone points out some way they see me not living in integrity or not being honest, I usually am tempted to go into shame and feel criticized.  The result of that is then I disengage and the cycle of disengagement continues.  So you have to work hard to stay engaged, and see them pointing out some sort of hypocrisy as the moment to try and regain connection by clearing it up.

Finally, the third reason we disengage can be simply biological.  Are you hungry?  Thirsty?  Tired?  Stressed?  It can take some energy to stay engaged especially in difficult conversations.  So it is important to stay mindful to how our bodies are doing.  If your physical energy is drained, your emotional energy will go soon.

The best way to deal with this is to be willing to take breaks when talking about tough topics.  Don’t feel like you have to “power through”.  Take breaks to have a snack, take a nap, or just relax.  Don’t use this as an excuse to sweep the issue under the rug.  But do take care of your body; it truly is the foundation to everything else.

KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.

Scarcity & Contentment – by Kind Communication

KindCommunication.orgRe-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/09/21/scarcity-contentment/

Scarcity is the belief or mindset of “never enough”.  You know you’re being affected by the mindset of scarcity anytime you think “I’m not good enough” or “I’m not perfect enough” or “I’m never loved enough” or “I’m not successful enough” or “I’m not thin enough” or “I’m not smart enough”, etc.  And this mindset of “never enough” births fear, shame, jealousy, greed, prejudice, comparison, and arguments with what is.

For me, the solution to the mindset of scarcity is the mindset of contentment.  Being content is knowing that “it is enough” and that “I am enough”.  If you can be centered in knowing that you are enough, and what you have is enough, then you aren’t tricked into thinking you need more, you aren’t tricked into comparing yourself with others, you aren’t tricked into being scared, greedy, or jealous, and you aren’t tricked into picking a fight with what is.

And I’d like to be clear about something.  Both scarcity and contentment are mindsets; they are ways that we see ourselves and the world.  And they are also practices.  They are formed, reinforced, and made permanent by daily practices we engage in.  This is something I help many clients with, forming daily practices that foster contentment and eradicate scarcity.

I had this moment of clarity the other night about how scarcity works in me.  I was biking home from seeing some friends.  And I saw up ahead one of my guilty pleasures…taco bell.  In that moment I could tell that I didn’t need any food.  And I knew I had food in my fridge at home.  But it was a Saturday night, and I wanted that pleasure of eating a quesadilla.

As I’m biking I hear this thought “come on Alex, tonight won’t be complete without a taco bell run.  You’ll really feel so much happier and content if you get a quesadilla.”  And I relented; I turned in and got the quesadilla.  And then just 10 minutes later when I was home and eating it I heard another thought “oh gosh Alex, did you really get taco bell?  You don’t have enough self-control.”

And then it dawned on me, scarcity was behind both of those thoughts.  When I got the quesadilla, it was my greed to keep wanting more fun and pleasure because somehow I hadn’t had “enough” yet.  I wasn’t practicing contentment.

When I got home and felt shame, I was telling myself that I wasn’t enough.  Since I don’t have the “right” amount of self-control I am not “good enough”.  Again, I wasn’t practicing being content with who I was in that moment.  And so it was scarcity that both pushed me into stopping at Taco Bell, and it was scarcity that was beating me up for it.

If I had taken a moment to acknowledge “I had a fun evening, it was enough” or even “I have food at home that is enough” I wouldn’t have gotten that quesadilla.  And later when I noticed that I was telling myself I was “not good enough”, I did center myself in contentment.  I stopped and said out loud “I am enough just as I am.”  And after that I was able to enjoy my Taco Bell shame free.

And while you may be thinking this is a silly example, I have seen scarcity ruin relationships.  I’ve seen partners, friends, parents, and kids be wrecked with shame, fear, greed, and pain all because they don’t think they are enough, or what they have is enough.  And in their pain they disconnect from the other person, either by lashing out or withdrawing.  And if this issue of scarcity isn’t address slowly that disconnection becomes permanent.

I have also seen contentment save relationships.  That once a person recognizes that they are enough, or that what they have is enough, they let go of anger, fear, resentment, jealousy, greed, and arguing with what is.  A new peacefulness comes over them.  They are calm and centered for the first time.  And if contentment is practiced daily that new peacefulness becomes permanent.

So which do you practice?  Scarcity or Contentment?

KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.

Interconnectedness – by Kind Communication

KindCommunication.orgRe-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/09/08/interconnectedness/

Your entire experience is a web of interconnections.

What you do impacts those around you.  What others do impact you.  You are currently reading these words on a screen which was built by someone else.  That computer was then transported by another person to the store from which you bought it.  People at that store stocked that computer and maintained it until you purchased it.

From the air you’re breathing you are extracting oxygen and breathing out carbon dioxide.  That tree outside your window is then absorbing the carbon dioxide and producing oxygen.  Your lungs and the tree are an interconnected system which you rely upon to survive.

When you realize how interconnected you are to the world and the people around you, you will treat them with more kindness, compassion, care, and love.  When you can see that you are not an island in and of yourself, you will notice that your joy and contentment is connected to the joy and contentment of everything around you.  “A happy spouse/child/parent, makes a happy home”.

A terrific way to cultivate this awareness of interconnection is through meditation.  I have included an audio of my favorite mediation from Marsha Lucas’ Rewire Your Brain for Love.  Consider using this meditation as a tool to increase your awareness of the interconnectedness of all things.

KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.

Five Tools to Practicing Compassion – by Kind Communication

KindCommunication.orgRe-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/08/24/five-tools-to-practicing-compassion/

I want people to have more compassion in their lives.  Most of us were never taught intentional practices for compassion.  Being compassionate (often misconstrued by culture as “being nice”) was often just an ideal set out before us.  Another way to make us feel “not good enough” and unworthy.

So below, I’m going to lay out five tools I use to practice the skill of compassion.  Please don’t hear “you must do all these things”.  I really imagine this list as an invitation for you to just pick one new tool to start practicing on a daily basis.

Meditation.  This is on probably every list of “compassionate practices” you’ve read.  That’s because it works.  Twice a day, sit for 20-30 minutes and put your full attention on your breath, a mantra, a piece of holy scripture, or even just one positive word.  More and more scientific studies are coming out confirming that meditation reshapes our neural pathways in such a way that it increases brain activity in areas associated with self-control, compassion, empathy, and reason.

Forgiveness.  Forgiving isn’t forgetting.  And sometimes it takes me weeks before I am willing to forgive.  I normally can’t forgive someone until I’ve allowed my emotions to be fully expressed and validated.  But the longer I hold onto those painful emotions and that enemy image of the other, the harder it is to forgive, and the less compassion I have, not only towards that person but also in general.  To make this a daily practice, sit down at the end of each day and write down something someone did that hurt you.  Give yourself permission to express all the emotion you have about that.  And I really mean all the emotions you have about it.  You don’t need the other person to be present to do this; you could do it alone or with another loving and supportive friend.  After you’ve expressed your emotions return to what you’ve written down and try to say out loud “I forgive you”.  If the words sound forced or hollow, you probably need to express some more emotion.  If you experience a peaceful release then you know you’ve done it.  Give yourself permission to star certain items and return to them on future days or weeks if you’re still not ready to forgive.

Self-Empathy.  This is a big one.  Truly connecting with my own feelings and core needs, values, or desires really helps me have more compassion.  This can involve translating my self-critical messages into feelings and needs.  Like when I hear that inner critic in my head say “You’re not working hard enough”, I translate it into “I feel scared and anxious that I am not going to accomplish enough and that I’m not being efficient.”  Self-empathy can also just involve taking a moment to acknowledge when I got hurt throughout the day and connecting with the feelings and needs I had in that moment.  This is not just an intellectual exercise, it must move beyond that or else you won’t get the desired effect.  Again carve out intentional time each day to sit down and do this with either your self-criticisms or with moments where others hurt you.

Empathy towards others.  This is the act of connecting with the feelings and needs in another person.  Again, this is not just an intellectual exercise, and if it doesn’t get past the place of “analyzing” then you are really only connecting with the mental image of the other person you have constructed in your head. Think about those people in your life that get under your skin.  Think about the specific actions or words they say that drive you nuts.  Try to imagine and connect with the feelings and needs in those words or actions.

Expressing gratitude.  Another popular tool on lists such as this.  You need to actually express thanks and appreciations to others.  A simple “thank you” really won’t suffice.  Share with the other person how you felt and what needs, values, or core desires their action really fulfilled in you.  This helps both of you have a deep understanding of how you were positively impacted by another person’s actions.  So make it a regular habit to express gratitude with your friends, partner, or family.

KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.

Admit When You’re Wrong – By Kind Communication

KindCommunication.orgRe-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/08/10/admit-when-youre-wrong/

You are not perfect.  You make mistakes.  Sometimes you’re wrong.  Sometimes you’re the one who went over the top or went too far.

And that’s okay.

In fact I encourage all my clients to have the courage to be imperfect.  Any time you try to be something you’re not (like perfect, or always right, or always nice, or always polite, etc) you are being fake.  And others can tell.  They may not know exactly how you’re being fake, but they probably feel some uneasy.

Think about times when you’ve been around someone who is pretending they are something more, something better, than they actually are.  How did you feel?  I generally feel skeptical, uneasy, anxious about that person seeing my flaws and lauding it over me, and I feel annoyed.

So hiding your mistakes doesn’t work, and people actually like it when you can confess your errors.  I’m not saying go around and treat every person as a private confessional.  I am saying that when you drop the ball, say something you regret, or did something reckless, to just admit that to whomever else was involved.

When I admit that I’ve done something I regret I am always surprised by how much more at ease I feel, how the other person seems more relaxed, and how much more readily the other person confesses to their own regrets of how they’ve acted towards me.  In that moment, I am giving both myself and this other person permission to be imperfect, to be just two humans doing the best we know how.

In the heat of the moment you might be too angry to admit when you’re wrong.  You can always have a redo, where later you come back and apologize.  This is always better than nothing.  And the more you practice admitting when you’re wrong, the easier it’ll be to admit it in the moment.  And that’s where some really miraculous things can happen.

Sound difficult?  It is sometimes.  Most of us have been deeply conditioned to try to be perfect, to try to do it right all the time, and to try to be nice & polite.  So the very thought of admitting we did something wrong brings up not only fears about the judgments and power this other person will hold over us, but also the judgments and power this inner critic, this inner parent figure, this inner authority figure, will hold over us.

It’s okay.  Admit when you did something wrong, and then notice how in this unguarded place forgiveness and compassion finally have room to enter.

KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.

Three Rules to Pausing Difficult Conversations – by Kind Communication

KindCommunication.orgRe-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/07/27/three-rules-to-pausing-difficult-conversations/

“How do I talk to my partner when I’m just so mad at her??”

You don’t.

When you get really upset, when you “see red”, when the only way you can express yourself is through yelling, that’s when you are triggered to a strong fight reaction.  And anytime you are triggered to your fight, flight, or freeze reaction your ability to communicate is nearly impossible.  So I always recommend to people that at the earliest sign that a conversation is about to “go south” to pause the conversation.

There is no shame in taking some time to calm down, collect your thoughts, and prepare to engage in a difficult but constructive conversation.  And I’d like to share my three rules to effectively pause a conversation.

First, always say “I need some time to calm down” even when you don’t.  Sometimes you can tell your partner is really worked up, and sooner or later will say something that you experience as hurtful.  Don’t hope that they will be able to control themselves, or will pause the conversation.  If you can tell that your partner is struggling, just step in and pause the conversation.  But if you say “you need some time to calm down” or even worse “you need a time out” you can expect that your partner will get even more upset.

Second, set a time for when you and this other person can check-in and potentially continue the conversation.  Setting a time to check-in will help your partner not feel like they are being abandoned.  And never use a break as a means to sweep an issue under the rug.  Whenever an issue doesn’t get resolved it just keeps popping up, sometimes dressed in some new disguise, but it’s still the same problem.  Research says that we need at minimum 30 minutes to calm down from an extremely angry place.  But depending on the issue and circumstances it could take much longer than that.  So before you both split, set a time when you can check in and see if you’re both ready to resolve the issue.  If at the check-in time one or both of you are still not ready to talk, then set a new check-in time and go back to taking a break.

Finally, use the time to actually calm down.  Don’t spend the entire break ruminating on all the terrible things your partner has said in the past, or how hurtful or mean your partner is, or making a laundry list of all the times this other person has let you down.  If that’s how you spend your break, then when you return you won’t be calmer, instead you’ll just have more ammo.  So spend that time doing something that’s truly relaxing.  Listen to music, go for a walk, receive some empathy from a friend, exercise, meditate, take a nap, watch some TV, read, journal, take a bubble bath, do whatever it is that helps you calm down.  Ideally, you even want to spend some of this time remembering all the things you love about this other person.

By following these three rules you will be able to avoid saying those things which cannot be unsaid, you will be able to choose a time and place when both you and the other person can speak calmly and with compassion, and you’ll actually resolve issues instead of just “letting them go”.

KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.

Three Signs You Need a Vacation – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/07/15/three-signs-you-need-a-vacation/

Ahhhhh……I’ve just returned from a short weekend camping trip.  I feel so relieved, relaxed, rejuvenated, and refreshed.  And as I reflect upon the weeks leading up to my camping trip I notice three signs that I needed a vacation.  And the last one surprised me.  I’m going to keep this short since I just returned, and I hope these can be help you figure out if you need a vacation too.

First, I was having a hard time staying motivated.  I’m sure everyone knows moments where they are “supposed” to be working, but you just can’t find the energy or the focus to actually do it.  Often you may view this as “lack of discipline” or worst, outright “laziness”.  But could this lack of energy and focus be your body’s early warning sign that you need some rest?  Your body is a wonderful tool which gives you a lot of helpful information.  So when your body gives you a message that your mind doesn’t like, don’t try to overrule it.  Listen.

When we see kids that are “cranky” we naturally assume that they are tired and need rest.  When we see adults that are “cranky” we naturally assume they are mean people.  When did the link between irritability and the need for rest become separated in our minds?  If you notice that your temper is getting triggered easily, that you’re stressed by the slightest wrinkle in your plans, or that small annoyances are blown out of proportion, then you could really use some rest.  Don’t judge yourself for your irritability; treat yourself to some rest and relaxation.

Potentially the most surprising sign that we need a vacation is that we’ve become addicted to work.  I am a big fan of productivity and accomplishment.  Potentially too big a fan.  Have you ever been jumping from big project to big project without even a thought to taking a break in between?  Have you ever been so focused on getting work done, that you’ve neglected other aspects of your life?  Work and accomplishment can be so addictive that we lose ourselves to it.  And while riding the wave you may feel like you have boundless energy, the constant stream of work is taking its toll.  So make sure to build in time to savor the completion of a big project, take time to appreciate and celebrate, and take time to rest before the next big one.

A final note.  You may define a “vacation” as taking a trip to some exotic or fun-filled location other than your home.  I want to suggest that this definition may be a limiting one.  You could define a “vacation” as any time you take to truly relax.  Many people waste their relaxation time worrying about the future, brooding over stressors, or being lost in the past.  Vacations are these moments where we are completely in the moment, usually because the moment is a novel one.  But you can be completely in the moment and relaxing in your hammock in the backyard, or on your living room sofa, or out on the town.  The healing power of vacations doesn’t come from where they happen, it comes from having time to be in the moment and truly relax.  Don’t let lack of time off, lack of preparation, lack of transportation, lack of destination, or lack of funds stop you from taking a vacation right now.

KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.

Embracing it All – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/06/29/embracing-it-all/

I do this thing, and tell me if you do it too.  I often find that I try to avoid, transmute, “heal”, or “transcend” my negative, “bad”, emotions in order that I may spend more time in the positive, “good”, emotions.  I don’t want to feel angry, disappointed, bored, sad, or scared.  I imagine to myself “if I meditate enough…if I practice NVC enough….if I am present enough…if I am compassionate enough…if I’m enlightened…if I’m saved…if I’m fully healed…then I will no longer have any of these painful feelings.”  I hope to reach a state where I will have two emotions: contentment and joy.  And that’s it.

I think the reasons I do this are many fold.  I’ve encountered numerous religious/spiritual faiths and traditions that teach me that the elimination of suffering is possible, and that if one can live within the divine then every day is a blessing.  I’ve grown up in a culture where negative emotions are viewed as “less desirable”, as “unflattering”, and “avoidable”.  And of course, emotions like disappointment, anger, and sadness are painful!  And so I’ve quite naturally wanted less pain in my life and more pleasure.

And it has come to my attention that this approach to life is misguided.  And so if you are like me in that you too have consciously or unconsciously been trying to have only positive emotions and eliminate all the negative ones, then let me share with you some important words.

You are big enough to be with the discomfort, the pain, of negative emotions.

You do not need to “get” anywhere; you are already the person you are meant to be.  If you don’t believe this it is only because you have created ideal images of humanity and then used those ideals against yourself.

You are whole when you embrace your positive and your negative emotions.

You are not meant to have a blissful experience, you are meant to have a human experience.

You might not like these words because you may not want to embrace these hard, difficult, painful feelings.  That’s okay.  Can you embrace in this moment the fact that you are resisting and don’t want to feel painful emotions?  And if you find these words liberating I am pleased.  Learn to accept all moments of life, the pleasure and the pain.  Painful emotions are not undesirable or to be avoided.

If you’re mad, be mad.  If you’re scared, be scared.  If you’re sad, be sad.  Don’t tell yourself that you should be feeling anything different, and don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you should or can feel something different.  Be true to yourself.

This of course is difficult to do, and it takes practice.  But the result is a rich life and a more authentic you.  It is probably a life long journey, but along the way you will see such marvelous things.  Please join me in embracing it all.

KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.

Debating or Relating – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/06/15/debating-or-relating/

“No, no, no.  I called you first, and we talked…then you decided to go out anyways!”

“What??  That’s completely wrong!  You didn’t call me till after I was already out.”

“Really?  How could you be so dumb?  Look I’ll show you my phone to prove it.”

“Sure, let’s see.”

These two people are debating.  They are arguing over who is right and who is wrong.  The argument hinges upon who can remember the facts better.  Have you ever been stuck in this kind of conflict?  Both you and the other person are convinced you are right, and the other person is wrong.  And you are both set out to prove it.

As long as you and another person are debating over whose right and whose wrong you are stuck.  No one wants to be wrong, so both of you will dig in your heels, trying even harder to prove yourself right.  Often you’ll both walk away without ever resolving the issue.  If the issue does get resolved through debate, then one person must have been proven “wrong”.  That person now feels shame and resentment.  And now the relationship, the trust, has been damaged in some way.

Wanting to debate comes from the idea that there should be a “winner” and a “loser” in a fight.  That one person needs to come out on top, and the other person needs to submit.  That there is some absolute truth which one side knows about and the other side is at best ignorant about and at worst is lying about.

Relating is a whole different way of engaging.  Instead of proving whose right and whose wrong, what’s true and what’s false, you simply want to share with this other person who you are.  You want to share with this person your feelings, concerns, and desires as well as hear what is going on for the other person.  When you relate with someone you both acknowledge and respect that you are different people and may have different experiences of the same incident.  And from a mutual understanding of each other you can both find solutions that leave everyone happy.

Wanting to relate comes from the idea that conflicts really can be “win-win” as opposed to “win-lose”.  Everyone’s needs deserve to be met, and can probably be met.  Relating comes from the belief that solutions to issues are found from understanding all sides of the issue, and that each one of us have a glimpse of just one angle on the issue.  So together we can get a full picture of the issue.

Relating looks incredibly different than the opening example.

“I’m worried that you went out knowing that I had asked you to stay in.  And I’m scared that I can’t trust you.”

“I get that you’re worried about being able to trust me, and I’m upset and mad because I want you to trust me.  I really just wanted to go out and have fun…I want to be able to go out and relax with friends without having to ask for permission.”

“I know you want to be able to relax with your friends and I also want you to feel free and not relying upon me for permission.  I would also like though some reassurance and respect because I worry about you.”

The fundamental shift is not about using certain tools or methods over others.  The fundamental shift comes from an inward reorientation from having to be right to wanting to understand.

KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.

Chain Reaction – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/06/01/chain-reaction/

Put out fear, and they’ll feel fear.
It’s a chain reaction.
Put out love, and they’ll feel love.
It’s a chain reaction.
-Cloud Cult

These words come from a song that I deeply cherish.  I think these words capture the real essence of Nonviolent Communication.  Any of you readers who own dogs will know the truth of these words too.

I wonder though, what does this truth teach us about living in the world?

The first reaction in our modern world is to try to understand these words literally.  ”Well clearly it says you should always put out love, and whenever you put out fear you should only expect more fear.”  But if we take a few moments to examine that we see that’s just one more obligation, one more “have to”/”should” statement.   And as with any “should” thought, if we buy into it we only create more suffering in our lives.

So if these lyrics aren’t telling us what we ought to do or should do, then what can they be teaching us?  Well, first they point to a simple truth about empathy.  Empathy is this experiencing what another person is experiencing.  This can be a conscious act, but it often times is something that happens without our awareness.

We watch a sad movie and suddenly are whole lives are just terrible.  You watch a silly rom-com and all your blues melt away.  Emotions are contagious.

With that knowledge, you can be aware of what situations you allow yourself to be exposed to.  With more awareness of your environment and how it is affecting you, you may be able to make choices that better serve your needs.  If you’re feeling tired and stressed from a long day at work, it may not be the best time to have that important conversation with your spouse or child.  If you’ve just had a very difficult and challenging conversation with someone, you may need to rest before engaging in the next conversation.  The people around us affect us.  When you are with this person, do you walk away feeling refreshed or drained?  What does that tell you about whether you want to keep being around them?

If you are aware of your environment and how it affects you, then you also know how to change your environment to shift your feelings.

And in some ways this is simply what the process of identifying your needs is.  It is the process of identifying what in the current environment isn’t working for you and then figuring out what could happen in the environment that would make life more beautiful.

But don’t think this means you are simply a product of your environment.  You have agency too.  When a hospice chaplain enters a patient’s room, she helps that patient have more peace and acceptance about their situation by entering the room with peace and acceptance in her own heart.  You can help your spouse, your kids, your friend calm down when they’re upset by approaching them with love and acceptance.

Notice the chain reactions in your day.  Notice how other people and your environment affect you today.  Notice how you affect others when you are feeling one way and then when you’re feeling a different way.  Notice the interconnection, the chain reaction, of every moment.

KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.