When you give your partner a kiss…when you offer to help a friend move furniture…when you engage in a friendly conversation with a stranger on a bus…when you start teaching communication classes in your local community…why do you do it?
Why do you do the things you do?
There are lots of answers to this question. And those answers may be complex and vary from one activity to the next. But I’d like to invite you to investigate your more fundamental motivations. We all have something deep down that’s driving us. Some of us are seeking approval, others are trying to be a “good” person, and yet others are just trying to be their most authentic, truest, self. Which is yours?
If you’re doing it for approval, then you’re probably thinking to yourself “what does this person think of me?” I used to seek approval in my relationships. I needed my partner to give me their approval for me to be content. When I was trying to make a decision I would ask myself “what would she want me to say or do?” That’s the indication if the motivation behind your actions is to seek approval. If when you’re trying to make a decision the deciding factor is “what would he/she/they want me to do?”
If you’re doing it to be a “good” person, then you’re probably thinking to yourself “was that the right thing to do?” When I tell myself that there is a “right” thing to do and a “wrong” thing to do, I really get myself in a bind. I’ll judge myself; put myself down, for just wanting to do the “wrong” thing. I constantly see myself as “not good enough” because I don’t always do the “right” thing. Is any of this sounding familiar? Then you’re motivation behind your actions may be to be a “good” person. To emulate some ideal standard of doing it “right”.
If you’re doing it to be your most authentic, truest, self, then you’re probably thinking to yourself “is this deeply satisfying?” When your motivation is to express your authentic self there doesn’t need to be any guess work about what others will approve of or what’s “right or wrong”. You only have to listen to what is deeply satisfying to yourself. Does this activity give you deep satisfying joy? Or does it feel like drudgery? Is it a temporary pleasure that leaves you with an uncomfortable craving for more?
Our motivations are always complex things. But this last option, wanting to just express your truest self, makes it much simpler. Yes, I like to receive approval. Yes, I like to feel like I’m a “good” person. But with both of those, I find that they are temporary pleasures that leave me craving for more. When my motivation is to be accepted, I’m never accepted enough because there are always new people whom I have to win approval from. When my motivation is to be “good”, I’m never “good” enough because there is always that moment when I don’t do the “right” thing. But when my motivation is to express my truest self, then I can be content because I can rest assured that I’ve done that, no matter what the outcome.
Why do you do what you do?
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.