“How we treat ourselves will be how others treat us.” A community leader said that last week almost in passing. It’s a slight twist on the golden rule, really emphasizing how we communicate non-verbally to others. What struck me was how it implied that we mirror how others communicate to us – usually unconsciously. For instance, if I’m hard on myself and tend to overcommit, others may mirror that back by being hard on me and expect too much from me.
That also means that if I’m clear about my needs and limits, others will be equally clear when dealing with me. When I’m self-compassionate, others may tend to be as well when they’re around me.
We are mirrors for one another, even when we’re unaware of it, and it’s a powerful way we have of openly communicating.
I use the term “may” because this is all done “under the radar”; that is, we are mostly unaware of it. This means that whatever we mirror will be re-interpreted by others according to their own needs and values. For instance, I like to take my time getting ready for the day because I want to begin calm and collected. Someone observing this may interpret this as lazy if their values are a lot different from mine.
There’s a way I learned to communicate that I love, and that involves using a talking stick. I learned this a number of years ago from a native traditionalist. According to this woman, in her household, there is a stick that hangs low enough for every family member to be able to reach it. The talking stick was used in many ways; one way was to communicate difficult feelings. Here’s how it works:
I discover that a friend believes I’m lazy because I take my time getting ready in the morning, so I take the stick and ask for a conversation. We sit facing each other, and I speak, without interruption, until I feel done. Then I hand the stick to my friend, and that friend repeats what they heard. If I’m satisfied my friend heard what I said, that ends that round; if not, I take the stick and once again say what I need to say. This goes back and forth until I am satisfied. Then it’s my friend’s turn.
There are rules – no accusations; no name-calling; it takes time and practice to learn how to use it effectively. The stick isn’t there to beat someone over the head with; the stick is there simply to indicate who has the floor, and then give that person the space and time to say what they need to say in an aware and respectful manner. It also isn’t there to resolve anything; it’s there simply to allow a space for open heart-to-heart communication.
It’s a way to mirror what we want from our fellows, in full awareness.
I wonder how our communities would be if we all grew up with a talking stick in each of our homes.
Compassionate Listening – Tich Nat Hahn
Quote of the Week
Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but we don’t have to do anything else. We don’t have to advise, or coach, or sound wise. We just have to be willing to sit there and listen.
– Margaret J. Wheatley
At times we need more – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations. For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/programs or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org