The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Viviana and Francisco Robledo

Confiding is the lifeblood of intimacy.

The Lifeblood of Intimacy

Confiding is the lifeblood of intimacy, yet many  – including loved ones – stop confiding because of the reactions and responses of others. As a result, we can lose the potential of our interactions with those who matter most in our lives.

For many, the most meaningful gift we can offer during this holiday season and throughout the year is the gift of listening with empathy, with our heart. Learning to listen with empathy to those closest to us is a gift that offers a lifetime of rewards.

Consider how often you really listen to another person; not just to their words, waiting for a chance to insert your own thoughts, experiences, and perspective, but to the rhythm, meaning and intention beneath the words?

Michael and Lauren DelGandio

Listening with empathy begins with being fully present to each other.

Listening with empathy begins with being fully present to another person, surrendering – at least momentarily — your own ego, including the temptation to interject, judge and give advice that isn’t invited. It’s also about separating ourselves from distractions – not just television, iPods, cell phones, text messaging, laptops and the like, but also from the wanderings of your own thoughts and prejudices that can get in the way of truly hearing another person. It’s a commitment to listen to understand another person’s feelings and experiences.

Especially during times of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty, there are few gifts we can offer that are more enduring and meaningful than listening with empathy.

Emptying the Emotional Jug

Emptying the Emotional Jug is one of the most powerful exercises taught in PAIRS relationship skills classes. Both in workshops with adults and youngsters, we regularly witness a depth of connection and sharing as a result of the exercise, far beyond what most couples, parents and families typically experience.

The exercise begins with being fully present to each other and agreeing that the Listener will simply listen with empathy, promising not to judge, comment, or react to anything the Speaker shares beyond showing empathy and validation for the experience of the Speaker.

If, afterwards, the Speaker wants to have a conversation about anything shared, the Speaker can choose to talk about anything they’ve confided in more detail, or not to. The Listener agrees from the outset to respect the Speaker’s freedom to choose whether or not to have a further discussion.

The Speaker should recognize that this is not an opportunity to attack or blame the Listener. PAIRS classes offer other tools and exercises for confiding and releasing emotional energy when two people want to address issues within their relationship with each other. This exercise is for confiding about issues that aren’t about the Listener.

Ideally, when this exercise is done in person, the Speaker and Listener should sit together facing each other in a Leveling Position (where you can have natural eye, knee and hand contact). It’s best to do this privately so that neither the Speaker nor Listener will be influenced by other people during the exercise. When appropriate, PAIRS encourages participants to hold hands during the exercise.

If doing this exercise with a child, the adult should be the Listener, not the Speaker.

The exercise has a beginning and an end. Once begun, it’s important to complete the exercise. Generally, this takes 15 to 30 minutes, although it can be shorter or much longer. If there are time constraints, establish those before beginning.

What are you MAD about?

When you’re ready to begin and in a Leveling position with each other, the Listener starts by asking the Speaker:

What are you MAD about?

This is an invitation for the Speaker to look deep inside to see and feel what’s in their gut that’s connected to feelings of ANGER and to express those feelings in words. It’s not a speech, lecture or conversation, but a chance to connect with the feelings that are inside and express them in words.

As the Speaker shares, the Listener should stay focused on the Speaker’s eyes and words, listening much more with the heart than the mind.

After the Speaker has shared, the Listener says, “Thank you. What else are you MAD about?” The Speaker continues to look inside and share whatever is there.

Again, after the Speaker shares, the Listener continues to express appreciation to the Speaker for sharing and asking what else?

“Thank you. What else are you MAD about?” [Depending on time constraints and the depth of confiding, the Listener can continue to ask or can move on to the next step.]

When the Speaker indicates they’ve expressed everything they’re mad about [or you’ve used about a quarter of the time you’ve agreed upon], the Listener says, “Thank you. If you were MAD about anything else, what would it be?”

This step is very important, as often the deepest feelings come out last.

What are you SAD about?

Again, the Listen expresses appreciation, “Thank you,” and then asks:

What are you SAD about?

After the Speaker has shared, the Listener says, “Thank you. What else are you SAD about?” The Speaker continues to look inside and share whatever is there.

Again, after the Speaker shares, the Listener continues to express appreciation to the Speaker for sharing [by saying “thank you” or through a gesture such as an embrace] and asks what else?

“Thank you. What else are you SAD about?”

When the Speaker indicates they’ve expressed everything they’re SAD about, the Listener says, “Thank you. If you were SAD about anything else, what would it be?”

What are you SCARED about?

Again, the Listen expresses appreciation, “Thank you,” and then asks:

What are you SCARED about?

After the Speaker has shared, the Listener says, “Thank you. What else are you SCARED about?” The Speaker continues to look inside and share whatever is there.

Again, after the Speaker shares, the Listener continues to express appreciation to the Speaker for sharing and asks what else?

“Thank you. What else are you SCARED about?”

When the Speaker indicates they’ve expressed everything they’re SCARED about, the Listener says, “Thank you. If you were SCARED about anything else, what would it be?”

What are you GLAD about?

Again, the Listen expresses appreciation, “Thank you,” and then asks, “What are you GLAD about?

After the Speaker has shared, the Listener says, “Thank you. What else are you GLAD about?” The Speaker continues to look inside and share whatever is there.

Again, after the Speaker shares, the Listener continues to express appreciation to the Speaker for sharing and asks what else?

“Thank you. What else are you GLAD about?”

When the Speaker indicates they’ve sufficiently expressed what they’re GLAD about, the Listener says,

“Thank you. Is there anything else you’d like to share that you’re GLAD about?”

Appreciation for Sharing and Listening

The exercise ends with a tangible sign of appreciation for sharing and listening, which is often a hug.

Learn More

You can learn much more about this exercise and other skills taught in PAIRS classes by participating in a complimentary webinar with a PAIRS national trainer. For information on upcoming events, visit PAIRS online, e-mail info@pairs.com, or call 877 PAIRS 4U (724 7748).

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s