Today I am reflecting on how some types of communication can help create greater connection and healing between us, and some can distance us.
Our ability to heal is amplified when we can experience loving connections with others and learn from their experiences, and so this is a very important topic, in relation to deepening intimacy and creating the connection, trust and safety necessary for blissful sexual experiences!
The ‘normal’ modes of communication of daily life in modern Western society can limit our potential for vulnerability, transparency and authenticity.
Consider how often in your life you have been asked “how are you?” and then think of how often you have answered truthfully. Oftentimes, "how are you" is considered just a courtesy question, and that the only acceptable answer is “I’m good, I’m, fine, doing ok”…etc. If you are having a difficult day, or something truly difficult is going on and you answer this question truthfully many people will be thrown off guard! It's a great exercise though. Some people will surprise you with their genuine empathy, but many will fumble with a response and feel uncomfortable with an honest, perhaps emotionally loaded answer!
Our society puts a big focus on being successful and achievement. Looks and material status are equated with happiness and worth. Many people communicate and behave in ways which support those ideologies, both consciously and unconsciously.
There is nothing wrong with these values and goals at all, except for when they are at the forefront of our lives without the accompanying values of authenticity, spirituality, interconnectivity, integrity, cooperation…etc
I have read some wonderful stories and listened to lectures from indigenous peoples who are able to highlight this lack of spirituality and the lack of understanding about interconnectivity permeates modern western thought and behaviors. One example which stand out in my mind was Matin Pretchel, a Mayan Shaman, describing how westerners started putting him and his classmates through their schooling system and would make the children race. His classmates were unaccustomed to the idea of trying to beat each other and would always wait for each other and cross the finish line together! The teachers did not understand it.
I love that. And it’s a good example of the different guiding values between two societies.
So how does this relate to 'I statements'? I think I statement are like the children crossing the finish line together, rather than everyone trying to beat each other across. 'I statements' encourage togetherness and a sense of humbleness. When we share from our hearts with each other using 'I statements' were are simply inviting someone to share an experience with us. We may express a feeling, or a story from our past, or a thought about life in general. We frame it as our own experience. We do not assume that it is universal or that it must be accepted by the other person. We are simply offering a piece of our awareness.
It is a subtle change in language but can dramatically alter the effect of our self-expression.
Notice the effect you feel reading these two statements:
"I feel angry and hopeless after the election."
"People who voted for Trump are idiots who are responsible for the destruction of the planet."
When we can get to the core of what we are feeling and share that, rather than skipping over it and jumping into reactions, beliefs and judgments we, can create a bridge of understanding even while discussing triggering topics. Even if two people are sitting on different sides of an issue they are passionate about, through sharing our feelings and deeper inner experiences with each other it’s possible to find some common ground.
Here is another example:
"I was so sacred and worried last night when you got home late because I didn’t know where you were."
"You should have been home on time. You were so inconsiderate and irresponsible."
None of us are absolute authorities on truth and 'I statements' reflect that! As soon as we put ‘I’ at the beginning of a statement we are owning that whatever follows comes from our own unique view point. We are not asserting that our thoughts or feelings are universal or need to be shared by anyone else. We are really just offering a piece of ourselves to others.
This does make it more vulnerable! Of course people can choose to disregard what we say, belittle us, or choose to assert their truth in a more dominating way. It does happen! Just because we use 'I statements' and get vulnerable does not mean we will be met in the same way.
But I can say this from many, many years of employing 'I statements', They can move mountains at times. They have the power to help others connect with our hearts, and feel our words without needing to put up walls and get defensive. Sometimes our regular forms of communication can really be fire for the fuel for arguments and conflicts!
'I Statements' are very worth exploring! If you want to take this one step further I would recommend the book Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall Rosenberg. Non- Violent Communication is the best tool I have found for creating more compassionate and harmonious communication and relationships. A true gem of a resource!
Keep lovin', keep livin' and keep it real ;)