Can You Help Me To Understand?

So there it is. In this time when we experience heightened awareness of our patterns of communication, we come up against a belief system in someone else that is so contrary to how we see things. It is their “white to our black”–an opposition, and we can’t get past the distinct differences. There are many opportunities to explore this over the course of one’s life. We’ve seen it in our politics a lot lately. And, sometimes up close and personal, within our own families.

While there may be some situations where I am able to put myself in someone else’s shoes and get an understanding of how they might feel, there are some beliefs or perceptions that I really don’t get.

So what am I to do when the divide between me and someone else seems high and wide? I don’t know exactly where I heard this line: “Can you help me to understand?” The rest of the question might be “Can you help me to understand why you see it that way?” or “Can you help me to understand why you believe as you do?” or “What experiences in your life have lead you to this perception?”

These questions don’t feel confrontational to me. Any one of them would cause me to pause and consider the formation of my perceptions. If we’re both clear that the questions are an effort towards better understanding, that might help too.

When such a question is posed, there can be no attachment to trying to change the other person’s view. It is asked with an honest curiosity to get to know someone a little better, without judgment. That’s easier said than done. With someone else, can we deeply listen without confrontation or judgment? Can we decide that we don’t have to defend against the expression of someone else’s perceptions?

Yesterday a friend said something about her own thoughts that go astray…the ones that she disapproves of in herself. She is trying a new tactic–to witness without judgment and allow the thought to come in and go out. It seems that the better we get at doing this for ourselves, there is hope that we can then practice this with another. We cannot tell our mind “Don’t ever have that thought again!”, voicing our disapproval. Rather, we notice it and see it as a cloud passing through.

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Humanity, on the whole, is young. We are finding our way, discovering what it is to be an evolving human being. We have a diversity within this being human. That diversity offers us an opportunity to explore and learn about the many aspects of what this means. Reviewing human history, I witness a less-than-genteel, coming of age as we move past the survival mechanics to a more tolerant and inclusive view of life on earth. However, we teeter between our evolution and the survival instincts–i.e., antiquated war as a means to handle conflict! We don’t seem to be very far along.

When I wonder how are we ever going to have a meeting of the minds, let alone the hearts, the words active compassion surface as power words. Perhaps, in any efforts at communication, we need to bring this quality into the center of the circle engaging active compassion as the basis for any discussion where there is a great variance.

Today, this is only me thinking on paper. Please take from these mind meanderings what you want and leave the rest. And, I’d like to hear what you think in response. Truly.

A Few Patterns of Communication

I wonder about this…when you engage in a conversation, do you look for ways to confirm what you already believe to be true or are you truly open to learning something different?  Even while listening to a lecture, I sometimes find within myself a resistance to new information.  Oh no, I might have to shift my hard won beliefs!

Seeking confirmation for what I already consider to be the truth, closes the door to discovering something else.  And if I am confirmed in what I already believe, is there sometimes an air of “evangelism” about me–if I believe that I know the truth, then do I think I have the right or responsibility to force my dogma on someone else?

When I’m in conversation with someone, am I really listening?  Or am I already planning what I’m going to say in response?  Often, our patterns of listening and conversing are so programmed that it’s hard to step out of the box of our behaviors to allow something or someone else in.

Or, have you noticed that sometimes, a conversation is more of a monologue than a dialogue?  I look into my own patterns and see if I’m guilty of stealing the stage and not allowing the other person to get in a word.  Or when a certain friend gives a soliloquy while we’re taking a walk in nature, I sometimes strategically interrupt and request “quiet time.”  This can help to bring awareness to the lopsided nature of the conversation.  And, it allows us to appreciate the beautiful surroundings.

In observing conversational patterns between men and women, I’ve noticed that some men take the role of “I’m the teacher,” while a woman may allow and even encourage that role.  Other times, she tries to contribute her own different but real wisdom, only to find herself disproved by the “dominant male’s absolute surety” about whatever it is they are discussing.  He might raise his voice or show some sign of physical prowess (body language) to emphasize his correctness.  It takes an aware male to help to create a safe atmosphere where true sharing can occur.  Is he able to inquire into her thoughts and ways of being and seeing without overpowering her?   It takes a super conscious male to understand that he may actually learn something from her!