Cue crying from the playroom.
My son Ocean bursts into the kitchen to let me know he hurts his finger.
I asked “which finger did you hurt?”
Seconds later I found myself struggling to contain my internal laugh fest because let’s face it — what’s cuter than a 5-year old flipping you the bird 🙂
On a more serious note, I reflected on that moment, and many others over the past several months, evaluating my ability to be empathetic.
Let’s start with a possible definition of empathy…
Marshall Rosenberg, the founder the Center for Nonviolent Communication said in an interview, “Empathy, I would say is presence. Pure presence to what is alive in a person at this moment, bringing nothing in from the past. The more you know a person, the harder empathy is.”
I can relate completely.
Sometimes I’m more empathetic to people I’ve just met, than I am with my own family.
Marshall goes on to say, “In empathy, you don’t speak at all. You speak with the eyes. You speak with the body. If you say any words at all, it’s because you are not sure you are with the person. So you may say some words. But the words are not empathy.”
I often lean on words too much. I want to say the right thing. I crave uttering those magic phrases that generate a response of “You’re so wise! Speak more, please Jon. Bless us with more solutions to our problems”
I’ve used speaking throughout my life, and as a keynote speaker, it put food on our table.
I’ve also learned than I’m an external processor — so I like to think out loud.
In my writing and speaking career, I’ve leaned on powerful prose in hopes to make an impact.
What I want is connection and influence. Don’t we all?
Remembering that not everyone has hired me to speak, subscribed to my podcast, or asked for my opinion…
Which brings me to my family.
What I’ve been learning is that my wife and kids crave something I don’t provide enough of…
I used to think empathy was just saying, “I get it. I feel you. Tell me more.”
I’ve come to understand that…
Empathy is not most effective when put into words.
Empathy is alignment.
Empathy is attunement.
Empathy is ENERGY.
In a recent appointment with my counselor who I see once a month, she brought to my attention that I might be hearing the words my wife says, and I may even understand them, but my wife didn’t FEEL that I did.
I’ve been learning that communication isn’t just about letting them finish their sentence, or having the right response, it’s being in an energetic space where they FEEL understood, witnesses and affirmed. It’s more the conversation happening WITHIN you, than it is about the conversation OUTSIDE of you.
Your inner environment plays a huge role in your outer experience.
Through my years in business, I’ve learned to “listen to understand — not to respond”. The truth is — I usually can’t wait to get my point across, and the other person knows it.
Today, with your wife and kids, give less attention to the words coming out of your mouth, and pay close attention to the silent messages being spoken with your body.
Don’t just say, “I feel ya”, let your entire body attune with theirs, which gives off a unique vibe that not even the greatest poet could capture in words.
Move beyond just making sounds with your voice, and realizing that your body, your being is pure energy, always in motion, trillions of cells communicating 24/7 on your behalf.
That’s your vibe.
And your vibe is critical when resonating with others.
It’s why at times, when someone’s words don’t align with theirs bodies, our BS meters are screaming, “Nope, don’t believe it.”
Want more connection and influence?
You must resonate.
Without empathy, we have no engagement.
Without engagement, we have no relationships.
Without relationships, we have no family.
It’s time to stop listening, speaking and communicating the way we have for years, and try something new by bringing our entire mind, body and soul to the party.
Let me know how it goes! Comments below are welcome 🙂