Trying to Understand

one of the first signs of real love is the moment you realize they are trying their very best to understand you. – jonathan carroll

image | courtney & giorgio | kings park, newport, ri

I love the photo above because I when I look at it, I see “trying” written across my face. I have a distant, paused, somewhat introspective look and I am holding Giorgio after he struggled to walk during a long walk. It reminds me of our capabilities to connect and support one another if we “try.” I’ve been reflecting a lot on what “trying” means in relationship. I believe the first way to “try” is to tap into self-awareness and self-growth work. The more you know yourself and why you do what you do, the better you can communicate needs (and all of us are trying to get our needs met) and better connect with others.

What is happening around the globe due to the coronavirus impacts us all in some way. If we dig a bit deeper beyond our valid anxieties and heightened body stress, we will see what needs are truly important to us. I highly encourage you to print or create a favorite link on your cell phone the list of human needs and create a practice of consulting it when you notice shifts of mood or body stress. Identifying what you need has been the most transformative part of my healing and ability to have some compassion for myself and others.

For example, I have a family member who tends to be a more anxious than I am. The pandemic has highlighted this difference between us. When this family member tries to “lecture” me about what is safe or not safe, or “question” or “judge” if my “behaviors” are permissible or not, I try to remind myself that this person has a strong need for security and safety. I totally get that, because I, too, share those same needs to an extent. I am actually deep down quite touched that this person cares so much for my well-being. when we look to commonalities around the need(s) we can try to soften and this helps with relating. By turning to this place of understanding the need(s), instead of getting upset by the way(s) this person is trying to meet the need(s), we can try to lighten the situation a bit more by empathizing, validating, or being a bit more silly than serious. This can be helpful in so many ways in any relationship.

Remember, there are so many ways to meet a need. And, it’s okay if we try to meet our need(s) in different ways. Therefore, we don’t always need to take it personally if there are clashes (and for more on not taking things personally, I highly encourage you check out The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz). I recently had a conversation with someone about relational clashes and my thought is that it’s okay, natural, and it can be healthy to have differences. The important part is how we “try” to work through and understand the differences, particularly around what needs are trying to be met – game changer! We don’t need to label things as “right,” “wrong,” “good,” or “bad.” This is something that I am personally trying to work on. Though efforts to try to understand doesn’t always lead to successful and thriving relationships, it can lead to more compassion, and more of that is a great thing for all of humanity.

Another great thing to keep in the forefront of your mind is that “trying” can start at anytime! What a refreshing thought. No matter the past or what the future holds, trying to better relate is something that can start now and in the present moment. It takes time and presence, often vulnerability, and a willingness to make effort. This can have the ability to create new chapters in our lives and rewrite endings. How cool!

So what are some inquiry questions or comments to help us when we are trying to understand a situation or differences?

  • Can you tell me some more about that?
  • Wow, I’ve never considered this perspective. I am curious … go on ….
  • It sounds like you really need [insert need(s)]. I get that because I have that need, too. Can you share more about this need?
  • Can you tell me what feelings come up for you when you think about what is going on?
  • When have you felt this way before?
  • Do you think we can agree that we both want [insert need], and that we are trying to meet it in our own ways?
  • I care about you and want to better understand your point-of-view.
  • What might help bring ease to you right now?
  • Do you know I can relate to what you’re sharing and I want you know that I, too, have experienced …
  • Did you experience anything in your childhood that produced similar feelings / insights?
  • Growing up in my household we … . Maybe this is why I am reacting this way …
  • We can change our childhood or familial patterns. I believe we both want to have success here. Let’s set some time aside so we can have a focused conversation about this.
  • Let’s see what we can individually commit to doing so that together we can be stronger.
  • Let’s make a point to consistently verbalize something we appreciate about each other (this one hits me personally – and I am grateful to have people in my life that I can connect with in this way!)
  • Let’s come up with one thing I can do for you that feels supportive and one thing you can do for me that would feel supportive each day while we work on connection amidst disconnection?
  • This is hard. I care.
  • I realize I don’t tell you enough how much I respect you. Please know I do.
  • I am here. I hear you. I see you. (This quote was used by Zeek in the show Parenthood. One of my favorite shows!)
  • Do you realize that even during this hard time, there isn’t anyone else I’d rather be trying to figure out life with? I am happy you are here, trying alongside me.
  • Can you tell me when you are starting to feel [insert feeling(s)] so that we can address this as soon as possible? I will commit to doing the same.
  • This is important to you, and I care about you and us. So let’s check in about this in few days and a few days after that. Hopefully with regular check-ins things can improve.
  • I appreciate you. I continually learn from you. Thank you for being in my life.

If you are interested in learning more about feelings and needs identification, I am happy to help. Feel free to contact me through the “Offerings” page or “Let’s Talk” page of this blog. May we all find more ease in our “trying” … today and tomorrow.

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