How to Communicate Hard Feelings Effectively

Our choice of words matter, and when it comes to close relationships, like our partners, our children, our parents, etc. it really truly matters a LOT!

communication

Today I would like to focus on the way we sometimes express our frustration, anger or disappointment to a loved one. First of all, it is totally normal to feel frustrated, angry or disappointed with the people we love, however, the way we express those feelings can be detrimental to our relationships or,  it can be constructive…

After many years of therapy, self-reflection, and serious work on becoming more conscious and mindful, I have found that there are ways to make our communication positively impact our relationships, but it takes some practice and awareness, for sure!

But, first things first, when we are hurt or angry, it is hard so see clearly and act mindfully, so the first thing to do is to take a little distance from our feelings and become more objective and more conscious.
Now, how exactly do we do that…. well, unless you have a well-established mindfulness or meditation practice, this doesn’t come very naturally for most people, so it is important to have some tools that can help us take that distance from our emotions (sometimes on the spot! before we jump at our loved ones with all our complaints and rage!)

I work with kids, and as a mom as well as a yoga teacher, I have found some techniques that are very helpful to calm down negative emotions, here are some tools that any adult can use and/or share with children in their lives:

1. Take 3 deep breaths before you react to whatever is making you angry
2. Go outside and take a brisk walk, run or kick a ball
3. Punch a pillow
4. Listen to music that you like or sing a song
5. Close your eyes and think of a calm place or pleasant thought or something funny
6. Draw a picture
7. Write down your feelings, or a letter to the person you are mad at (you don’t need to send it)
8. Talk to someone about your feelings (not the person you are mad at!)
9. Ask for a hug, make sure it lasts a few breaths! (Again, not to the person you are mad at!)

The first one is the fastest and most accessible one, for adults and children alike. As simple as it may seem, taking deep breaths is incredibly powerful, simply because when we breathe slowly we are counter-acting the “fight or flight” response that kicks in automatically when we feel threatened (in this case angry,) the brain gets the message to slow down and lower its guards, so we can see the situation for what it is and not for what our blurry vision – affected by our feelings – will make us see.

There is a difference between the reality and what you see as “the reality,” when emotions are involved. Knowing this, and accepting it, is the first step to becoming more conscious.

So, let’s say that you can efficiently distance yourself from the emotion (whether it is anger, frustration, sadness, etc.) so you are able to calm down on the spot, which doesn’t mean you don’t feel the emotion anymore, it simply means you are able to acknowledge it for what it is and take responsibility for it. This doesn’t mean you just ignore what the other person did or said, or the fact that you feel angry, but it is important to take responsibility for your feelings!

Nobody has the power to MAKE YOU feel this way or that, YOU are the only one with that power, in other words, what you feel is your responsibility alone, which in turn, does not mean that the other person has NO responsibility in the matter, they are responsible for their actions just as much as you are for your reactions… do you follow?

So, it is crucial that if you want the relationship to stay healthy and grow, you need to handle communication effectively. So now we come down to the choice of words.

See, once we have taken responsibility for our feelings, we don’t need to blame the other person, but we can, and should, point out the facts, and express our feelings in a way that does not trigger the other person’s defensiveness or other negative feelings.

If we communicate in a healthy way, it will be clear enough for the other person how we are feeling, and they will have the opportunity to take responsibility for their part, without becoming defensive.

Here is a simple everyday situation as an example of how communication can go wrong, or right depending on the words we use:

Case Study:

Husband and Wife are getting ready to leave the house for an invitation and they are running late, they only have one key to their car and they can’t find it! (The last person who drove the car was the husband). The wife is starting to feel angry at a familiar scenario, and she hates to be late!

Scenario #1:

Wife: “You have lost the key again! You always do this, why don’t you leave it in the key holder by the door, it isn’t hard, that is why there is a key holder there!!! Now we are going to be late!” (in an annoyed tone)

Notice the direct accusation and blaming: YOU have lost the key, YOU always do it!

Husband: “Stop blaming me! you are the one who was taking for ever to get ready, if you could skip your hour long sessions of hair brushing we could be ready much earlier and then deal with this with less stress, plus I told you ages ago to make another copy of the key!” (in an angry tone)

Notice how the husband, feeling accused and blamed, goes immediately into “defensive mode” and tries to retaliate by taking his turn on accusing his wife of the first thing he can think of.

So, in this scenario the angry and negative feelings keep escalating, and there is a full blown fight, which is not about the lost key anymore but about the couple’s feelings overtaking them and completely shutting off communication.

Scenario #2:

Wife: “You have lost the key again! You always do this, why don’t you leave it in the key holder by the door, it isn’t hard, that is why there is a key holder there!!! Now we are going to be late!” -Same as scenario #1

The husband feels accused, but takes a few deep breaths and realizes that his wife is really worried because she hates to be late and it is her frustration talking at him, he also realizes that she may have a point about him being a bit disorganized, in fact he was already feeling a bit guilty for the loss of the key… so here is his response:

Husband: “Honey, I understand you are mad because you hate to be late, and I am sorry we cannot find the key, you are right, I often put it in different places which makes it harder to find it, I apologize but let’s try to find it together and make a note to make a copy so we have a backup key in the future, and I will be more careful to leave it in the key holder”

To this, the wife’s anger immediately deflates and she replies:

“I am sorry honey, I didn’t mean to blame you, we don’t really know what happened, it is just that I really dislike being late, but never mind, we just have to keep looking and yes, we need to make a copy, sorry I have not gotten to do that as I offered. Let’s keep looking and hopefully will find it soon. I will call our friends to tell them we will be late.”

Scenario #3:

The wife is feeling really annoyed at her husband, but before she says anything, she takes a deep breath and notices that he is frantically looking for the key and probably feeling bad already about not finding it, so she says:

“Honey, I feel really frustrated because we are going to be late, I know these things can happen, but it is a good idea to leave the key always in the key holder to avoid this happening in the future” (In a loving tone, not an accusatory one!)

Husband “I know, I am sorry, I will find it and will be more careful in the future to leave it in the holder when I use it, why don’t you call our friends to tell them we will be a bit late and let’s make a note to make a key copy as soon as possible”

In scenarios number 2 and 3 one of the partners averted a fight by being mindful, but at the same time expressing their feelings and the facts in a very effective manner.

You can see how the example above can be applied in many other cases and with different relationships. The specific situation or facts don’t matter as much as the way we react to them, and how we choose to communicate.

So, here is how we can avert fights and grow our relationships:

1. Taking a step back, before our feelings take over our actions and reactions

2. Choosing the right words to express ourselves, here are some ideas:

State the FACTS instead of accusing the other:
We will be late, as we can’t find the key (fact) vs
We will be late because YOU lost the key (accusation)

Take RESPONSIBILITY for your feelings instead of blaming them on others
I feel frustrated when we are late, it makes me feel embarrassed (taking responsibility for one’s feelings) vs
You make me look bad, because of you we will be late, and it is embarrassing! (blaming the other for our feelings)

DON’T ASSUME the other person is guilty, even if it seems obvious!
I wonder where the keys can be. Do you remember what happened after you parked the car last night? (Unassuming) vs
You lost the key again! (Assuming the person is guilty)

If you take these simple steps and practice them over and over, I assure you that your relationships will grow stronger and healthier and that you will feel a lot better with yourself and others!

Thanks for reading!

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PDA, what…?

Back in the days, before I became a mom, I used to travel a lot, that was (and still is) one of my passions…I remember often sitting at the airports and watching people come and go. One of my favorite things was to watch the smiles, kisses, hugs and even tears of joy when people were reunited.

pda

So, one day, I was at an airport in the US, waiting for family members to arrive when I saw a young couple run into each other’s arms and kiss passionately, they were clearly happy to see each other, I felt their joy was contagious! and then, I heard the lady next to me (who had also witnessed the encounter) say with a dismissive tone and a grimace on her face, P-D-A!

At the time I was new to the US, and my knowledge of English did not encompass all the many acronyms that people love to use here! so I had NO idea what she meant, but I knew she was referring to that couple. I was puzzled, wondering what could have possibly triggered that lady’s negative reaction.

So, a few days later I asked a friend what this “P-D-A” meant, she told me it was short for: Public Display of Affection!

I had to ask her twice, I could not believe it! I was in TOTAL shock!…

How could that couple’s tender embrace, and that moment of pure human joy be seen as a bad thing? and coldly labeled as P-D-A! I just could not make sense of it… maybe that lady at the airport was just very bitter and lonely, so her reaction was out of anger and frustration at her own life… I wondered.

However, I came to realize over the years, that a lot of people in this country frown upon “PDA” and I still have a hard time with that. I come from a culture where public displays of affection are commonplace, not only among couples but between friends, family members, co-workers, etc. We easily hug and kiss our friends in the middle of the sidewalk if we feel like it, and everybody else does…

OH how I miss that!!!

Is affection between human beings something we should be ashamed of? is there something wrong with it? what is it that makes Americans frown upon it…?

This is still a mystery to me (and probably will always remain a mystery), I just can’t get into that mindset, even though for as long as I have lived in this country I have had to adjust to the culture and therefore limit my “PDA” to the minimum, which is really hard for me!

In recent years, however, I realized that I could not hold back my own nature, at least not all the time, so I decided to show my affection more freely to people (especially those who seem open to it) at the risk of been misunderstood or frown upon.

I truly believe that affection, kindness, compassion, love, etc. should be applauded, should be part of our every day exchanges, and it should be modeled for everyone to see, especially our children! When we are sharing a special time with friends, family or partners, wherever that is, why not show them our love and connection through our bodies? It is one of the most natural and powerful ways to connect after all.

Should there be a limit…? Sure! I certainly do not advocate having sex in public, or being sexually explicit in front of everybody, but other than that: hugs, kisses, winks, holding hands, kind caresses, etc. are all beautiful signs of affection that can be contagious and very beneficial for people. If we could offer these loving expressions freely, I am sure it would have a positive effect on people’s mood, health, and level of happiness all around!

I am a 42-year-old woman, and I am not ashamed to say that when I walk on the street with my dad side to side, we are likely to hold hands or have our arms around each other, same with my mom; just as much as I would give my partner a long kiss in the middle of the street if I feel like it, but this is natural for me, as I grew up in South America, there is nothing weird about it. If you think of it, what is wrong with that? If you do find something wrong with that, please write to me! I am interested in hearing your thoughts and start a conversation!

Today, I encourage you to go public with your displays of affection, my guess is you will feel liberated and the people who receive your affection will be happier!

Anyway, that is just a thought from the mind and heart of the outsider that I am!

Have a Great Week! (hopefully with lots of hugs and kisses!)


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Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are

I was just watching Amy Cuddy’s TED talk: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are and it got me thinking about this very important way of communicating.

bodylanguage

I have always been interested in the way people relate and communicate with others, and I always knew that body language plays a very important role in that communication, more so than we care to admit. However, I never knew that our body language could actually have an impact on the way we, ourselves feel.

Aside from our verbal exchanges, we are constantly sending out a lot of signals that can be silent or not, and involve body movements, gestures, facial expressions, voice tone, loudness, etc. they convey a lot of information about the way we feel and the way we think.

Noticing the signals that people send out with their body language is a very useful social skill. Some people can read it naturally while others may be oblivious of it. Very often the difference between the words people speak and our understanding of what they are saying comes from non-verbal communication.

Aside from being aware of other people’s body language, it is very important to be aware of our own, since our body language can help us feel a certain way or achieve a certain goal. According to Amy Cuddy, we can purposely use body language to convey feelings that we are not experiencing, but we can also start to actually feel them, as she says in the video: fake it until you make it, or rather fake it until you feel it!

For instance, if you are about to be in a situation where you do not feel very confident, such as a job interview, an important meeting, giving a speech, etc. you can adopt gestures of confidence so as to convey confidence and by doing so, you may actually start to feel more confident.

You can spot a person’s level of confidence by looking at the following:

Posture – standing tall with shoulders back.

Eye contact – solid with a ‘smiling’ face.

Gestures with hands and arms – purposeful and deliberate.

Speech – slow and clear.

Tone of voice – moderate to low.

So, by adopting those gestures and tones, you may eventually start to feel more confident, also, the more people see you as “confident” the more you will feel indeed confident, so it is like a snow ball effect, it keeps growing in you.

This principle reminded me of something my therapist told me years ago when I was depressed, I had told her that I didn’t feel any motivation to do the things I used to like, so I didn’t do them any more. She then told me that things could work both ways, so she encouraged me to actually do the things, despite my lack of motivation, and she told me that the motivation would come after I did them, to my surprised, it worked!

I guess we often feel we need to feel a certain way to act a certain way, but we can act first and feel later… I never really liked the expression: “Fake it until you make it” because it seemed to reflect dishonesty in my view, but I really like Cuddy’s version: “Fake it until you feel it” because it definitely works!

So, next time you have an important meeting, a stressful reunion, a speech to give, etc. remember to “act” confident, using your whole body, and in time you will feel that confidence more and more!

If you want to read more about body language, below is a list of good resources.

Have a Good Week!

Related Resources:

Improving your non-verbal skills and reading body language

The key to understanding body language

How to become a master at non-verbal communication


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When Marriage Falls Apart

Today more and more marriages are crumbling, more and more couples are struggling and this creates a lot of pain for all the parties involved (including and especially children). The end of a marriage brings with it, aside from the loss of a life partner, many more losses, such as the end of family life as we know it, the loss or transformation of other relationships (children, friendships, in-laws, etc.), the loss of security (whether it is financial or emotional, or both), the loss of a dream, and the list goes on.

broken-marriage

To understand why couples seem to struggle more than in the past, and why divorce has become more common, let’s look briefly at some facts about this institution that has taken many different forms across cultures and time periods. Marriage existed for different purposes at different times: from a way of organizing and controlling sexual conduct and providing a stable structure for child-rearing; to a means of preserving power, forge alliances, acquire land, and produce legitimate heirs.

For most of our history women had very little say over whom they would marry (and this is still true in some countries). Polygamy has been another form of marriage that still exists today. In many cases marriage was a way to subjugate women so they would serve their husbands and produce heirs for them, but in other cases it was also a way to protect them.

For most of our history love did not play any role in this union, marriage was considered too serious a matter to be based on such a fragile emotion. In fact, love and marriage were once widely regarded as incompatible with one another.

So it wasn’t until fairly recently that the definition of marriage became: a romantic free union between a man and a woman (not to mention the most recent development on gay marriage). Marriage has been and continues to be in a constant process of evolution.

But lets say that in most parts of the world today, this union is based on love. But love is indeed a fragile emotion, and it is not always enough to sustain the great responsibilities and challenges of modern life marriages. As couples become more and more isolated and are the sole caregivers for their children (often both needing to work in order to provide), with the gradual loss of the extended family’s presence and support, and the lack of strong communities, this institution is becoming more and more fragile. On top of that, women have become more independent, so they now have a real choice to leave a relationship, which was not the case before.

Romantic love requires the constant involvement of both partners, if either of them neglects the other, or there is poor communication between them, this kind of love cannot survive for very long. It is hard not to neglect one another once the couple is flooded by the never ending load of responsibilities, work, and worries that come with adult life and especially parenting in modern societies. And as far as communication goes, it can be quite complicated to even realize there is a communication problem until it is too late.

Many marriages do survive despite of lack of romantic love however, because there is a lot more involved in this union. Marriage is a true contract, and as the years go by, the bonds between the partners become stronger (financial, filial, lifestyle, etc) and for many it becomes impossible to leave, no matter how unhappy they may be in the relationship.

In most successful cases, the partners learn how to live together in harmony and their romantic love transforms into a companionship that is enjoyed by both of them (at best), or it simply becomes a cohabitation that is tolerated by both (at worst).

Now, for some couples, no harmony nor cohabitation can be found and they become toxic to one another, they bring the worst out of each other and they live in a constant state of struggle, anger, resentment, dissatisfaction, frustration, etc. Those couples are the ones that usually end up divorcing, and it is a good thing, for nobody should live a miserable life…

However, if the couple has children, the separation aside from being incredibly painful becomes also incredibly complex, because, whether they like it or not, they will remain bonded to one another, as parents, for many years. The way the couple deals with pain becomes incredibly important when they have children, because the consequences of their actions will not only affect their lives but that of their offspring, who are innocent victims of the process.

When there are children involved, even if the romantic relationship ends, another relationship needs to be born, and in order to build it, the couple needs to be very mindful about their actions. Now, if their actions are triggered by their suffering, there will only be more negative consequences and more suffering for the entire family.

Pain is part of our human life, however, the way we process pain is unique to each individual, and ultimately to the level of awareness or consciousness that individual has. Pain and Suffering are not the same, and although we can’t avoid the pain, we can limit the suffering by finding a mindful way to end it.

The end of a marriage can create more or less suffering depending on how much and how long each individual holds onto their story of “what went wrong” “why did it happen”, etc. The good news is, once the relationship ends, there is no need to hold onto the story, in fact, it is time to drop it all together, in order to build a mindful new story that will ensure a healthy transition and experience, not only for the children but for the couple themselves.

If you want to read more about mindful divorce and parenting, here is a really good article Giving Up the Story: A Journey to Mindful Divorced Parenting

Have a good week!


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Knowing yourself and honoring your needs

One of the wonderful things that life is teaching me, through experience and (unfortunately) pain, is that until we know our self and honor our needs, we are likely to make the wrong choices, feel frustrated, depleted, depressed, etc. over and over again.

needslist

About 9 years ago, when I had been struggling under the grips of depression for almost a year, I read many books in the hopes of finding a way out of the darkness, one of these books was called: Creating Optimism
and I remember one thing about the book that made an impression on me.

There was a specific section about relationships and personal needs with a suggested exercise on making a concise and clear list of our personal needs and share them with our partner, the needs had to be divided into three zones: red (non-negotiable), orange (important but open to negotiation) and green (a wish or a want). We also had to give our partners a clear way to meet our needs which had to be:
action-oriented, concrete, appropriate and doable, so as to make it as clear as possible.

This exercise took me quite a while… I had a hard time identifying my needs! when some came to mind I would dismiss them as not really important, I wasn’t sure of what was a true “need” or just a “want”, it was really hard to do! luckily the book offered a lot of help in clarifying things, so I eventually came up with my list and gave it to my partner and asked him to do the same.

However, as soon as I felt better from my depression, I forgot about the list… and it wasn’t after a few years had passed and I was going through a lot of suffering and badly struggling with my relationship that I came across that list again and realized that I had totally forgotten my needs! How could this happen! especially for the needs on the red zone, which were needs essential to my self-esteem, personal integrity, safety, etc. The ultimate boundary! But there I was, years later realizing that even after having found what my needs were, I had not honored them! I had locked them into a drawer hoping they would not show up again and unconsciously pretended everything was ok.

Well, I learned the hard way, but now I feel so much more clear about who I am and what I want. This clarity gives me courage, power, freedom, and it feels good. Of course I wish I had known myself better earlier in life! it would have saved me a lot of pain, but the truth is, I am grateful for the discoveries and realizations that have come to me through pain, I guess it had to get really dark for me before I could see the light.

Now, I don’t believe that everyone’s fate is to be confused, make mistakes and finally wake up after deep suffering. That does happen to a lot of people though, but as a mom, I would like to help my children avoid some of the confusion by teaching them tools to explore their own self and understand better who they are and what they need at an early age.

I feel like our societies are changing for the better, and there is now a greater wisdom about this, before, we were solely focused in learning academic stuff and fitting into a cookie-cutter model, now however there is much more emphasis in introspection and self understanding and acceptance, so hopefully our new generations will get better and better at knowing themselves, and honoring their needs, so that they can live a more fulfilling life.

This whole thing is a work in progress for sure, I am still working on honoring my needs, something I have to remind myself every day, but I feel like I am getting there, just like I did with my shoes! (I find this is a funny analogy that many women may relate to:) For as long as I can remember, I had really nice looking shoes: sexy, shiny, fashionable, etc. but most of them where not that comfortable, I often had blisters in my feet and couldn’t wait to get my shoes off!. Well, after having twins, running around everywhere, and having a broken foot, I decided, that was it!, I would never own nor purchase any shoes that wouldn’t fit me like a glove! that was the bottom line! I wasn’t going to take it anymore! DONE with that! I would not put my feet through that again!

As with my shoes, I am starting to feel that I cannot settle for less than having my personal needs met (at least those in the red-zone). Now that I have been able to come up with a nice and clear list, I intend to honor it over and over.

For some reason, it seems like man are much better at having their needs met than women are, so women need to look at this more carefully. I recently watched a video called Men Are Better At Getting Their Needs Met by Connie Podesta, it made me laugh out loud, I highly recommend you watch it whether your are a man or a woman, because it will help you understand how differently we are wired! And if anything, it might make you laugh!

In order to truly honor our needs, we need to be more compassionate and loving towards our own self, and we also have to learn to speak our truth clearly so that people around us know what we are willing to accept and what we are not (this is especially important in relationships).

We can’t settle for less than having our “red-zone” needs met, first by ourselves and then by the people in our life. If we find ourselves in a relationship where our needs are not being met, and for some reason cannot be met, honoring them may mean having the courage to let go of the relationship altogether. Honoring our needs is not always easy, even once we know them, it takes courage, self love, understanding, compassion, etc. But it can really open up a much more fulfilling experience of life for yourself and those around you.

So, I encourage you today to really, truly reflect on who you are, what your wishes are , what your needs are? Relationships, and especially those where there is struggle and pain are a good way to start, as they can help you figure out what your needs truly are, the discomfort you feel in a relationship most likely comes from needs that aren’t being met. Also, try to prioritize, use the red, orange and green zone principle to differentiate between wants and needs.

Note that this is not about blaming others for not meeting your needs, nor expecting that other people have the key to fulfilling all your needs. This is more about knowing yourself better in order to make better choices, in order to own and speak your truth clearly to others, in order to live more fully!

Have a good week!

Related articles:

How to establish healthy boundaries in our relationships?


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Sometimes a hug is all you need…

Continuing with the theme of body language, relationships, and connections, today I would like to explore another body language favorite of mine: HUGS. The truth is, the power of hugs is way underrated!

hugs

I come from a latin country, where we hug a lot, and I have to say that HUGS is one of the things I miss the most from my country, we hug our friends, our neighbors, our parents, our grandparents, our cousins, you name it, and we do it all the time!

I recently read a blog post from the Mars and Venus website (the official website for the famous book: Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus
by Dr. John Gray). It is a short article written by a witty blogger, on: “How to keep intimacy alive in the day-to-day grind”

Basically the article talks about how hard it is to find the time to nourish our relationship on a daily bases, especially for busy, working couples with or without kids; apparently, the secret short cut to nurturing and connecting is as simple as a hug!!

According to the article: Studies have shown that hugging for 20 seconds raises levels of oxytocin, which is the bonding hormone. A hug re-establishes the intimate connection and trust between you and your partner on a fundamental hormonal level. If you wish to read the full article, click HERE.

Another story I love to share is that of “The Rescuing Hug” which had a positive impact in the way medicine and hospitals treat premature infants, the original article appeared on Reader’s Digest and Life magazine in 1996. If you have not heard about this story, there is a quick description of it HERE.

Also, I remember a few years back I took a course on personal growth and one of the things that stayed with me was an exercise that we did towards the end of the 2-day course, the presenter had us split in pairs and showed us how to give each other an “energy hug” we had to hug our partner hard, really holding them in our arms, and then we had to take 3 deep breaths together, silently. The idea was that we could use our bodies and breathing to raise our energy and establish a deeper connection to one another.

I really liked this exercise, and all the participants agreed that they felt very relaxed, very connected and happy after doing it, this was back in my country, however, so we didn’t have much of a cultural barrier against close physical proximity. Hugging is a natural part of our human essence, beyond cultural and social conditionings; it is the first thing we do with our human babies, we hold them, we hug them, we press them against our bodies and that physical contact is a very important factor on their survival. If you wish to read more about this, I recommend the article: The Experience of Touch: Research Points to a Critical Role by Daniel Goleman, 1988.

After moving to the US I slowly but surely stopped hugging people, to respect the cultural norm here and to avoid sending mixed messages, but this had a toll on my emotional well being, so finally, after many years, I have decided to allow myself to be who I am, and hope for the best. I still don’t do it as freely as I would in my country but I do it as much as I can and often find myself apologizing when people are surprised or taken aback by it, I just tell them I am from a different culture. I really believe Americans would greatly benefit from more free hugs!

I have shared many conversations about this with American friends who have traveled or lived in countries were there are less “physical boundaries” and they all agree that one of the things they liked and miss most about those cultures was their “warmth” and the hugs, kisses and other ways to freely connect to other people with our bodies.

I find that here many people are quick to associate this easy-body connection with the danger of inappropriate touching, so they try to protect themselves from it, and teach their kids to avoid touch because of this. I feel however that there can be a happy medium that is much healthier and that would allow people to feel a lot more connected and supported.

Growing up I had a very clear idea of what was appropriate and what was not, and I fully enjoyed the freedom of connecting with friends, cousins, relatives, etc. using my body in a healthy way. So here, I just wanted to start a conversation on how cultural and social codes may sometimes prevent us from getting closer and more connected to people around us. That said, I know a lot of Americans that are big huggers, thank God!

Sometimes a hug is all you need

Have a good week!

Related Articles:

The Importance of Physical Touch


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Making Eye Contact

Lately I have been reflecting a lot on relationships and communication. It is a fact that relationships are built on communication, but having a good communication with others is not always easy to do, with some people communication may flow naturally, while with others it may be a total mess: filled with misunderstandings, frustrations, etc. Or it can be something in between.

eyecontact

Communication is the essence of human interaction and learning, and there are many ways to communicate aside from verbal language. We often get stuck in thinking that communication is based solely on our verbal exchanges, when it goes far beyond that. Every day we all emit and respond to nonverbal cues like behaviors, body language and more.

I have always been fascinated by body language, as I believe our bodies never lie, and there is a lot we can find out about a person if we pay attention to their body language: postures, facial expression, eye gaze, gestures, tone of voice, etc. What we express through our body is often more true and accurate than what we can express with words.

Today I would like to write specifically about eye contact, as I feel this is a really important element for good communication. There is no coincidence that the popular expression “Seeing Eye to Eye” means being in agreement with someone.

Human eyes are said to hold the key to the heart, and eye contact can relay our inner most intimate thoughts and emotions. So, in a way, making eye contact is very powerful as it allows us to truly see the other and be seeing by them, with no veils, no filters, no lies. The significance of eye contact vary widely between cultures, with religious and social differences often altering its meaning greatly, but deep down to our human essence, it is a powerful way to connect with others.

“The Eyes are the Windows of the Soul” Traditional Proverb

So why is it that most people find it so hard to make eye contact and sustain it for longer periods of time? Set aside cultural beliefs and customs, my guess is that we feel naked, we feel totally exposed when making full eye contact, therefore we may experience feelings of shame and fear. We surely find it much easier to make eye contact with a small child, because we know that there is no judgment and criticism in their minds, so we feel safe.

In fact, kids love and need to make eye contact, they demand it! My kids sometimes take my face in their hands when they are talking to me and tell me: mommy look at me, they need me to look at them in order to feel they have my attention, and they are so right!

We cannot lie with our eyes, at least not for long… like the popular expression: “Look at me and tell me the truth” tells, if we want to know the truth, we need to look at someone deep into their eyes and we will find out.

Not too long ago a friend of mine, who practices Kundalini yoga, shared her experience while doing a White Tantric Yoga retreat, which she found incredibly profound, transformative and powerful. I have not yet done one myself but it is definitely in my list of things to do! Apparently this group meditations are done in pairs and there is a lot of time spent making eye contact with a partner.

Interestingly today, my yoga teacher started our class by having us face our next-mat neighbor and basically look into each other’s eyes for a few minutes, without saying a word. Our teacher was talking us through the importance of feeling connected to others and seeing how similar we are deep inside. I found this practice very powerful and beautiful, so it reminded me of my friend’s White Tantric experience and of how difficult it is to maintain eye contact!

It seems that men have a harder time than women when it comes to making and holding eye contact, I don’t like to generalize because there are many exceptions (in fact I know many), but it does make sense to me since men have been socially and culturally trained not to be in touch with their emotions and therefore they tend to be less connected to their bodies and feelings, and less inclined to open up to others in a deeper way. Here is an interesting article about men and making eye contact.

The level of human connection as well as the quality of social interactions greatly benefits from making eye contact. I feel like if we were able to see into each others eyes more often, if we would allow others to see us a little more deeply, we could only build stronger relationships, more truthful conversations and a deeper understanding of one another.

So today I just wanted to shed a light on the importance of making eye contact as a way of positively connecting with others. If you are a man or woman who finds it really hard to make eye contact, I invite you to explore the reasons why, maybe you can try to step out of your comfort zone and do it more and more, and see the results. There are many great resources and tips online to help you with it.

Have a good week!


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