In a situation were there is a discussion between partners, there needs to come a point in time to create space for empathy. One of the partners has to call a time-out and start tapping into their self-empathy, followed, at a later stage, by “external empathy”. Self-empathy as in: “Checking within what is going on for me as an individual, without qualifying judgements of my feelings and sensations being good or bad, right or wrong, convenient or inconvenient, etc...”. Simply, looking at what is going on inside. Listen to your dialogue. This process might take a bit of time and physical space. I remember that some time ago, when my partner and I ended up on “planet conflict”, I needed to create some physical space between her and myself, so as to be able to really stay with my feelings; with what was going on inside of me. Perhaps you need to do the same?
For more on how to practice empathy, I invite you to download my FREE e-book, "In 4 steps, to a healthy romantic relationship". In it, I will show you 4 easy-to-learn steps that you can apply right away to create harmony between your partner and you. Click on the picture or follow this link.
After having given yourself adequate self-empathy – you’ll know this to be the case because you will feel relaxed, peaceful inside, about the situation that arose and that caused distress - your attention can shift to the counterpart. You can now offer them the same empathic space that you created for yourself, for example by asking them: “What is going on for you, right now? How do you feel?”
If, however, you jump ahead of yourself and the self-empathic process, you could end up asking this question before having created a peaceful space within yourself, in which case, your mind might analyze the other person’s “wrongness” or rudeness or inadequacy with thoughts like “None of this would have happened if she hadn’t been so rude. What is wrong with her?”. Needless to say, this creates more distance than closeness.
On the other hand, as seen before, when we create enough space for the self-empathic process, we come from a different point within ourselves, what I like to refer to as a softer, gentler spot within and if we apply the principles of needs-based communication, we are likely to ask a question like: “Which basic human needs of theirs are they trying to meet?”.
Before asking them this question directly, we can inquire within ourselves; it becomes in that case a silent, inner process that allows us to guess what is going on within another person. Then, when we feel ready to connect with them, we can simply ask them, for example: “Are you upset because you really need to be heard on this subject?”. In all likelihood the answer will be yes. We keep going; we keep listening with empathetic ears so to speak, till we see that there is a shift between the two of us; till we feel there is connection instead of resentment.
Couple mindfulness excercise:
Start by practicing self-empathy. Create a space of some 15 minutes of “me time” in a place that gives you comfort. For example, I have a corner in the house with a comfy chair and views to some trees. This place helps me relax and center myself.
Then I practice. I take a situation that felt grinding, heavy and ask myself: “what basic human needs of mine was I trying to meet when I acted/reacted in that way?”. Pay close attention to your inner experience. How do you feel? What about your body language? Is your body stiffening or getting more relaxed? and haw about your self-dialogue? What are you, in other words, telling yourself about that situation?
And to finish with,for more clarity on basic human needs and more, I invite you, once again, to download my free e-book to create healthy and harmonious relationships, by clicking here.