Picture this: two individuals who clearly have a lot of love for one another, yet don't know anymore how to share it. They end up on a path of mutual recrimination.
Often, with sentences that start with: “you did”, “you said”, “you should”, “you shouldn't”, “the problem with you”, “you hurt me”, “you are not listening to me”.
When we go down this path, we hope that the other person will finally be ready to hear us, and that they will simply quieten down and open their ears.
The problem with this approach is that it obtains the exact opposite of what we would like: the person that we so badly want to connect with, shuts down because they hear judgment and/or criticism. Wouldn't you?
What do we do with our relationship's rut?
Mr. A and Ms. B, came to one of our relationship workshops because: “We have created a routine set of responses, a pattern if you will, to one another, and we see that we have grown apart. Each one of us is busy with his/her life, and we don't actually communicate. We live under the same roof, yet that seems, unfortunately, to be it. We lost the ability to have fun together, to do things that connect us intimately, to enjoy each other”
It didn't take us long to see that the real issue this couple had was the use of language and mental images of one another. They both believed that the other person was doing or saying certain things that were detracting from each other's lives; specifically, she believed that he was not sharing enough verbally about his intentions; he, on the other hand, believed that many of her behaviors were “nosy and stifling”.
It is no wonder that such dialogues, that imply wrongness of the other party, separate us humans, instead of bringing us closer.
Understanding each other's basic human needs
Based on this understanding that we all share the same basic human needs, we were able to help them see that A had a strong need for sharing and togetherness and that B had a strong need for autonomy and space, as well as sharing and togetherness.
As we moved along through the days of our workshop, it became clearer and clearer to both of them that the dialogue that they had had so far was no longer a viable possibility. Equally, it became clearer to them, with a little help from us, that they actually shared most of the same needs. For example they had some needs whose commonality between the two of them was particularly strong: for closeness, independence, togetherness, autonomy and sharing.
So, now, you could ask: “this is all very well, yet how does this understanding of my needs help me come closer to the person/people that I no longer manage to have a constructive dialogue with?”
Let's continue and stay for a little while on the importance of understanding, and identifying our needs.
As we said before, all of us share the same basic human needs and these needs are never mutually exclusive. A few examples of needs could be: the need for sexual expression, for nutrition, for sharing, for growth, for (personal) space and the list goes on much further.
If we manage to connect to these needs within ourselves (most of us don't, including yours truly often...:-); it takes me my written list of needs to come to see which one it is) we can see that all that we do and say in our daily experience, is geared towards fulfilling these needs.
To know more about solving issues by connecting to each other's basic human needs, Click here and get my e-book for healthy relationships now,
The only problem in this picture is...a horse and cart issue
Most of us are unaware of the fact that our doing and saying things are here to fulfill those needs; a clear case of putting the cart before the horse. We go find jobs we don't like -we fulfill our need for financial safety while at the same time we ignore our need for harmony and playfulness-, we get into relationships that are clearly not for us -we fulfill our need for sharing and sexual expression while at the same time we ignore our need for closeness and sharing-, we drink fluids that we don't really like yet we are with a group and believe we have to -we fulfill our need for sharing and belonging while we ignore our need for physical well-being-.
The solution and the breakthrough?
Well, there is obviously never only one answer, yet, my/our take on it is that if we manage to connect at the level of those basic human needs, the shift to connection can be pretty rapid.
In the case of Ms. A and Mr. B there was a major breakthrough already on the first afternoon of the workshop; Mr B was, for the first time in years, able to hear what Ms. A needed; this breakthrough was possible because both were willing to drop their usual accusatory dialogue, and to try to listen to each other's basic human needs in a loving and emphatic way, as opposed to the “you this” and “you that” dialogue they had come to establish between themselves as a norm.
Their desire to reconnect, so as to be able to fulfill their needs for peace and harmony, led to this major breakthrough.
When we reach these points, which I/we like to refer to as shifts, or tipping points, we already start from a new point of personal consciousness in the approach to one another.
In fact Mr. A and Ms. B, that same evening, after the daily workshop-session, had a situation that triggered a lot of pain in them both. However, as they had examined and reconsidered their dialogue for the better part of the afternoon, they were able to hear each other in a completely new way.
Instead of accusing each other of some wrongdoing, they tried to identify each other's needs and, although they still lacked the proficiency to do so fully while falling into some old traps, they were, in their own words: “clearly on a different path, literally looking at each other with different eyes, with a dialogue that was much more loving than the day before”.
A path that was connecting, instead of alienating and disconnecting.
As the workshop progressed, we were, all together, able to look at some of the “mistakes” that they were making.
To conclude, while it is easily possible to disconnect from one another with our busy lifestyles and a general lack of intimacy, there are ways to come back. If we take the time to actively listen to each other, the gap can be, pretty quickly, bridged. Focusing on each other's basic human needs is a way to connect to each other at the deepest level, with empathy and compassion.