As children, most of us were taught to “say please and thank you.”
Marshall Rosenberg said that anytime anyone expresses anything they are always either saying “please” or “thank you.” Often what we hear people say does not sound like either of these, but we have to be willing to look a little deeper. We must understand that feelings are always connected to needs, and whether or not those needs are being met. If someone has needs that are not being met and they are angry, we may hear them blaming us, calling us names, or saying other hurtful, angry things to us, but in reality they are just in pain because they have a need that is not being met. And even though it is not our direct responsibility to meet their needs, we can understand that they are saying “please”…”Please help me meet this need I have.” Likewise, if someone expresses to us their joy, or happiness, they are really in effect saying “Thank you.” They are expressing that a need they have has been met.
A “feeling” is different than a thought or a judgment. An example of this would be when a parent is having an emotional reaction to the current state of a child’s messy bedroom. If we asked the parent how he felt about the situation and he replied, “I feel like my child is being irresponsible”, that would not be a feeling, but a judgment about the child. If the parent replied, “I feel like my child should be taking better care to clean his room more often”, that would be a thought regarding the actions that he would like to see his child take. The question was about feelings, so to answer the question correctly would require the parent to go inside of himself, suspend judgment (labeling the child as irresponsible), not worry about the outcome (deciding the child should be doing something), and just notice his own feelings, whatever they may be. This might sound like, “I feel really frustrated (etc.) when I see how messy this room has become.”
Remember, feelings are always attached to needs—needs that are either met or unmet. Generally, when our needs are met we have feelings that we may label “good” and when our needs are unmet we have feelings that don’t feel good.
It is a way of life for much of society to play the blame game on a daily basis (“You make me feel _____”), but if we really want to connect with ourselves and others we’ll take ourselves out of the blame game and start recognizing and taking responsibility for what we feel.
The next step is to start recognizing that what other people feel is directly connected to whether or not their needs are being met, and then we can suspend judgment and really learn to just hear them, and be with them and their feelings. This reminds me of the old adage to “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” At least with practice maybe we can get better at “hearing no evil” and instead hear the feelings and needs that are underneath.
We are each responsible for our own feelings, and for getting our own needs met. Once we can really feel our own feelings and recognize our own needs we can begin to really hear what those around us may be saying to us. We can empathize with them, and connect with them on a deep level.
I recently read a study which concluded that putting negative emotions into words calms the brains emotional center. It is a basic human need to be heard. When we raise our consciousness around feelings we are able to hear ourselves and others in a very deep way. Just having the opportunity to express feelings and be heard has a calming and healing effect.
I encourage you to really listen to what others are saying, see if you can hear the “please” and “thank you” under each expression.
Here’s to hearing, and being heard,