Tuning into the environment helps you connect. The same exact behaviors that worked an hour ago might be ineffective right now, depending on the context. The same actions that demonstrated manners and politeness might be disrespectful, depending on the situation. We have to adapt to our surroundings instead of having preconceived notions.
How do I relate to the person in front of me right now? That is my relationship. Am I present and available? Am I able to be in the moment with them or have I “rehearsed my role?”
I tend to focus on “doing the right thing.” The difficulty with that is that I assume there is a right way to do things and I have preconceived notions about how it should look. I am focusing on my behavior instead of engaging the situation, the other person and just being with them.
“Be in touch with what we are doing while we are doing it,” says Lief, the author of Making Friends with Death.
“…bring ourselves back to present experience and the person in front of us,” she wrote. Over the next few pages she lovingly suggests, “Come back to what is happening, allow room for doubt and confusion, room for mistakes, slow yourself down, tune in to your preconceived notions and check in with yourself and the situation at hand, have an appreciation for the unexpected, and not being in control, allowing time for things to develop...establish an atmosphere in which no one needs to prove anything. Slowing down can open up possibilities that speed and busyness cannot. When we slow down enough, it can be feel threatening because we feel what is going on.” I see this as the basis of emotional connection- first being in touch with emotion in me.
This is harder to do when we ourselves are depleted. Take care of your needs to help yourself and to help others better. Pay attention to how you try too hard and how you hold yourself back, when it comes to connecting with others.
“dealing with a situation we would rather avoid…takes tremendous energy…just because we refuse to deal with something, does not mean it does not exist,” Lief continues “…we still resist relating to situations we wish were not happening…We create a small zone of comfort removed from the demands of the world around us…when required to deal with difficult or demanding situations, we feel pressured, even attacked, and we respond by strategizing our retreat, as if we were on a battlefield…bolstering our sense of being cut off from the world around us…When we just jump in, or find ourselves thrust in to the middle of things, exertion is a natural response to the immediate of whatever we are facing-the wisdom of no escape.”
Just to reiterate, we are asking you to face difficult things, not unlike going to the Dentist. Not necessarily a fun thing to do, but a better idea than avoiding the Dentist altogether. When you do not have enough energy to face, we are not asking you to keep pushing. Again, be real, be honest with yourself- when you need to rest, rest. When you need to prod yourself to face the difficulty, prod. You can stop and restart as often as you need in order to stay in the moment and connected. My mistake would be to wait until all the stars align, until I know “the right” thing to do. Instead, work spontaneously with whatever you find there.
Many of us find it really challenging to just be with one another, no chore, no words, no music or TV etc., just being. “Our sense of presence is the most powerful gift we can offer,” Lief wrote, “sit still and be with another person without pretense. Speech is only one form of communication and a rather limited one at that. Mindless talk disconnects us. Being present is not rocket science, it is simply connecting with our body first...we can learn to get across what we have to say in a few well-chosen words or gestures. ” She furthers that we do not simply give up and allow whatever happens to happen. We are engaged with one another and if problem solving is required, we do that from an engaged perspective rather than from an emotional distance.
Again, this is emotional connection.