Have you ever tried to be helpful, to contribute to another’s well-being, only to find that your attempts simply fall flat?
Perhaps the other person just nods politely and changes the subject.
Or, they start to confide in you less frequently.
Or, they get overtly irritated and accuse you of misunderstanding or patronizing them or not “getting it.”
Even though our good intentions do matter, they’re not enough. And we fall even further out of connection when we naively think that our good intentions “should” be enough and that if it’s not working it’s because the other person just doesn’t understand us.
If we truly want to love each other well, we need to cultivate a deep attunement to and honoring of the people we’re trying to love.
1. Learn to listen.
We cannot cultivate deep connections until we know how to listen to ourselves, to one another, and to the life energy that surrounds us.
Instead of interrupting, correcting, advising, strategizing, and teaching, slow down and listen deeply. Relax any tension or anxiety in your own body. Release your attachment to particular outcomes. Redirect your attention away from the past and the future into the present moment. Focus on what is happening in the here and now. Reflect back what you are hearing. Check for understanding.
Join. Attune. Slow down.
Loving others sometimes means listening deeply and releasing our private agendas during the conversation.
2. Get to know them on their terms.
Instead of projecting our values, interpretations, and labels onto others, meet their needs to be seen, known, and valued as they are.
As you deepen your relationships with important people in your life, watch for all the ways you filter your experiences of them through your values, your preferences, and your ideas of who they are or who they should be. Watch also for how you might unconsciously be projecting your values and preferences onto them.
When you notice your filters and projections, lean into them, embrace them, welcome them – and then gently put them aside and refocus your attention on the person who is with you.
What are their values? What is their worldview? What is their story?
Loving others sometimes means knowing people on their own terms and accepting them as they are.
3. Empathize with their experiences, their pain, their worldviews.
Instead of arguing with their worldview or trying to change their pain, practice being willing to meet people where they’re at, with no demand that they conform to your personal preferences.
Empathizing with someone’s worldview and experience involves two distinct steps:
First, say it back to them as they said it. Others often need to hear their words coming out of our mouths. This is how they know we’ve taken their perspective in, and not just glossed over it.
Then, identify the deep needs that their worldview might be organized around meeting. For example, if someone believes that vaccinations are protective/harmful, state back their perspective to them and then guess at their potential needs for safety, well-being, and trust.
Loving others sometimes means being willing to hear their pain, acknowledge their experiences, and understand their worldview, without feeling an urge to change it all too quickly.
4. Help them see their strengths and reflect their goodness back to them.
Too often, we focus on what we see as “wrong” with ourselves, others, and the world at large. Instead, make it a practice to acknowledge the good intentions, the needs people are trying to meet, and the values people are trying to live into.
Reflect back the positives in a situation instead of the improvements you’re longing for.
Loving others sometimes means seeing their goodness, their potential, their growth, their imperfections, and affirming what they are reaching for, especially when it’s hard for them to live into that vision in this moment.
5. Reflect back to them your trust in their ability to figure things out.
Instead of defaulting into subtle power-over moves of rescuing, fixing, and teaching, remind them of their own resourcefulness and resilience and ask them what their inner voice is advising them to do next. Instead of jumping in with your own ideas, help them to connect with themselves and to follow their own inner guidance.
You might ask, “What do you see as your options here?” “What does your heart wish were possible?” “What stops you from following that?” “If there were no negative consequences, what do you wish you could do next?”
Loving others sometimes means supporting them to hear the voice of their own hearts and their own inner voices.
Love is transformative.
Thomas Merton asserts, “Love affects more than our thinking and our behavior towards those we love. It transforms our entire life. Genuine love is a personal revolution. Love takes your ideas, your desires, your actions and welds them together in one experience and one living reality which is a new you.”
How are these ideas for contributing to a loved one’s well-being landing with you? Any surprises? Anything you’d like to try? Or some additional ideas? I’d love to know. Leave a comment below. 🙂
WANT TO GO DEEPER IN THIS WORK?
Here are a few of my programs that might be of interest to you: