A commonly unspoken feeling in family life is, “Do I matter to you?” It might sound strange that people sharing a home and a last name could question that of each other, but in the work I do, I see this question all the time implied, without being explicitly asked.
I’ll give you an example. Years ago, I was riding in a car with a loved one. He decided that he wanted to take a new route back to our home. I begrudgingly agreed to take the new path home, only after whining about my way being faster and wanting to get home quickly. The entire ride home, I looked at the clock, sat stiffly in my seat, and inwardly built my case around what a waste of time this was. I created an atmosphere of tension in that car simply because I was stuck on my way of doing things. I didn’t need to say a word. It could be cut with a knife.
That was just a snapshot in time. But when those moments happen again and again, we’ve got a mountain of separation built between us and the people we love the most. That is a surefire sign that we are not connecting to our hearts.
Want to know what helps me back into my heart?
Faith in the word, “And”
My conversations were once littered with the word, “but.” But keeps our world smaller, and more narrow. But gives us a sense of false security. But creates a black or white world–I’m right and you’re wrong.
And is a magical word! And says there’s room for you and me. And brings us together. And acknowledges that everyone has their own experience, their own reality. And connects us.
Try saying something like this the next time you’re tempted to argue, “I feel strongly about this situation AND I can also see why you feel strongly about your perspective too.” Savor the feelings of connection. Repeat.
When I validate someone, I am letting go of my need to prove myself. I can be calm and relaxed enough in the moment to allow the person his experience.
“I can see how you feel that way.”
“That sounds really hard.”
Those are all ways to validate the other. It doesn’t mean you agree. It doesn’t mean you’re not valid. It does mean you see the other person. It means you prize peace above conflict. Notice what happens when you use one of those phrases with your child, spouse, or friend. What happens for you when you no longer need to win?
Everything you ever need to know about the art of living begins and ends with the breath.
Take a moment (even this moment) to pay attention to your breath. What happens on the inhale? Where does the breath go to in your body? Rest there. Now exhale. What happens to the body then? Kindly notice without judgment. It’s always happening. You’re simply paying attention to it in this moment.
What can the breath teach you? If you don’t know yet, try sitting with your breath for a few moments each day. It is the one healing tool that all of us have with us, all the time.