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um_100609_emailOnce upon a time I was walking down the streets of New York with my husband, Michael, and two friends, having a lively conversation about the benefits of anger; when one of them, a brilliant PhD in linguistics, told Michael you need to get more angry! Michael paused, thought a moment and said, “Maybe so, but everywhere I look I see the face of God.” His response evoked a stunned silence and we all stopped walking. It was not lost on any of us how the world would transform through that simple statement. And then we broke into a group hug, and everyone knew we were from California.

The discussion that followed focused on what would be possible if we could see each other through the eyes of connection regardless of our culture, beliefs, or social status. What if we focused more on what joins us than what separates us? The question that remained, and does till this day is this: How do you develop a way of seeing that is steeped in connection, when mostly what we see are our flaws and differences? And how would we treat each other if we could practice it, even in the most difficult circumstances.

Consideration of others comes when you include them, and what I mean by including them is what you think about them, what you say, and how you act towards them. The first step is to notice when you see someone as an “other”, through the eyes of separation.

The belief in separation is easy to observe on the job, in families, and relationships. It exists wherever a “them versus me” or “you’re either with me or against me” mentality overrides meaningful, considerate dialogue. The reality is that we aren’t going to always agree, and may have strong, opposing ideas. So could we agree to disagree for now, and keep discussions alive until we can find mutually beneficial solutions? Of course this would require listening to each other, which I find is essential to the practice of connection.

I love this story from the comedian, Steve Martin. “There’s a new technique that eases marital strain and opens wide the doors of understanding between the sexes. This new technique is called listening. It will be interesting to see whether this new technique will disappear and be replaced by older and more traditional techniques such as leaving the room.”

If you leave the room, whether physically or mentally, you lose any opportunity to set aside your differences and engage in a meaningful and spirited dialogue. Listening from connection requires that you suspend your reaction. Unchecked, reactive thinking leads to anger, impatience, and frustration.

Connected listening develops your capacity to consider what’s being said and look for the value in it. An example of this was made clear to me years ago when my friend Wayne would hold meetings as the training director of a major aerospace company. Sometimes people would speak that I thought were weak in their presentation so I dismissed what they said. I respected Wayne both his experience and his insights. So when he responded to someone I thought was weak, I was interested in what he said. And you know what it was? He said, “That has merit.” I’ll never forget it. He actively looked for the merit in what that person said. You don’t make someone stronger by calling him or her weak. You don’t make people truthful by calling them liars. You don’t add to any dialogue by being so attached to your point of view that you react, and refuse to listen to a different idea. Instead you can listen to others in the same way you want them to listen to you.

I make it a practice to listen to others with interest, and I witness the positive impact it has on my relationships. It builds mutual respect. When you include the other you listen without judgment, and think before you speak. And in your hesitation to react, you’re present to be with what’s being said. This way of being develops strong connections that welcome true inquiry and new discoveries. You’ll also find it’s disarming to both you and the speaker, and creates the opening for authentic dialogue.

Use the following practices to think and speak from connection, and open up the discovery channel in you, especially during challenging conversations.

1. Imagine that each person you work with or live with is another expression of the infinite. When you do, a connection will slowly expand and filter into your relationship. Hold this practice in mind when you see them and you’ll discover that they are more then your view of them. This is where authentic, meaningful conversations begin.

2. Begin each conversation with an intention to listen fully. Look for common ground. Ask questions. Listen for understanding instead of agreement. Listen for interests and mutual benefit. Practice finding the merit in someone else’s view. Be willing to stay in the conversation long enough for the connection to become stronger and more visible.

We may have to turn to physics to confirm that we are inextricably entangled with each other. But I think we only have to turn inside to know that we are interdependent, and through this practice of connection we deepen the wisdom of doing to others, as you would have them do unto you.

My love goes with you as you work with this uplifting moment.


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