“I hate it when you tell me I didn’t do something right!” “I never said you didn’t do it right, I merely said that I thought it would be great if we went out on Saturday!”
Sound familiar? Miscommunications are all too common in our daily interactions with lovers and friends. We often hear something other than what another claims to have said and we back away in silence or lash out in defense. We feel distant and separate and wonder why our communications seem to always go this way.
Or consider this scenario. “How was your day?” “It was okay, same old stuff. How was yours?” “It was okay. Joyce got a new sports car. It looks great. Wish we could afford one (opens refrigerator).” “Yea, well, maybe someday (returns to watching TV).”
Superficial conversations like this are also typical. You say something that triggers her to say something that triggers you to say something, etc. This kind of communication often resembles a kind of verbal ping-pong and is often unconscious, with no real in depth communication taking place between the speakers and listeners at all. Other types of typical daily communications devoid of feeling are logistical in nature – taking care of what needs to be done and coordinating action with others.
We have all experienced people interrupting us to tell us something they want to say, people responding to something we said with some totally unrelated comment, people who encourage us to talk while preoccupied and busy with household chores, or people who look around the room, read the paper or hum to themselves while we are talking. An abundance of unsatisfactory communications abound, so much so that they appear normal to us.
A study of communication between couples determined that the average couple spends only about twenty minutes a week in conversation. This same twenty minutes includes time spent in superficial chit-chat. Appalling? It is not at all unusual for us to go through our day-to-day lives rarely talking about what we are really feeling, thinking, wanting or exploring. And we seldom really listen to each other. We give only half of our attention to others. We rarely listen with accepting love and compassion. We’re just “too busy.”
Meaningful sharing takes time. Intimate communication doesn’t necessarily happen quickly or by accident in our busy lives. To connect with and share our deep feelings or listen to those of another, requires that we deliberately and consciously carve out time to focus in on being together with ourselves. But merely sitting down with another to talk doesn’t always lend itself to intimate and deep sharing. Sometimes we get caught up in an argument, get bored or sleepy, or we don’t know what to say. Why?
We are always communicating with ourselves and each other, in the form of feelings, gestures, movement, facial expressions, etc. We simply don’t always pay attention to these subtle communications. We get distracted by what is going on around us and lose touch with ourselves. Sometimes we start out knowing what we are thinking or feeling, begin sharing and then unconsciously change what we are saying in the face of perceived verbal or non-verbal negative messages we pick up from others. We sometimes shut off our feelings, judging them as unacceptable and then condemning ourselves for feeling these “bad” feelings. We don’t think to tell others about them, for fear of being ostracized or criticized. The result is that we suppress our feelings and we are left feeling disconnected and out of touch with ourselves.
We are disconnected from others when they share with us as well. When we listen to others, we listen from our own perspective, comparing what they are saying to our own experience, to our own beliefs and understandings. We don’t listen to receive someone, to understand them, to get inside their world. Instead, we listen with judgment, evaluating the rightness or wrongness of another compared to our own perspectives. Hence, when someone speaks to us in a way that doesn’t make sense to us, we are quick to jump in with our own thoughts, to offer advice or correction. In this way, we often support people unintentionally to shift from sharing with us, to reacting to us.
What does it take to dip below the superficial surface of our daily lives to really connect with ourselves and each other? What does it take to interrupt these unconscious ineffective ways of communicating?
We recommend for couples, friends, families or co-workers who either want to experience more intimacy in their relationships, want to connect more deeply with their innermost self or who simply want to create a safe place for people to explore and express themselves, that they use a particular form for sharing we call a Heart Share.
Heart Shares are structured opportunities to share. They are a way for you to experience, perhaps for the first time, something truly magnificent: pure communication. They bring you to new levels of awareness, heighten feelings, create more compassion and stimulate the experience of deep love and intimacy.
Heart Shares are a method of helping you to increase your awareness of your feelings and communicate them in a supportive environment with those you care about. Heart Shares are a deep and powerful communication occurring between two or more persons who have the intent of creating more love, peace, harmony, understanding and compassion. Heart Shares differ from usual communication in that the process employs a special technique which creates a loving, supportive environment and encourages maximum attention from all participants.
Heart Shares are similar to an ancient Native American ritual in which the participants sit in a circle and pass a pipe or other ritual object from speaker to speaker. Whoever has the pipe has the total focused attention of her listeners for whatever she wants to say.
Heart Shares are a great way to express your innermost feelings in a safe environment. Feelings are distinct from opinions, advice, criticism, events, stories, business, life histories, illnesses, tragedies, thoughts and things. Some examples of feelings are love, bliss, sadness, guilt, loneliness, compassion, peace, anger, hurt, affection, despair, etc. The more you share the essence of your feelings, and avoid talking about what you think or describing what happened, the more connected you will feel with yourself and the closer you will feel with others.
To begin a heart share, it is useful to agree ahead of time that you will support each other in sharing your most intimate feelings, knowing that the more honest and open you are, the more intimacy and love there will be in your relationships. Agree to listen intently to each other, with all the love and compassion that is available to you, to create a safe and loving environment in which to share. Agree to not judge each other, to respect the delicacy and privacy of that which is shared, to not use it later inappropriately as a weapon. Agree to allow each other to have your feelings, to know that they are not permanent or lasting, rather, they provide opportunities for us to be closer to ourselves and each other, to grow, learn and discover.
Once you agree to the above, then you can begin to set the stage for your Heart Share.
Heart Shares are best done in an environment with no interruptions. Create a quiet, cozy place. Unplug telephones and turn down answering machines. Have dim, pleasant lighting. Candlelight and soft music are sometimes nice. Total darkness can also be conducive to listening without visual distraction.
Be comfortable and find a position with your spine vertical. You can lose attention and energy lying down. Couples, sit facing each other, comfortably close. Groups form a circle with no empty spaces. Have no body contact during the share, unless someone requests a reassuring hug or handhold. For optimum intimacy, and when appropriate, be nude. Don’t underestimate how much we hide behind clothes. Being naked can open you up to deeper levels of healthy vulnerability and intimacy.
In the center of your circle or seating, place either a candle, heart-shaped object or other special object. When someone is moved to share, he or she signals non-verbally that they want to share next by moving the candle or object directly in front of them. It is important that the beginning announcement be clear. From that point on until that person announces “the end”, or “I am complete”, they have the floor and the total attention of the listener(s).
It is ideal that there be no interruptions, comments, fidgeting, yawning, sighing, breath catching, etc. We recommend that you listen and speak either with your eyes closed or with a soft focus, perhaps on the candlelight. This will minimize the chances of altering your listening or speaking based on non-verbal facial expressions or gestures. Listen intently without judgment and with as much love as you are able. Listen with your heart.
Whenever possible, have no time limit to heart sharing. If you must limit the time, give the speaker a 1-2 minute signal before their time is up so that they are not cut off abruptly. When the speaker announces that they are complete, acknowledge his or her sharing with a simple “thank-you”, no matter what the content of the sharing. For those who believe they have nothing to say, give ten minutes of listening to their silence; meditate on them for this time, as you would someone who is verbally sharing. You would be amazed at how much is communicated in silence.
Between heart sharing turns, keep conversation to a minimum, quiet, gentle. Silence is golden. It is fine to take a second or third turn to talk, as long as you announce it clearly and finish it with “the end”. Be sure to end the heart share with quiet time, taking the time to cherish the gift each person gave of their inner selves.
For everyone who is not first to share, it is essential to not respond directly to what was said before. This is not an opportunity for a delayed rebuttal. When others are sharing, just listen to understand them. Perhaps ask yourself how things look from their perspective. When it comes to your turn to share, share your own experience, share what is going on with you, not your response to what they said. Heart Shares can be a great place to practice not reacting to another’s share. This practice alone is invaluable and will permeate all your communications over time.
Here are some hints on how to assist you in having your shares be rich and meaningful: Respect your “voice within”, give it a chance. Don’t get stuck in the attitude of, “I have nothing to share,” or “I’ve talked too long,” or “I’m not interesting.” Don’t judge yourself. Your willingness to share yourself creates a conducive atmosphere for others to share. You are giving a gift, and doing a service for others.
Don’t think that you have to have pre-planned speech. A blank mind is the best space from which to share. Don’t think you should share only problems. Share anything that is real, feeling, meaningful to you, your joys, fears, breakthroughs, angers, insights, etc. Share whatever you are moved or inspired to share.
Unstructured Heart Shares, ones in which you are free to talk about whatever is up for you, allow you the freedom to express whatever is most important to you. However, there are times when you may want to focus your attention on a particular concern or topic, or you may simply want to use an idea to get you started, giving yourself the freedom to go off on tangents from there. Some ideas include: Reflecting on how you feel about what has happened in the past day or week; sharing about how you feel about each person present – what you have observed or received from them; sharing about what love means to you, how you manifest it and how you see it coming to you from others; sharing about ways you could be more loving and the barriers you have to that; sharing what growth you would like to accomplish in the near future; sharing feelings you have about any decisions you have to make; sharing feelings about family issues, sexual matters, relationship concerns; sharing feelings on specific topics, like life, death, philosophy, music, interacting with others, relationships, etc.
Heart Shares are not meant to replace all other types of communication. They are intended to augment intimacy and love in your relationship with yourself and others. Heart Shares maximize your listening, love and compassion to the point that you may begin seeing the features of Heart Shares present in your non-heart talks as well.
Heart Shares provide you with an opportunity to sit and really be with yourself and others in a powerful, loving, supportive environment. Take time to experience a heart share, to discover the beauty and power of intimately and safely sharing feelings. You may very well be surprised at the love and intimacy you experience.
Sonika Tinker, MSW is a relationship expert, transformational coach, national speaker, NLP Professional, Certified Enneagram Teacher and author of Seize your Opportunities: Living a Life Without Limits. She is the founder of LoveWorks, a relationship training company, and is passionately committed to empowering men and women to create powerful successful relationships and to live deeply inspired lives. Sonika has over 30 years experience coaching singles and couples, both gay and straight, on the issues of relationship, communication, intimacy, sexuality, dating, law of attraction and personal transformation. She has designed and led hundreds of trainings, spoken for groups of up to 500, and has touched the lives of thousands. She currently has a private practice in Auburn and San Francisco, CA. You can contact her at http://loveworksforyou.com or email@example.com