My apologies for my relative silence during the past week. I’m hopeful that those of you following along were inspired enough by the past week’s theme to maintain your focus without additional encouragement from me.
So let’s turn our attention now to Week 4 of our Empathic Kindness class. As I’ve been doing, I want to remind you that the idea for this class came to me after reading Roman Krznaric’s article “Six Habits of Highly Empathic People.”
For this week, I’ve altered the language Krznaric used in the article. He said that the fourth habit is to “Listen hard and open up.” I’m suggesting that we interpret this as being fully present with another person, one of my past kindness class themes. In being fully present, we focus our attention on the person we are with instead of on how we might respond to them. See if you are like me. So many times I find myself formulating my response to someone before she/he has finished speaking, something that puts me a few seconds into the future. In being fully present, I listen with my whole being as the other is speaking.
Of course, this is just one way to interpret being fully present. There are other ways, too. As such, I suggest you try being present with people throughout the week and consider some different ways to do it. On that note, in the article Krznaric says it is important to make ourselves vulnerable. “Removing our masks and revealing our feelings to someone is vital for creating a strong empathic bond.”
This week’s assignment helped me so much as our daughter-in-law’s family came to visit for Thanksgiving. Early in our son’s marriage we spent three delightful Christmases with her family and had a wonderful time. The fourth year, everything fell apart as we asked our son and his wife to spend Christmas day with us at our house and invited her parents also. Her father just could not accept that his daughter would not be there in their home and refused to come to us, so they literally never spoke to us again. He died maybe three years ago and now we were able to play host at the lake house we share with our son but were quite nervous about how things would go. I tried to remember to be present and listen. The only person I was worried about was our daughter-in-law’s mother as it was her husband who cut us off and she was extremely swayed by him. At one point she was telling me about her love of her husband, in the context of having a boyfriend now. All at once she just glowed as she talked about her husband. I listened and saw his good qualities again rather than remembering the hurt he caused us. The three plus days they were here I felt enveloped in the love of that family again and I think they felt my love for them also.