It is a powerful and highly connecting skill to be able to look beyond someone's behavior to the feelings behind their actions. Developing that skill is a practice that pays off in closer relationships and calmer lives. It also has the reward of children, friends, and family who feel heard and understood. The discussions that ensue can help develop powerful social-emotional know-how that will last a lifetime. Looking beyond the behavior will allow you to experience your own magnificence and to see the magnificence in others. How do you develop this skill? Here are a few steps and some real life examples:
Getting curious is the most vital step because it frees up your creativity and flexibility to respond from your best self. Ask yourself, “What are they feeling right now?” Slow down and really get curious. Allow your sense of wonder to lead.
This is vitally important, especially if you are triggered. Allow space between what happened and your response. Feel your own feelings before you speak or act. As Victor Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Accept without Having to Change, Fix, or Eliminate
Feeling as if we need to change, fix, or even get rid of someone else’s behavior or their feelings means we are fighting against what is. It means we are stepping into force rather than influence. If your friend is angry, that is OK. You don’t need to happy her up or change anything. The same is true with your children. This isn’t saying that you give up on your children doing their chores or their homework. It means you approach teaching responsibility and holding them accountable in different ways. It means you listen, are firm and kind, and hold space.
Identify the Feelings
Stick to the basic emotions of mad, sad, hurt, happy, and afraid. Then identify and discuss the feelings behind the behavior. That is the basis for creating peace at home, at work, and in the world. Here is what a brilliant mom did: "Last night, my son wanted to read my daughter a book and she screamed “No!” in his face. He hid under the chair. Afterward, instead of saying, ‘She’s three - just shake it off,’ I was able to help him identify what he was feeling - hurt - and we both just felt that. And then we talked about how much he loves her and how hard it can be to love someone and do loving things when the other person can’t receive it - and we do it anyway." How magnificent!
Make Feelings OK
All feelings are OK. They are not “good” or “bad”, “negative” or “positive”. For more on feeling feelings and understanding them more deeply, please click here for a recent Whole Hearted Parenting article and link to a Your Infinite Life Training & Coaching Company video.
Drop off can be such a challenging time. Here is where seeing beyond the behavior and understanding feelings plays a big part in making the transition more tranquil for everyone. A brilliant mom recently wrote, "My 4 year old and I have struggled with drop off at daycare for a while. I've typically had to slither out of her arms and pass her hands over to her teacher to get her to let go of me. This morning I looked her in the eyes and could see she was sad. I acknowledged that by asking ‘do you feel sad that I'm leaving?’ she said ‘yes’. I said ‘It's ok to feel sad.’ then hugged her. Then I said ‘It's also ok to trust that I will be back to pick you up tonight.’ She looked relieved to have been heard, and stepped over with the rest of the kids on her own." How magnificent!
This is a practice!
Remember that this is a practice. If you get off track, find a way to get back on track. If you make a mistake, decide how you will do it different the next time. During all of the practicing, experience your magnificence and encourage those around you to experience theirs!