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Giving from the Heart

Giving from the heart is the natural result of connection and a sense of shared humanity.  Through the universality of needs and honest sharing Compassionate Communication helps to access this connection and shared humanity.

You may have seen the wallet size NVC cards that describe this. On one side it says:

"Please fulfill my request ONLY if : You are giving from the heart . . . joyfully. You are doing it from a need to contribute. It meets some other need or value of yours."

On the other side it says:

"Please DO NOT fulfill my request if you are doing it: Out of guilt, shame, fear, duty, or obligation. Because you think you should. To gain my affection or acceptance. Because you are afraid of how I'll react if you don't."

This little wallet card asks a lot of you.  It asks that you to prioritize a connection to your heart, which unfortunately for many, requires an astounding amount of mindfulness and self-awareness.  You might be saying, "If I operated from the heart, there would be a lot less requests I would say yes to."  But it may be more simple than you imagine.

In many ways, operating from the heart simply refers to being grounded in your motivation for doing what you are doing.  In a busy day, it's easy for your mind to get entangled in the minutia of specific tasks and projects and lose track of the big picture.  Giving from the heart doesn't mean having a warm and fuzzy feeling about everything you do.  It means remembering the most important reason for doing what you are doing.  From this vantage point, the boring tasks at work, for example, can be done from a deep value around providing security for your family.   

For some things, it is easy to remind yourself of your deeper motivation / need.  It just requires remembering to remember.  Other times it is not so easy to get from guilt, fear, or obligation to giving and doing from the heart.

When you are in the midst of doing something you enjoy or would like to stay focused on, it can be very difficult to gracefully receive an interuption and give your attention from the heart.  Perhaps the most important first step in this process is connecting with your choice.  Anything that you don't really choose to do from your values becomes a seed for resentment of others or distrust of yourself.  It may be helpful to reflect on situations in which you are telling yourself that you don't have a choice.  The voice that is telling you that you don't have a choice is attempting to protect some important needs for you.  Identifying these needs clearly can help open a sense of choice and creativity in that situation.

Once you are connected to your choice in a particular situation, you can then connect to the needs that you hope to serve or meet with that choice, for yourself.  Being self-connected in this way you are then fully available to consider the needs of the other person.  Here it can be a little tricky.

Most people don't present their needs directly.  Indeed, their own insecure relationship to their needs can drive them to present their needs in ways that block connection.  In yourself or others, you might recognize some of these approaches to expressing needs :  being vague and withdrawn, being endearing to others, being aloof and acting as if everything is under control, being charming, being big and tough, being warm and friendly but refusing to express preferences, being beautiful, attactive or high achieving.  These are just a few of the patterns of interaction that are meant to meet needs, but typically block connection.

When someone is not aware of or able to be direct about their needs, it is up to you to make a guess.  Just guessing silently is often enough to help you find a sense of connection that inspires giving from the heart.  Other times, guessing the needs aloud is most helpful.  Sometimes you might just offer what you think will meet another's need without naming the needs themselves.  Connection is based on a sense of safety and trust. Not everyone can admit to having needs much less having someone else guess them.  For some, much safety and trust is required before needs can be identified without shame.  You can hold other's needs in your heart, even when they cannot do that for themselves.  Your compassion is a precious gift.

Giving from the heart then, is not about being selfless. It's about responding to your natural and self-fulfilling inclination to nurture life, the life in others and the life in yourself.

Being able to turn your mind and heart towards what is most deeply important requires practice.  Take a moment to consider three activities that you have a sense of obligation or heaviness towards.  Look through the needs list and identify which needs you are hoping to meet with those activities. Sit quietly with the energy of those needs and let that inform your relationship to the activities.

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