Interrupting to Connect
"Don't do anything that isn't play." This is a standard line of Marshall Rosenberg's (the founder of Nonviolent Communication). It's one of my mantras. For me it means - connect with what's alive in every moment. Sometimes this isn't so easy.
I was recently in a phone conversation with my brother in which he talked for 30 or 40 minutes about sports. I felt myself tighten up as the time wore on. I heard myself saying, "Doesn't he want to know anything about my life?" "Doesn't he know that I don't want to hear about how his favorite sports team is doing?"
How can I connect in such a circumstance? I don't want to get in a fight by telling him I am bored and frustrated by our conversation.
First, I do self-empathy. In my own head I have this little dialogue: "I'm feeling frustrated because I want ease and mutuality in our conversations. I also love my brother and want connection and harmony in our relationship."
Second, I guess his needs. He wants connection too, to be seen and heard, and maybe celebration. That's my guess.
Third, I interrupt to connect with both our needs in mind: "Hey bro, I know following sports is exciting for you, I like hearing your excitement and, at the same time, following sports is not a part of my life so I feel myself starting to drift. I am really wanting to connect with you and feel close. Could we talk about something we are both into?"
Brother: "Yea, like what."
"Well, spiritual practice is really important to us both. I would like to hear what's going on for you there and share with you what's happening for me."
We are all taught that interrupting is rude so it can be hard to do. It's helpful to remember that usually what people want most is to connect and be heard and seen fully and a lot of times they are stumbling through words and feeling a bit disconnected themselves. Interrupting then, is a way of saying "I care enough to work for this connection."
This week, the next time you find yourself in a conversation where you're feeling disconnected - STOP - Connect with your own feelings and needs, connect with the other's feelings and needs, and interrupt to address feelings and needs of both of you and make a request.