Monday, January 27, 2014

Mirror, Mirror On My Daughter's Face

One day, a friend of mine was visiting with her baby. Cadence was tired of playing on her own and told me that she wanted to watch a TV show. I reminded her that we don't turn on the TV when guests are visiting and she responded by saying, "I want to watch a show, RIGHT NOW." I assured Cadence that she would get her TV time and acknowledged that it was hard to wait, but Cadence just repeated her demand. This time, she stamped her feet to emphasize the 'RIGHT NOW.' I tried distraction, but my girl was persistent and continued to demand and stomp.

Cadence had been doing the 'RIGHT NOW' thing a lot in the past few days and it was getting pretty annoying. It occurred to me in that moment that she often imitates some of the more obnoxious characters she sees on TV and that could be the source of the current annoyance. I decided to switch tactics and test my theory (my money was on Quack the duck). So, I smiled and acted like we were in on the same joke:

Monday, January 20, 2014

Radical Love: Inspiration From John Lewis

Before this past year I had a terribly incomplete understanding of the philosophy and practice of nonviolence. The word "nonviolence" always brought images of Martin Luther King, Jr. or Gandhi to mind along with thoughts of civil disobedience, peaceful demonstrations, and pacifism. My eyes were opened to the other side of nonviolence when I heard an interview with John Lewis, a civil rights activist, politician, and nonviolence advocate, on the On Being podcast (1). What I had been missing was the kind of active, radical love practiced by the adherents of nonviolence.

Nonviolence requires its practitioners to actively love and empathize with the people on the other side of their cause, even when the people on the other side are, "attacking you, beating you, spitting on you..." For many receiving that kind of treatment, it would be hard to not respond in kind. John Lewis explained the basis for not responding to violence with violence:

Monday, January 13, 2014

Laurel's Lessons in Patience

Soon after Laurel's birth, I described her to one of my friends as a little enlightened being, so serene and present. Like most infants, she's fairly immediate when it comes to basic needs. However, once she's fed and comfortable, see seems to have an abundance of patience and calm. When Laurel first discovered her hands, she spent several days in a row trying to move them to her mouth. She would watch with such intensity as she slowly moved her hand closer, closer, and then into her eye or cheek. It was kind of hilarious to observe, but she never got agitated or upset. She would just deliberately extend her arm and try again. And again.

This patient perseverance has continued. She'll spend fifteen minutes just studying her feet or doggedly grab at the monkey on her floor gym until she is able to snatch him out of his loop. I have much to learn from my little Laurel!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Prompting Others to Actively Listen

We have come to the final chapter of my Active Listening Primer! If you've been following along and practicing your new skills in day to day life with the people you care about, you may have started running in to a frustration that my hotline volunteers and the folks I coached through challenging conversations also encountered. Sometimes, what you really need is a demonstration that what you are saying is understood. When you work so hard to convey empathy through reflective communication and careful listening, it's especially hard to not be treated in kind.

So, how do you get someone else to actively listen to you?!?