Monday, October 18, 2010


Every person on this Earth sees the world from their own two eyes, hears the words spoken by others from their own two ears, interprets the sights and sounds around them through their own experience.

Your experience is yours alone and no one else can truly step inside of you and see what you see or feel what you feel. One of the reasons I appreciate your comments so much is because it allows me to see what I've written, thought and felt from a different perspective. I've always been gifted at stepping into the shoes of another person to try and see and feel what they do so that I may understand their choices and actions. This is empathy. Whether natural talent or developed skill, empathy is a key to quality relationships.

No matter how empathic one is, it does not enable them to change the way another thinks about something. Last week I read a heart wrenching series on domestic violence by The Redhead Riter . The "truth" of a situation is subjective. Painfully, dangerously so sometimes. But no matter how much good we mean to do, we can't force another person to see what we think is right. Even when their life depends on it.

It's not always life or death. Our perspectives are challenged every day as parents. When we don't like the way our children, or our spouse, are behaving, we might say in frustration, "What is wrong with you! Why are you acting like this?!" Because we want them to act differently. We want to control the behavior and force it into something that we find more acceptable. Something more in line with the way we see the situation.

For example, for a long time when my girls would fight for my attention (they're just 15-months apart, so they've almost always had to share me) I would get so irritated and sometimes even end up storming away from them, angry for the way they clung and whined for me. Recently, with the third child joining the fray of mommy-attacking-hugs, I've made a different choice in the way I react. Yes, choice. Now, I choose to allow gratitude to fill my heart and as all three kids are knocking me over I say to myself and to them, "Boy, am I a lucky mommy to be so loved!!!"

The "why" behind their fighting over me was because they each loved me so much and wanted to show me and share with me their love. From our children's perspective there is always a reason for their behavior, whether good or bad. It's our job as parents to take a moment and look into the heart and mind of that child. Exercise your empathy. Choose to honor your child's feelings and then be a guide, not a dictator, to help them learn to choose more appropriate behavior.

The same applies to marriage and friendship. Look for the "why" behind the behavior. As Stephen Covey puts it, "Seek first to understand." Only then can you be understood.

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