Vulnerable Honesty and the Art of Embracing Judgments

Nov 08, 2012

The “Embodying and Teaching NVC” course I’m following started this past weekend (given by Yoram Mosenzon Beforehand, I wrote a few thoughts about how I might introduce myself to the group, and included this:

“I’m a tad nervous that perhaps I haven’t had as much training or practice as the other participants. But I’m far less afraid in this community of being unfairly judged, and that gives me much relief.”

Now when I read that, I find the term “unfair judgment” ODD! I came away from the weekend with a brand new realization that there is no such thing as fair or unfair judgment. Each one says something about the person with the judgment (a.k.a. jackal) and not the person being judged.

“Behind each jackal is a tragically unmet, beautiful need.”

I feel encouraged to celebrate each and every one of them (so many are my own, about myself!) in order to become more in touch with my needs and be able to connect at a meaningful level with others.

Vulnerable Honesty exercise

I practiced receiving honest judgment this weekend.  S-c-a-r-y  stuff, given my fears around people experiencing (or even thinking they are experiencing) judgment about me. We went through the following exercise, using 2 sets of floor sheets, labeled Honesty, Empathy, Self-Empathy:

  1. Hear the judgment, or Honesty from someone . . .
  2. Be in touch with myself/feelings via inward, or Self-Empathy; understand my innermost need concerning my reaction to the judgment and embrace it, while. . .
  3. Responding to the other with outward Empathy; try to understand the essence of what he/she says and connect to his/her underlying need without being defensive or blaming . . .
  4. Return to (silent) Self-Empathy when needed . . .
  5. Continue outward Empathy until the other feels complete, understood and is ready to hear what his/her judgment made alive in me.

The idea is that because I am in touch with my innermost need(s), I can find a calm space to establish compassion for / connection with the other (via empathic listening to myself and him/her, in that order).

My experience

The judgment I was told touched a very sensitive place in me, because I find that I walk around Holland/Europe with a certain paranoia that I’m seen as a “typical American” or one of “those Americans with [pick-your-irritation]”. Fortunately I’d been working on this issue already and not bowled over with sensitivity during the exercise. Basically, I heard that the first impression I gave was of a “typical American who is polished and perfect and comes across as superficial and fake.”

Woah, breathe deeply. This is painful, because as I took that first step of self-empathy, I got in touch with my deeply felt need to be myself and be experienced as authentic. I pretended to hold that need in my arm, like a baby, and cradled it as I started to speak with her about her judgment of me. I rephrased what she was saying until she felt heard/understood. Then I guessed that she perhaps had a strong need for people to be authentic, true to themselves, rough edges and all. She gave a mighty “YES!” in response. I invited her to hear how her judgment affected me and moved to my Honesty floor sheet while she moved to her Empathy sheet. I told her that I truly felt the same way, and so wish that people experience me as authentic and not judge me too quickly as “one of those Americans” before getting to know me. And that I didn’t realize I came across as polished and perfect, because I don’t see myself in that way at all! I mostly see (and critique myself) about how full of flaws I am, yet wanting, seeking approval and acceptance! On the other hand, I do realize that I’m always working really hard to not make mistakes and think carefully before presenting myself to others (see second sentence of this blog post!). Mostly I just shy away from the spotlight, but when I can’t avoid it, there’s so much work involved on my part to “get it right,” whatever I think that might mean.

My reflections

Then, when the exercise was over, something amazing happened. I felt mountains of gratitude towards her for sharing this judgment with me. I saw choices! I could continue cradling that need of mine while focusing on her “tragically unmet need” behind the judgment (which we did later on via open, connecting emails). But the choice I initially made was to allow this brand new light to be shined on old habits – habits I didn’t understand, but suddenly realized were having a possible opposite effect on what I most desired – to be experienced as authentic. So, I started experimenting in the days that followed with allowing myself to make mistakes, my less prepared/polished side to be seen to those who don’t yet know me. I realized for the first time that I never hit the “send” button without reading my email a minimum of 3 times to perfect it as much as I can. I better understood my sometimes paralyzed behavior as a result of “not daring to try” because I don’t think it’s “good enough.”  I felt an invitation to really dare to be myself, mistakes and all, because then I will come closer to having my need met to be and be experienced as authentic.

My homework for next month is to prepare a 20 minute activity about judgments/jackals and communication forms in general that block compassion. I’m feeling terribly motivated to dive into this assignment and can’t wait to learn how to give this gift of dealing with / learning from judgments in ways that expand life rather than diminish it.

Cara Crisler
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1 Comment. Leave new

What an enriching experience, Cara. I can relate to your feelings in so many ways. Thanks for sharing this.


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