“What about me, my needs, do I matter?”
Do these existential questions lie behind so much of what we do and say every day? I’ve come to believe that they do, and that changes how I see people, how I relate to them, and how I respond to them. (Not to mention myself!)
A woman with whom I spoke recently shared a very personal story with me, and afterwards let me know that she was in essence asking these very questions. In her vulnerability, she expressed so eloquently, “I just want the longings from my heart to be truly heard and understood.”
I’m reminded of my sister-in-law telling me not long ago that she tries to not say “no” to her children unless she can think of a very solid reason. My reaction was something along the lines of lukewarm – I thought to myself, “it’s a parent’s job to say no – give boundaries and teach limits.” Yet, I struggled with the concept of what she was saying to me, wondering if she was right to not want to get into unnecessary power plays with her children.
And just this week, my NVC trainer, Yoram Mosenzon, again helped me put the pieces into place. He wrote the following words, which touched me deeply:
Behind any request anyone is making, there is an unspoken question, a secret question, a question we almost don’t notice . . . the question, “Do I matter?”
When your partner is asking you to clean the dishes
When your child is asking you for a candy
When a friend is asking you to help fix something
Or when a stranger is asking you where the next bus leaves
Know, more than about cleaning, candy, fixing or information, there is a human being in front of you, vulnerable standing there with the utmost vulnerable question: “Do I matter? Do you see me? Do my needs matter?”
If you address this question first, miracles in the relationships can happen.
I’ve been trying out this approach, and see that he is right. I am less on my automatic pilot (e.g. “of course you can’t have any candy”), and in this case see my child, expecting a “no” yet daring to ask anyway, perhaps wondering if I might SEE the vulnerable human standing in front of me. I find myself smiling, speaking gently, and even more likely to say “yes” when I can’t think of a really solid reason to say “no”.