"I think it's impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves."
—Ender Wiggin, in Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
The key to a GREAT relationship is REALLY understanding, which is the soul of compassion. To know someone so fully that you can see past what you disagree with about them to what really makes them tick. To fully understand them as they are instead of as they "should" be opens up the door to truly loving someone.
How do we then really understand someone? It requires a lot of shutting up and a lot of listening. Simple? Yes. Easy? No.
Shutting up is not about just closing the mouth, it is about opening the mind to what the person is really saying—to where you can hear them from their hopes and dreams and pain and desperation. It is not about shutting down your opinions. It is about shutting off the noise of your opinions, judgments, corrections, and criticisms long enough so you can really heart what the other is trying to really express even if they are doing it poorly.
Listen for what is really being said. Listen for their suffering that is at the root of what they are expressing. Connect to it and let the compassion you feel for suffering well up inside of you.
But what if you don't agree? Fortunately, you don't have to agree to listen well. Understanding ≠ agreement, so don't get bogged down in "Yeah, but I just don't agree with what you're saying." Instead, listen so deeply to what is being said that you connect with their suffering in a such a way that your compassion is triggered. When you connect to your compassion they will feel that compassion in your speech and body language. Then they will feel understood. Then they will feel safe with you. That is the deep place that we use deep listening to take us to.
My dad, and educator, once gave me a book on teaching and learning called To Know as We Are Known. The title says it all. That is the secret of what we all want: to be known by others as we know ourselves. That kind of knowing is true understanding which is the very soul of compassion.
What do you think? Please share your thoughts on how YOU use compassion to listen and understand better as well as what gets in your way...