Make a PACT
By: Lara Scriba
(4 min read)
“To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” – Aristotle
It can be easy to hold our thoughts, feelings, and ideas close to our chest out of fear of judgment and criticism. Demanding others to simply guess what is actually happening in our internal world. Though this may feel like the safest way to engage with the world, it is definitely not the most dynamic or authentic. Alternatively, we may also react quickly and sharply, jumping to conclusions, and disassociating ourselves from those in front of us.
By allowing ourselves to be honest when we are holding back or making assumptions out of fear, we are more likely to be able to step out of the entanglement of emotions and past patterning.
When connecting authentically with others, it takes a good dose of vulnerability, emotional intelligence, and resiliency. I’ve found that this is most difficult with those closest to us (partners, close friends & family), whose opinions we hold most dear.
The fear of criticism and judgment can quickly take a casual conversation into a spiral of overwhelming emotions and lashing out, snarky remarks, and even tears… leaving you smack dab in the middle of an argument, wondering, “How did we get here?”
Quickly reacting and becoming aggressive or defensive when challenged on our thoughts, feelings, or actions can shut down any conversation, leading to misery and misunderstandings.
Rather than allowing compassion and empathy to enter the conversation, we throw a wall up, disconnect, and no longer listen as we prepare for battle. We are simply responding to the story that we’ve created in our heads rather than engaging fully in what is truly (and usually subtly) playing out before us.
This is where our four steps to compassionate connection come in, changing the dynamics of our conversations allowing us to make a PACT to engage empathetically with the one in front of us and with ourselves.
~PAUSE – Take a few deep breaths before you speak, allowing you to calm the nervous system and respond rather than react. Mimic your meditation practice, noticing and naming the emotions you are having.
Allowing them to be present but also separate from your actual being, recognizing the response it elicits in your body (heart racing, clenching teeth, knot in the stomach, etc.), and naming what it is that you are feeling (fear, anger, sadness…).
Allow. Notice. Name. Quietly as you breathe. Checking in allows us to engage in a much more aware and thoughtful way.
~ASSESS – Take stock of both the environment (Has it been a stressful day? Are their fussy children at your feet? Is it right before mealtime?) as well as the emotional vibe (Have you or your partner had a short fuse all day? Feeling sensitive? Just left a stressful work or family situation).
We all have our limits. See where the barometer is landing at the moment (for both of you).
~ CURIOSITY- Enter the conversation with a sense of curiosity rather than a sense of conviction. Clarify by asking questions, digging deeper and challenging assumptions (yours and theirs). This allows an airing out of assumed assumptions and intent rather than sticking to the story you’ve created in your head.
~ TRUST – This can be the hardest one when we are feeling vulnerable and under fire. But trusting that they are doing the best that they can at the moment. We all struggle to show up fully at every moment.
Some days can be challenging, but giving others the benefit of the doubt, allows them to be human (therefore imperfect), and ultimately gives you the opportunity to also make mistakes.
When we are met with a sense of compassion and empathy, it is much easier to admit to making mistakes or to soften our responses.
This is a process and practice of building a more and more subtle awareness of not only what is happening within ourselves but also those we are connecting with and our environments. As we refine our internal awareness (thoughts, sensations, and feelings), we are able to own our emotional environment and engage from a place of deep connection and ownership rather than simply dropping into a power play desperately grasping for control.
By building our emotional awareness, witnessing our body’s reactions, and learning to trust our intuitive, inquisitive nature, we can change the name of the game altogether from criticism, control, and judgment to one of curiosity, compassion, and connection.