Have you ever noticed that some of the most profound things in life are simple? In this article, I will introduce you to a simple way to improve your relationships. It’s simple and profound.
Ask for what you want
If you want to connect with your partner, child, parent, or friend in a healthy way, ask for what you want instead of complaining about what you didn’t get. Most of us complain about what we didn’t get, or we complain about what we got that we didn’t like.
“I don’t like your tone of voice.”
“You haven’t been very affectionate lately.”
“You don’t take the time to understand my point of view.”
“No matter what I do it doesn’t seem like enough for you.”
Instead of complaining, why not express what you want?
“I would really appreciate it if you would try to use a softer tone of voice with me.”
“I would love it if you were more affectionate with me because I enjoy connecting with you.”
“I want you to try and understand something from my point of view.”
“I want you to let me know when you feel satisfied with me.”
Simple. Clear. And I’m not giving the other person any reason to be defensive or step back.
Two different levels of communication
The next point is to realize that I can make any request from safety consciousness or heart consciousness. If you aren’t familiar with these terms, you may want to read my previous article. But here’s the short story. When I am in safety consciousness, I’m focused on protecting myself, or my agenda—doing things with an intention to make myself feel more secure. When I’m in safety consciousness, the other person is more likely to hear my requests as demands, threats or ultimatums.
When I’m in heart consciousness I’m focused on appreciating my life, loved ones, and the sweet innocence of vulnerability. I’m feeling open and available to connect. What I am offering is an invitation, not a demand.
In the 21-day Thrilled To Be Alive course that I’m teaching, one participant asked recently, “How can we remain in heart consciousness while still creating boundaries of acceptable behaviors?”
My answer is that when I’m truly in heart consciousness, my requests are received very differently than when I’m in safety consciousness. In heart consciousness, my intention is not to change or control the other person, but to reveal myself. Then I allow the other person to respond to my invitations, not my demands. The choice is theirs.
In response to my answer, the participant in my Thrilled To Be Alive class said, “I resonate with the notion of acting in heart consciousness and allowing someone to meet you there or not—that freedom of choice. What if they choose not?”
An example of safety consciousness
This is a beautiful example because if you step back and listen, you may hear that the question being asked is coming from safety consciousness. “What if they choose not?” This question leads to hallucinations about something in the future that might or might not happen. When we are concerned about what might or might not happen, we’re in safety consciousness—not in the present.
If I ask my partner for what I want, and I do so from heart consciousness, I’m not worried about their response. And my delivery will feel very different, less likely to produce defensiveness or resistance.
As to the question, “What if they choose not?”—in other words, what if they reject my request, then my partner and I have arrived at a deeper truth. Maybe that truth is that we want different things, or my partner is scared, or doesn’t understand what I want, or doesn’t know how to meet my request. We keep going. We stay in heart consciousness, and we keep going.
Or, my partner chooses not to be in heart consciousness. My partner—for whatever reasons—feels the need to stay in safety consciousness, to protect herself. If so, this is her answer. Now I know the limits of what’s possible. This leads to a different conversation, but I can stay in heart consciousness. And if I do remain in heart consciousness, the possibilities for what can happen are different than if I go into safety consciousness.
Once we access heart consciousness, many of the questions we were asking in safety consciousness become irrelevant. And so I recommend being very intentional about the questions we ask. Our questions direct us to different levels of consciousness.
Both are necessary and valuable
I want to emphasize that both safety consciousness and heart consciousness are necessary. To have healthy relationships we need to become skillful in navigating both safety and heart consciousness. So the participants in our retreats learn to become good at both safety and heart consciousness.
We believe the best tool for navigating safety consciousness is Perception Language, which is a different way of speaking. When we use Perception Language we eliminate blame, so the other person doesn’t get defensive. We stay focused on what’s happening in the present instead of bringing the past into the present. We stop holding the other person responsible for how we feel and as soon as we do this we free ourselves from feeling like victims.
Finally, and most crucially, Perception Language is a tool that helps us realize and remember that the meaning we are making—of everything—is made up. When we get this in our bones, we become far less attached to our ideas, identities, egos, positions, and need to be right. By loosening my grip—stop trying to control the other person—I open the door and can step fully into heart consciousness.
These pieces all go together. To live in heart consciousness without knowing how to navigate safety consciousness is unrealistic. And if I don’t take the time to learn how to communicate clearly, be present, stop blaming others for how I feel, jumping to heart consciousness is a form of spiritual bypassing that muddies up the waters. After I develop safety consciousness skills, which are quite elegant, then I need to learn and practice how to shift into heart consciousness. Otherwise, I will limit all my relationships.
Our upcoming retreat is designed for people to learn, practice, and master the skills of safety consciousness, as well as to open our hearts and experience the ease of love.