“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
I remember a fight my Grandmother had with her baby sister. They were 75 and and 64 years old, respectfully. I don’t remember the details of the fight, perse’, just that the conversation became heated and then simply ended….for a good, solid 7 months or more. The reason I remember this particular fight is because my Aunt had traveled 2000 miles to visit her sister. After this fight she received a call. Her husband had died of a heart attack. She drove off in her car without even a hug or a word of sympathy from her sister, my Grandmother. The years of hurt and pain between them had ruptured into too wide a gap and they had no way to reach across – one to the other. The well of pain only grew deeper. At a time when turning to each other could have been a place of comfort and strength, they lacked the ability to do so.
This family story of mine is one that gave me incentive to learn about communication and continues to give me incentive to help others learn communication skills. At the time I could not believe my grandmother’s ability to ignore her sister and I was saddened. Now, after many years have passed and after years of studying NonViolent Compassionate Communication, I can begin to understand how these two women, sisters, came to this place of grid-locked conflict. Do I agree with the behavior? No. Am I able to look with compassion at two women who carried the pain from years of family dynamics? Yes. Have I lived enough years to understand that we all, intentional or not, end up hurting each other with our actions and words? Yes. I have stopped pointing the finger at my Grandmother for her hurtful action, finding safety from pain by retreating into silence. It was the only wall of safety at her disposal.
In my work, I find that we can get beyond the pain which leads to grid-locked conflict, a conflict where no one wins and everyone is running for safety, by the words we speak and the words we hear. I am excited to see the walls come crumbling down when two people learn to speak and listen from the foundation of Compassionate Communication. The pain begins to ease and the connections deepen.
I only wish that I had known this model of communication when my grandmother and aunt were fighting with each other! But I did not and, in my opinion, they were both stubborn in their pain. And so, with the passing of years and the gaining of skill in communication I have learned that someone must start. One person in the relationship must begin the journey to understanding each other and the end of conflict.
Dr. Suess was right. Will “you care a whole awful lot”? Will you reach beyond pain?