Last week, I promised a post about ego-less conversations and here it is! First allow me to explain what I mean by the term: ego-less. The ego is the self-protective shell we build (think M&Ms) when we have issues of self-worth and are unaware of it.
Therefore, no one thinks they have an ego—they just think other people do.
We create this hard candy shell slowly over time to cope with having to go out into a world where we feel inadequate. Like M&M’s come in different colors, everyone’s ego looks different, but they are all the same in purpose—deflect, distract, and avoid connection.
Your ego will manifest as personality traits and behaviors of self-protection that are designed to avoid any forms intimacy. Therefore, having an ego is very inherently alienating to those persons in your world, because they don’t trust you—they don’t know you—and conversely so.
Since it is so difficult to live authentically with ego, it is important to do the work to become aware of our own ego. The quality of our relationships is the best measure of ego. Do we have great friendships where we feel deep understanding and love for each other? Do we have a loving marriage of support, respect and affection? Do we understand our children and feel connected to them? If not, it is because you may be self-protecting, too.
Today’s post is how to begin becoming aware of your own ego and learning how to have authentic conversations, aka ego-less conversations.
Below I will mention two powerful tools of connection that will not only help you interact in a way that will keep you out of ego, and it will help you pierce the hard crunchy shell of other people as well.
The good news is that is fairly easy to witness other people’s egos. The bad news is that it’s much harder to witness our own. The beauty of the universe is found in this design, too.
We will learn about our own ego and how to heal it, from dealing with other people’s.
Your relationships are to teach you about you. It is a divinely designed win-win. The irony, as I have personally learned the hardest way(s) possible, is that the very things that annoy us in others, are the exact things we need to work on as well.
Yep, I wish it weren’t true.
To begin to reconnect authentically (sans ego) with the people in our world, we must have no agenda for them—even a good one. This is the hardest part to master because most agendas are subconscious, and difficult to become aware of. These agendas are about issues within ourselves that often sneakily surface as desires for others near you.
We’ve all seen the mom who wanted to be a ballet dancer, and now the children are all pressured into dancing. The father who was abused and now over-compensating for his trauma and unhappiness by buying things for his children.
When we are in relationships in which we have most of the power, such as parent/child, or boss/employee, communication and self-awareness is even more critical. Even a simple wish for your child to grow up and be happy may put unnatural pressure on the relationship. Children and employees may believe they need to please to be safe.
All unconscious agendas are very toxic in these relationships. Especially, the “please be happy” wish. When a child believes that happiness is the parents’ wish, he or she may try to bury all other feelings to please his or her parents, which can lead to self-denial and pain.
We can reassure ourselves as parents that children are hard-wired to find all the good stuff, too. Yet we cannot engineer it, buy it, or wish it for them.
Ironically, the gifts and magic in all relationships come from allowing each other to experience all aspects of self—freely. We wish, desire and demand nothing for others because we accept them however they are in the moment, in every moment.
This idea is what spiritual masters call total acceptance. It may sound super boring, but it’s not. Acceptance is freedom, bliss, and a profound mind-body state that most scarcely remember (and are always seeking). When we allow this in relationships we are offering our highest form of self to them.
The gift of relationships is that all relationships can teach us about self-acceptance.
It is beautiful actually: we learn to accept others, and by doing so, we learn to accept ourselves.
If we do not accept ourselves authentically, the harsh criticism of a friend or co-worker can send us into a snowball of shame and defensiveness, revealing our own ego.
Therefore, all interactions are gifts of potential healing because they are reflections of our state and beliefs about our self-worth. When we learn to be okay with others, we learn how to accept ourselves and vice versa.
Here are two practices for healing your relationships and moving yourself towards the beautiful state of total acceptance:
STEP 1: TUNE INTO THE SILENCE.
Most people cannot connect fully through language and words anymore. There are many reasons for this. As we’ve discussed, number one reason is the ego. There are other reasons, as well.
A screen of any kind near a person will cause that person to give you only partial attention, and he or she may not hear some of your ideas. Or maybe your relationship typically occurs in the context of a busy, noisy background environment.
The good news is that language is not as important as you think.
Consider this: why are babies not born with the ability to speak? The gift of babies is that they are able to teach adults to connect through silence again. Languages are not universal, yet silence is.
Silence it’s the most important thing you need to tune into to understand other people again, connect with them, and know them. What you are listening for is the true music found in silence: lifetimes of information guiding you to the true nature of the universe. Your internal guidance is found here, too.
Yes, silence is not silent, it’s where the universal language we connect with others is found.
If you are struggling with relationships in your home or workplace, it’s time to be a monk for a day and take a personal vow of silence. There is a reason people meditate and go inward. We are fully equipped with an internal guidance system telling us not just when to eat and drink, but about everything and everyone in our path.
Try this exercise: mentally duck tape your mouth. If you can, turn off all sources of voices, such as TVs and radios too. Be quiet, and keep conversations to a peaceful minimum. Observe your world and coworkers, family and friends. Listen to what their body language says to you.
Are they tired? Tense? Aggressive? Kind? Are they hard workers? Loving? You will quickly become aware of any agendas they have when you watch them in your own silence.
Perhaps the hardest thing to discover in this practice is how difficult it will be not to choose the noisy world. Maybe you will discover your own agenda as well. GOOD LUCK!
STEP 2: AVOID “NOISY” INTERACTIONS.
We all must speak at times, but most conversations are challenging because intimacy teaches us to skew responses through the self-protective lens of ego.
Conversations become “noisy” to us because our unconscious lens filters the language of others into what we’ve trained ourselves to hear from them.
For example, if you have decided “Jim is a butt-head” because his behavior has wounded you in the past, when Jim speaks now, you may feel mind-body pain and will likely contort whatever he says to you into something a butt-head would say.
Maybe an argument always follows an interaction with Jim—or maybe you just have an argument in your mind-body. Your mind stays “noisy” from processing and accessing the intentions and character of Jim, or the old hurts he has triggered in the past. These things may linger and disturb your life for days.
People lose major time and energy by chronically processing interactions because they are trying to make sense of their challenging relationships.
You can reconnect to all the “noisy” people in your life by mirroring back to them what they’ve just said to you—before you allow yourself to formulate a response through your own filter.
Mirroring communication practice bypasses any opportunities for miscommunication and mental gymnastics.
For example, our friend Jim asks you to stay after work for a just a few minutes. A mirrored response would be, “Are you asking me to stay after work for just a few minutes?” Jim will verify that this is correct and tell you where to meet him. You mirror that back as well.
Mirroring practice guarantees that you understand what the other person has said, and it allows him or her to know that he or she has been heard and understood. It is a sign of respect, and great connections usually begin (and heal) through respect.
The most important thing to remember when connecting with people is that they are gifts to you to help you learn something about yourself. Every interaction with every person is a gift.
We often hear caring psychological professional and spiritual teachers imply that relationships and people are disposable, an idea communicated through phrases such as “time to let him or her go” and “humanity is insane.” It feels disturbing and hopeless, even though it may be true.
I’ve discovered that all people are exactly as I am. The moment we believe someone is too different to understand us, or vice versa, is a moment I am out of balance and in ego.
We are as deep as the ocean, and as flawed as the surface of the moon. We will participate in all forms of behavior on the planet; horrific and divine and ghastly and kind. We are to help each other and learn from each other.
There may be people in your life now that I describe as “beyond words,” meaning your words cannot affect their behavior anymore. They may be seriously mentally ill or may have stopped listening to you for some reason and it’s clear they are not willing to do the work to be in the relationship with you.
You may need to release them because they are too harmful and cannot respect the peaceful life you’ve asked for (many times, likely), but you can still love them and accept that they are choosing to learn by experience at this time.
We cannot reach a state of self-acceptance and have hate in our hearts. The universe teaches us through experience when we quit listening, too.
I’ll leave you with this: life becomes sacred, when everything and everyone are sacred.