April 13 - A Paragraph of Attention

Communication in a relationship is an intriguing subject...everyone seems to want it; yet few know how to create it in a healthy way. The subsequent lack of connection often causes significant enough pain that a person easily can be led into the temptation of addictive behaviors or moods.

Today I heard one individual bravely struggling to let his loved one know what he needed. “Just a paragraph of attention,” he said. “I don’t need much, but I do need a paragraph.”

There was such sadness and resignation in his voice. He really didn’t think it would ever be possible to get his needs met. He grew up in a large family, and there was little time for individual attention. He had been craving this “paragraph of attention” since he was a young boy but sadly living in the impossibility of ever having it.

“What would that look like?” I asked him.

He had to think a minute, and then he responded with, “I would just like to be asked how I am and then have some conversation where both of us speak. It doesn’t have to be a big ‘love’ thing, just a paragraph of attention.”

As luck would have it, the only way his partner knew how to communicate was by withdrawing and silence.

“What are you trying to say in the silence?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” was the response. It seemed at first glance like we were at a stalemate.

Yet with some careful questioning and intense listening, we were able to get closer to the answers we would need. Closer, but we had not yet arrived at our final destination...that would take time; fortunately they had both made the commitment to meet weekly and be on eClubSoda nightly to work on their communication.

Often the most difficult part of beginning a new style of communication in a relationship is speaking for that which you want. The gentleman mentioned above is a respected leader in his community; he holds a prestigious position in a large firm and yet his request came out almost in a whisper. He had stepped into a place of vulnerability that was new and unfamiliar to him…and by doing so, he took the first step toward having what his heart had always wanted.

He finally gave the ache and hurt inside of him the “paragraph of attention” that he had been requesting. He identified that which the emotion was trying to communicate to him, and then he let his partner know exactly what he had discovered. Now at last, he had a much better chance of receiving it, for together they could create a way for his needs to be met.

What in your life needs a paragraph of attention? And who might need just that from you as well? What do you not yet know how to do in the domain of communication? For example, is it difficult for you to listen without jumping to conclusions or defensiveness, or do you perhaps have trouble asking for what you need? Do you use silence to drive home a point? If so, is there something else you could do or say that would enable you to be heard more easily?

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