Connecting: When needs are met in a simple thank you

connecting with self and othersConnecting is a strong need in my life.

Someone I’m close to called today.*  He said he’d been thinking about a comment I made  earlier this week when I  asked him if keeping part of his life secret was necessary.

“You really got me thinking,” he said. He wondered what life might be like if he didn’t focus as much on hiding from others part of who he is.

Then he thanked me.

With his simple words of gratitude my heart opened. Connecting was present that hadn’t been there before.

Receiving this from him felt so good that I decided to look through the lens of The Connection Practice to see what this conversation might be offering me on a deeper level.

With his simple words of gratitude my heart opened.

When he said, “Hey, thanks for saying what you did,” I gave myself empathy by identifying all the feelings that came up:


From there I could see that many of my needs – basic human needs – were being met, perhaps especially:

my need for communication
to matter
to have my intentions understood
shared reality

Connecting to needs

Pausing a moment my need for shared reality rose to the surface as most important. In the conversation we’d had, we were viewing the situation similarly, and proof of that was his thank you.

Then I turned my thoughts to him. Though he wasn’t there, I gave him empathy by guessing that during today’s talk he might have been feeling:


And that these feelings might be reflecting some of his own met needs. Perhaps:

his need for understanding
shared reality
to be seen for who he is
to belong

This past year has been confusing and a little disappointing for him, and keeping part of himself separate from others may have contributed to that. I imagined that his  greatest met needs today were for progress and to be seen for who he is.

Then I prepared for a heart-brain insight to learn more about the celebration I was feeling. I brought my attention to the heart for heart focus. I imagined I could breathe in and out of the heart for heart breathing. After several breaths  I brought into my heart a feeling of appreciation for something easy – heart appreciation.

I take my time when I get to this part because it feels so good. Once I start feeling appreciation, I stay with it and let it fill me. When I felt ready I asked an open-ended question, “What do I need to understand about this conversation and my met need for shared reality.”

Not much time passed before the insight came. In addition to all that I had identified, there was another met need tucked in that short conversation, and it was a big one – intimacy .

That was exactly what I needed to understand!  In this world where disconnection often prevails, today’s phone call was a wondrous moment of intimacy between two human beings. I marveled at how simple the gift of a “thank you” can be to both offer and receive.

Connecting to insight

To complete the process I thought how I would act on this insight.

Writing this out has already helped deepen the experience. I better understand the compassion I have for my friend and his willingness to be vulnerable with me and in his own life. I’ll also keep celebrating the intimacy and connecting that came so unexpectedly with a simple thank you.

The process now feels complete.

Note to those of you wondering why it’s good to do this practice daily: Writing this was quick and easy and reminded me of the value of working with issues that are fully alive, like connecting.

*To retain privacy I’m leaving my friend’s name out of this story.

connecting through connection practice    

Related posts and resources

•  Wyoming Social Justice in Action: What exactly does look like in public?

•  The Connection Practice – training offered by the Rasur Foundation International

•  Connect with the Center for Nonviolent Communication

Ellen Synakowski, MA, RCST, is a certified Connections Practice Trainer, Coach and Presenter; a HeartMath coach, and a registered biodynamic craniosacral therapist.

Connection amid political chaos: Impossible, you say?

Connection in plitical calls in Tucson, AZ to urge early voting.
Finding connection with political calls in Tucson to urge early voting.

Connection amid political chaos: Impossible, you say?

Last Wednesday I volunteered at a political phone bank in Arizona.

It was the day of the last Presidential debate and 20 days before the election.

My only job was to urge citizens of Tucson to vote early.

Simple enough.

My workspace was sparse: ear buds, cell phone, call sheets, and a written script.

John, the 20 something manager-on-duty, offered three minutes of instructions including the mandate not to leave messages.

As a swing state, Arizona voters are flooded with calls like mine. One message I heard confirmed it: “If you’re calling about politics, hang up now.”

About an hour into my shift after I’d had a couple of angry responses to my suggestion that folks vote early, an idea came to mind.

If I put more emphasis on the tools of The Connection Practice I’d have a better chance of empathizing with whomever and whatever I encountered.

I started with self-care by focusing on my own emotions and why I was making these calls.

I’d been feeling powerless, agitated, frustrated and worried. My needs for peace, balance, and progress were high, but no satisfaction was in sight.

I asked for wisdom about the calls I was making. And then I paused.

I waited until a truth came forward in the form of reassurance.

Confirmation that because I care deeply about the outcome of this election, any small contribution I make will move me toward my own power and could even help create the progress I’m desiring.

With my own motives clear, I turned attention to the people on my list.

Might they be feeling fear and confusion?

Could it be some were distressed because their needs for ease and safety seemed far from where we were?

Considering strangers’ needs as well as my own changed the nature of my calls.

Instead of selling people on voting early, I listened, empathized, and if an opening presented itself, I encouraged early participation in the voting process.

Connecting with Voters

Then Dan, 41 years old, a registered independent, answered my call.

“Hi. This is Ellen. . . . I’m calling to ask if we can count on you to vote early this year?”

“No ma’am, you can’t. It’s disgusting what’s going on.”

“Sounds like you’re really disappointed. What’s bothering you most about the election?”

He told me, ending with, “I just can’t bring myself to vote for either one.

“I know that’s not what you want to hear. I’m sorry, ma’am.”

Yet I was oddly energized.

In that short exchange two people with different mindsets had expressed empathy for one another.

Here was a guy telling me exactly what I didn’t want to hear and yet the call felt like a success.

The next person who answered was an 80-year-old woman, Angeleine.

She said for the first time in her adult life she’s refusing to vote for a President.

“One’s a Nazi and the other should be jailed,” she said.

I asked if she felt discouraged.

Her voice softened. “Yes,” she said. “I’ve never felt like this before. It’s just awful. There’s so much fighting. I’m so angry. This isn’t right . . . ”

“I can understand why you don’t want to vote,” I said,

“If you change your mind, would you like to know where the closest early voting is?”

She declined.

I knew she was hurting; so was I.

Nonetheless I was grateful that that the two of us had, if only for a moment, found common ground.

With both Dan and Angeleine I experienced connection amid chaos.

What else might be possible if more of us knew and practiced these skills?

Could family divides be mended? What about gender equality? Might bullying be reduced?

Today I’m off to volunteer at a local nonprofit.

If you asked me what the likelihood is I’ll need empathy for myself or someone else in such a friendly place, I’d say the chances are right around 100%.

They usually are.

I’ll keep you posted.

Connections in more posts

•  Wyoming Social Justice in Action: What exactly does love look like in public?

•  Why I care: Witnessing Childhood Injustices