, Psy.D., LP

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Rock that Boat (with Empathy).

This week I rocked the boat by setting some new boundaries with people I love.

I asked for what I wanted, knowing it would be counter-cultural.

It wasn’t easy.  I was scared.

Normally, I’d just manage the conflict internally, and not “get real” with myself or others about what I actually wanted.  I’d tell myself I was meeting my needs for ease, peace and harmony by not bringing things up or asking for what I wanted.

And, in some ways that is true.

But, not rocking the boat also came at the expense of my integrity and self-trust.  

As I was deliberating over whether or not to express an inner truth that was increasingly clear to me, but still scary to say out loud, I realized something:

What often inhibits me from personal truth-telling, is my fear about how the other person or other people might take it.  I imagine their rage, their hurt, their strong feelings, their shame, and since I don’t want to “hurt them” or “upset them” I would habitually self-silence. 

So, what made this week different?

In my agonizing over whether it was “worth” saying something, a friend of mine reminded me to, “Just speak your truth, ask for what you want, set the limit, and then empathize.”

It’s so simple, really, isn’t it?

I sometimes forget that no matter how someone reacts or “takes it,” no matter what gets triggered in them, that I can always stay in my own lane and simply switch into empathic, empowered listening. 

When I trust myself to stay with connection and empathy, instead of getting derailed by defensiveness:

  • I no longer mold myself proactively to avoid reactions and judgments
  • I no longer apologize for or defend my own preferences
  • I no longer worry that we will split off or disconnect, because I trust myself to remain present to others’ reactions by empathizing with their feelings and their deeper needs.

These new choices each lead to a great sense of inner freedom and ease. 

  • Express your limits
  • Ask for what you what
  • Set a boundary
  • Empathize, and stay in relationship with those who matter to you.

So this week, I leave you with my new mantra:

Just speak my truth with kindness and courage. 
Then empathize, no matter how they take it.

(And yes, it does take courage!)

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