Most of the richest, most cherished moments in my life have been found in my relationships with other people. To caringly nurture these relationships and create new ones, I came to realize I needed to understand my emotions and to lead with the heart in my communications.
Heart Qualities Nurture Relationships
The qualities that nurture long-lasting relationships with marriage partners, family and friends are the qualities of the heart: respect for each other, genuineness in communication, appreciation, compassion and forgiveness.
It is a lack of these qualities that ruin relationships and make them difficult to endure. Whether it’s the respect of a cherished child, the mature appreciation of marriage or the compassionate warmth of friendship, heartfelt feelings are what enhance our relationships.
Following your heart is about coming from a caring, self-secure place inside yourself where wisdom, intuition and understanding reside. This means we have to practice living from a place of authenticity and building a relationship with our own heart first.
The Role of Emotions and the Heart in Relationships
Emotions underlie the majority of the relationship stressors we experience, influence our decisions, provide the motivation for our actions, and create the textures that determine our quality of life.
The findings in HMI’s research, and the development of positive emotion-focused coherence-building techniques, have shown that the heart is a point of entry into the psychophysiological networks that underlie emotional experience. (See more: The Making of Emotions)
There is a vast difference between the mind driving our emotions within our relationships and the place of true heart. The rhythmic patterns generated by the heart are not only reflective of emotions, but play a key role in influencing emotional perceptions and experiences. Through its extensive interactions with the brain and body, the heart emerges as a critical component of the emotional system. So the most important relationship to understand is the one between our mind and heart. Then we are more likely to understand the hearts of others.
In fostering relationships with others, a heart intelligent approach is to offer an encouraging environment for the expression of feelings. This increases the possibility of genuine heart-felt connections and authenticity in communicating.
It’s this sincerity and heart connection that sustains or renews relationships, despite challenges, separation or time.
Communicating at a Deeper Level
Authentic communication requires both learning how to speak from a genuine heart place and especially learning how to listen more deeply. Slowing down and making a sincere effort to listen can help keep the communication bond intact. It helps you be aware of the deeper feelings of others, bringing a more sensitive, essence-based understanding to a relationship.
Good listening involves hearing on three levels:
- Words (what is actually said)
- Feelings (the emotions behind the words)
- Essence (what the words and feelings combined really mean)
Good listening starts with paying close attention to the actual words being said. This is important, of course, but unfortunately we often stop there; and this is where most miscommunication happens. Most arguments or misunderstandings are over words said—even when it wasn’t really what was meant.
The next level in communication is the Feeling Level. This is where a deeper understanding can be found. When listening, try to really feel what the person is saying and try to understand the emotions that are driving what is being said. Often words say one thing but the feelings another. This is the signal to listen more deeply.
The Essence Level of communication is where you find the understanding needed to get the real meaning of what someone is trying to communicate. To do this, you have to slow down what’s going on inside your own mind and feelings. It also requires remaining open.
When listening for the Essence Level of a communication, try to appreciate the other person as she is speaking. By holding a feeling of appreciation, you will be increasing your own sensitivity while offering a “safe zone” for someone to openly communicate (See more: Appreciation ToolTM and Exercises)
More Communication Tips
Next, try to remain neutral about what is being said. Don’t form opinions too quickly. Let the person finish talking before jumping to conclusions. Lastly, try not to interrupt – don’t complete her sentences for her.
To enhance your relationships, apply these three steps when listening:
- Listen closely to the words.
- Try to determine what feelings are behind those words.
- Appreciate the listener, remain neutral, don’t interrupt and look for an understanding of the essence of the communication—the real meaning.
Listening this way offers a gesture of care and respect. Listening deeply to one another goes a long way towards maintaining the respect and understanding that creates enrichment in relationships. By keeping your heart open and loving, you can feel heart-connected to others and gain needed social support whether you are in a close, loving relationship or not.
The Key to Lasting Fulfillment
Relationships are one of the greatest joys of life. They improve the quality of our experience and even enhance our health and longevity. But remember, no matter how wonderful and enriching our relationships are, lasting fulfillment can never come from another person. It is our relationship with our heart that offers us a boundless supply of love, care, compassion, appreciation and joy. Only when we have found that within ourselves can we share this great bounty with others.
Download The Inside Story: Understanding the Power of Feelings e-Booklet for free. Current research in neuroscience and emotional physiology are combined with engaging text and pleasing images in this vital guide to help you perform your best.