The Three Bridges

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Seeing and hearing are natural gifts for us. Look at the way animals use their senses to their advantage. They can sense safety, danger, play, and even food! We can use our senses to determine if someone is swept up in sadness, anger, or fear. And then we can confidently know how to best offer help.

IDENTIFY THE EMOTION

With just a little practice, you’ll be able to recognize the emotions underneath other people’s demeanor, words, and actions. Rather than reacting to what they say or do, you can extend a communication “bridge” to help shift their emotional state by offering what they truly long to hear but don’t know how to ask for.                      

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To figure out what emotion is probably going on, ask yourself “Where is their attention focused?”

IF THEY’RE FEELING SAD…

  1. People feeling sadness (but often not crying) are most likely thinking or speaking poorly of themselves. Maybe they are being passive or clingy. They need genuine appreciations. In your interactions with them, convey the idea, “I love you. You’re great.” Remind them of their strengths and contributions.

 

IF THEY’RE FEELING ANGRY…

  1. Folks striking out in anger and spewing “you”s all over the place with blame, negativity, and criticism really just feel isolated and are in desperate need of understanding. They won’t respond well to debates, lectures, or reprimands. The chances they’ll hear what you have to say are slim to none unless you can genuinely connect with them first. You need to sincerely hear them out without taking what they say personally. Focus on what’s going on with them behind their angry words and let the rest go flying by, that is, their “you”s and accusations. Silently repeat or say, “I want to hear what you have to say” and just listen.

 

IF THEY’RE FEELING FEAR…

  1. If someone is overwhelmed, anxious, or freaked out chances are she’s got some unexpressed fear stocked up. She needs honest reassurances. Comfort, soothe, and repeatedly remind her that everything is and will be all right. Other reassuring comments are “We’ll make our way through this together,” “I’m here” or “I’ll take care of it.” Or offer reassurances by reminding her of the objective reality: “Your boss really likes the work you do,” or “You’ve done this successfully before.

 

If you’re unable or unwilling to offer a communication bridge, it’s probably because your own unexpressed emotions are getting in the way. It’s okay. You’re human. To quickly reignite your compassion, take a brief time-out and handle your own emotions or remind yourself of the objective reality. Then you will be able to look within your heart, and if appropriate, extend a bridge.

You’ll deepen your personal relationships when you become adept at recognizing other people’s emotions. You can use this knowledge to communicate in the ways most helpful to them. What an amazing talent you’ll be cultivating. For example, if you know that your husband is quick to anger, you can consciously listen silently and understand his position, especially at times when he is upset or under stress. If a workmate often seems glum or down, you can choose to validate her gifts and skills a little more often.