“An avoidance of true communication is tantamount to a relinquishment of my self-being; if I withdraw from it I am betraying not only the other but myself.” – Karl Jaspers
I don’t get many cold calls these days. Today, I did. Two, in fact – about five minutes apart. What struck me, as do most of these calls, is the perfunctory, scripted, energetically flat, “How are you today?” immediately after the caller states their name and company.
Kiss of death
In my mind, those four words are the kiss of death? Why? The energy between the words usually communicates to me (1) it’s not about me and (2) the caller is basically feigning interest and unconsciously jumping through a requisite hoop to get to the pitch, and, hopefully, to a sale. It’s all about them; not really about me. So, I hang up immediately – 99.9% of the time after a polite “No, thanks.”
So, let’s take a look at this dynamic from the perspective of how we meet and greet others at work, at home, at play and in relationship.
Do you care? Really care?
If you look back on your day today, or the past few days, or week, can you recall moments where you asked someone “How are things going?” or “What’s goin’ on?” or “How are you today?” Do you recall their response? And, more, can you recall actually stopping and listening, really listening to their response? Did you probe more deeply when someone responded with more than an “OK”? Were you actually interested? Did you feign interest? Were you respectful? Were you sorry you asked?
In a fast-paced, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter-driven world, many of us have a tendency (often unconscious) to actually “diss” the person to whom we’re speaking even while asking how they are. Unconsciously, we assume that our perfunctory “What’s up?” or “How’s it goin’?” falsely allows us to check off the “I acknowledged someone today.” box on my “how to have positive relationships” check-sheet. For many of us, it’s actually an unconscious, knee-jerk question we ask and, truth be told, we could care less about how they are. I’m sure more than a few of us, when we’re greeted this way, have an internal response of “yeah, like they really care!”
Between two people, or you and a team, or you and a group, there’s space – physical space. Here, we’ll focus on the space between two individuals. This space between the two is not empty space. Actually, it’s filled with energy. What kind of energy? An energy which, on a continuum, ranges from warm to cold, soft to hard, relaxed to tense, strong to weak, love to fear, etc. Get it?
The energy reflects the psycho-emotional “temperature”” of the two individuals. Your thoughts (conscious and unconscious), and your moods and emotions (conscious and unconscious) in that moment. This energetic phenomenon is called intersubjectivity and it’s what occurs when two souls meet. It’s about how you’re feeling – often based on what you’re thinking.
The experience of intersubjectivity is what allows your own “internal landscape” and that of the other to come to the fore, consciously. Intersubjectivity reflects the degree to which you allow yourself to open up so the other has a deeper sense and experience of you in the moment.
Intersubjectivity is a “conscious” and intentional experience. The experience of intersubjectivity allows you, in real-time, to be curious about who you are, who you’re taking yourself to be in the interaction, how you experience yourself and the other person – emotionally, physically, energetically, spiritually – from a perspective of “Who am I?” right here and right now. We’re not talking about role, position and the like, but of a deeper sense of “who I am.” All with curiosity – not judgment or criticism of self or other.
What am I feeling like (perhaps using a metaphor)?
What does the space in which I/we’re immersed feel like?
What’s my experience of “ease of be-ing” during this interaction?
How old do I feel?
What’s my heart center feel like (not the physical heart, but your spiritual heart center area in the middle of your chest)?
What quality does the ground have?
Am I “in my head” or somewhere else in my body?
How connected to the other do I feel?
What physiological sensations am I experiencing in my body?
Is my heart engaged?
What stories about this experience am I telling myself?
How grounded (vs. “spacy”) do I feel?
Do I have a lot of ego/mental activity going on?
Am I trusting myself/the other right now?
What’s my breath like, heart rate?
What’s my breathing like?
Am I sharing my truth?
Do I feel I’m being influenced by the other?
Am I feeling authentic?
Do I feel I want to be in this interaction?
Am I needing to be/feel accepted?
Do I feel supported by my Higher Self?
Why is intersubjectivity useful?
Intersubjectivity is one way to see yourself as a barometer that points to how you “show up” in relationship, to assess the degree of your authenticity, to look at the quality of your interactions – feelings, emotions, physiological sensations – and give you a sense of the quality of that “space” between you and the other.
Focusing on the quality of the space between you can and will – if you’re intentional and sincere – help you know yourself, who you are, during interactions. It’s as if the “content” is irrelevant; the “context” is everything.
What awareness of intersubjectivity does is support you to be “conscious” of your interactions. When you’re more conscious, you become aware of how your, heretofore, “unconscious” interactions, (e.g., walking into a room, office, kitchen, family room, restaurant, store, classroom, meeting room, etc. and uttering a quick “how’s it goin?” and making believe you care) will become less and less a part of your robotic “relationship repertoire.” It allows for “personal-ness” – a quality sorely missing from many of our daily interactions – at work, at home, at play and in relationship. And, from this place, you can be curious about how you’re meeting and greeting others, and why.
So, if you don’t mean it, or don’t care, then don’t ask.
“So when you are listening to somebody, completely, attentively, then you are listening not only to the words, but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not part of it.” – Krishnamurti
Some questions for self-reflection:
- Think about some folks with whom you interact regularly at work, at home, at play and in relationship. As you reflect, how would you describe the “space” between the two of you generally? What do you see about how you show up in these interactions, as a result of this reflection?
- Do you, consciously or unconsciously, distance yourself from others (through avoidance, being antagonistic, etc.)? What stories do you tell yourself to make this happen? Do you often feel “separate” when in dialogue with others?
- When you’re in dialogue with someone about whom you can’t see their good, or beauty or truth, how can you “warm” the space between the two of you and see their truth?
- All things being equal, if someone attempts to create a “safe space” between them and you (i.e., being open, honest, authentic, disclosing emotions, feelings, etc.), how does that make you feel?
- Did you experience the quality of intersubjectivity among your family members as you were growing up? What about now?
(c) 2015, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful.
Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.
What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”
I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.
I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com
You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.