A Sacred Place In Relationships
The focus of the Satvatove programs are transformative communication skills that are valuable for anyone interested in excellence in interpersonal relations.
Utilization of such principles and techniques creates a sacred space in relationships. This provides an environment for clearing interpersonal barriers, and for powerful internal exploration and purification. In such a consciousness we are facilitated to courageously express all qualities of our being.
Immediacy is an important interpersonal tool that provides valuable feedback and requires assertiveness. With immediacy, we engage in direct talk about our relationship with the person with whom we are speaking. Often in relationships we talk about things happening outside the relationship, and certainly there is a place for that. Willingness and skill to engage in “you-me” talk, direct talk about the relationship itself, is especially enriching and conducive for high- level interpersonal relating.
An immediacy statement could take the form of expressing about your experience and perception of the general state of the relationship. “We seem to really aggravate each other a lot. Maybe it will be helpful to talk about this.” “I am feeling uncomfortable that you seem to need my permission so much. I have allowed myself to assume the role of granting permission. I’m worried about this dynamic between us.” Psychologist Carl Rogers speaks about utilizing direct talk to effectively challenge a client. “…I recall a client with whom I began to realize I felt bored every time he came in…Because it was a persistent feeling I realized I would have to share it with him…So with a good deal of difficulty and some embarrassment, I said to him, ‘I don’t understand it myself, but when you start talking on and on about your problems in what seems to me a flat tone of voice, I find myself getting very bored.’
This was quite a jolt to him and he looked very unhappy. Then he began to talk about the way he talked and gradually he came to understand one of the reasons for the way he presented himself verbally. He said ‘You know, I think the reason I talk in such an uninteresting way is because I don’t think I have ever expected anyone to really hear me.’ We got along much better after that because I could remind him that I heard the same flatness in his voice I used to hear.”
The tool of immediacy can also be used to address what is happening on the spot. “You seem hesitant to talk with me.” “I’ve noticed that we seem to be dancing around the issues in this conversation.” “Just now, as I started to speak about my promotion, you folded your arms and looked down at the ground.
I’m wondering what message you are sending to me with that.”
Immediacy Statements Demand The Courage to be Genuine and Vulnerable
Immediacy statements demand the courage to be genuine and vulnerable. Also, they require competence in other communication tools, such as empathy, attending behavior, and “I” statements. In presenting expressions of immediacy we want to be tentative in our language, because our comments may touch on sensitive areas, and while the effect can be confrontative, we don’t want to be intimidating. Tentativeness can include phrasing such as “perhaps…”, “It seems to me…” and “It is my impression that…” Because of the challenging nature of immediacy, it is important that we ensure that we have built a level of trust, perhaps using tools such as reflective listening and open-ended questions, that can contain the use of immediacy. Otherwise, our attempt at this skill may be a roadblock. Effective use of immediacy entails awareness of what is happening in the relationship accompanied by sufficient psychological distance to empathically and assertively respond to uneasy patterns or moments.
When we share an immediacy statement, such as “I feel very respected by the way you’ve listened to me just now,” or “I’m feeling uneasy and tense with you, like maybe I said something that offended you,” we convey valuable feedback while exploring our relationship with another person. Immediacy not only shines light on our relationship, it also provides a perspective for the person to see patterns in other relationships. If I experience someone as manipulative, or mechanical, or amazingly inspirational, I may not be the only one in the person’s life who perceives him that way.
Immediacy is beneficial for diffusing tension or mistrust in relationships. “I feel my body getting tense in this talk with you, and you seem annoyed by anything I say. Yet, we’re both smiling as if everything’s okay.” “I sense that it’s still hard for you to trust me since I didn’t show up for that appointment we had two months ago.” Other uses for this relationship skill include directly handling attraction or repulsion between people, and addressing barriers to clear relationships. “There seems to be some indication that the fact that I earn more money even though you’ve been at the company longer, is causing us both to be uncomfortable with and avoid each other.”
Without the capacity for “you-me” talk, relationships become blocked, with the participants fearful to speak about, or even acknowledge, what is stifling expression. That which is bottled up may surface in forms such as hostilities and withdrawing. Here is an exercise to integrate immediacy and empathy.
Empathy and Immediacy Exercise:
Consider your relationships with three people in your life. Write down an immediacy concern that you believe this person might have with you. That is, if she or he were to share “you-me” talk with you, what do you think he or she might say? To do this requires that you enter the person’s world and empathically connect with what is happening for him, in relation to you. After you’ve done this, if you’re feeling adventurous, share with the person what you’ve written, and invite him to respond. Also, in reciprocation, you can encourage him to share what he thinks might be your immediacy concern with him.
Sharing of immediacy can be deeply rewarding, though also it can be delicate.
Therefore, I suggest that after each expression in this exercise, the listening partner mirrors back what the other shared, to ensure understanding and minimize the possibility of reactivity.