HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 19, 2013 – 12:00am
I’ve been learning a thing or two about human interaction lately. The past two weeks, I had dinner with a few friends. I did three concerts the week before elections and also traveled to Kota Kinabalu with people I did not know. I met and spoke and engaged a lot of people in conversation throughout under different circumstances.
It’s hard not to notice that people want to interact. It is part of being human. We all want to reach out and touch and be touched as well. Some are just shyer than others
.As a performer, I know people watch shows because they want to experience some sort of altered state while watching a performance. It’s a way of getting some respite from the ordinariness of life. They want surprise and delight, involvement, feedback. They want a performer to make them feel at home and welcomed. They sing along, clap, wave and shout because they want to be noticed and be part of the big thing going on. In short, they want to experience being one with everyone else. That is exhilarating. They want to feel good, and at the same time be mesmerized. And a good performer can get all of that going.
.All human communication is basically giving and receiving. It’s always a give and take. People offer something to get back something in return. That is simple enough to understand.
In Kota Kinabalu, we had a guide who proudly showed us around his city and its sites. I noticed that each time any of us showed any interest in the history of the place or in something he said, he seemed to light up and want to engage us some more. He also stressed the commonality of Malaysian and Filipino words. It was his way of making everyone feel we were all connected and accepted.
A person who is sensitive enough can detect what another person needs. Deep down, every person wants and needs to be validated.
Two weeks ago, Lydia and I had dinner with a friend who lost a husband to cancer last year. It was going to be a simple dinner with no real agenda. My wife simply wanted to invite her to dinner because they have been lifelong friends and also because they both enjoy each other’s company.Over pizzas and wine, we talked about a lot of things. When she casually mentioned her deceased husband’s name, I asked her how she was coping with the loss. She answered that she missed him a lot but I noticed a hesitation on her part to discuss the topic further. Lydia asked a few more questions about him and she answered them.
But even when she did, she confessed she feared that she might be burdening us with her pain and loneliness during this dinner by talking a lot about her feelings. In her own words, she did not want to bemabigat or a damper on an otherwise happy get-together. We said we completely understood what she was going through and assured her that we had no problem or discomfort at all if she felt like talking about it. We reassured her by telling her to feel free to just be candid about her feelings. It was only then that she opened up.
Moments like these are tiny epiphanies for me. Pain, loss, suffering are real burdens in our lives, but often we imagine other people may not be open to discuss these with us. People suffering pain do not want to be in an awkward situation where they feel the other person may not be comfortable seeing their suffering.A lot of people feel like this, including myself. Maybe we all have a fear that if we reveal our pain we may not get the response we so badly want. If we exposed ourselves, would the other be sympathetic and offer a shoulder to cry on, offer an unconditional ear to lend, a compassionate heart to understand?
Pain can be too private and personal. Sometimes we feel that no one can possibly understand what we are going through and so we clam up and bleed in isolation. Lucky are people who are sure they have sibs, parents and friends they can run to unconditionally.
My wife is a cancer survivor and understands what it’s like to suffer in that way. We have a friend in Sydney who is currently undergoing chemo. When another friend of ours also in Sydney informed Lydia she was going to ask our common friend with cancer if she could accompany her to chemo, Lydia advised her not to “ask,” but to say she would pick her up and be there for her. To ask or offer help can sometimes make a proud but needing person uncomfortable and refuse because of the idea of being a burden. To just go, show up and support them might be better at times.
My sister-in-law in the US who was taking care of her sick husband 24/7 a few months ago was so touched when her friends informed her they were going to clean her house, her toilet, fix and arrange stuff in her cabinets and cook her some food. This was their way of showing their compassion without putting anyone in a needy position.
.It is great to be on the giving end especially when you do it voluntarily because you feel good about sharing. But to be on the receiving end can sometimes feel awkward. One may have feelings of being vulnerable and undeserving and so may become defensive especially when asking for help.The art of giving is to make it as easy as possible for the recipient to receive the gift. The art of receiving is to accept graciously and with gratitude the gift offered.
I was able to see some candidates up close during some sorties I participated in and I could see the dynamic give and take between them and the public. Clearly both candidates and voters were there to ask each other something. The candidates wanted their votes and openly asked for it. Most voters listened to the speeches, had a wait-and-see stance. But many were there primarily to watch a show even if there were also some who seemed genuinely interested in what the candidates had to say.
For people who got physically close, candidates strangely were greeted no differently from the stars on stage. And the people lined up to have pictures taken with both candidates and stars hoping perhaps that some magic would rub off on them. Maybe they thought that if they were lucky, something more tangible like a campaign T-shirt, or even cash, could materialize.
I notice though that when a candidate looks at a voter straight in the eye and listens to them sincerely and compassionately, a barrier is broken, a real connection is made and the voter becomes an enthusiastic disciple.
Learning these skills is valuable when dealing with all kinds of people whether they are strangers or close friends. Emotional intelligence cannot be underrated. Treat everyone the way you want to be treated, and you will most likely win them over. That’s what it means to emotionally connect.