I recently took part in an unusual exercise on a group course. There were 12 men and 12 women taking part and the women were asked to stand while the men moved among them. We were asked to individually approach each woman in turn, form a judgement and look at the woman with that judgement, but without saying anything.
Then, the men were asked to stand still while the women approached us individually, sensing inside for the judgement that we were making of each of them. The woman then voiced this to the man she was then looking at: “You think I’m ………..”
It was an uncomfortable but necessary part of this exercise looking for something to find fault with in each woman. What was surprising to me, was that in not one of the twelve cases did the woman correctly sense the judgement that I was making, not a single time.
It seemed that their assessment of my judgement was in most cases an expression of either what they felt about themselves, or a previous judgement they had received in their lives eg “You think that I’m a foreigner.”
If these women were all misunderstanding the reason for my rejection of them, musn’t I too usually get it wrong when I sense judgement being made of myself. And if we are both misunderstanding what the other is feeling, how much true communication is being achieved?
Often in intimacy we get caught up in the experience and move away from verbalising how we feel either at the time, or after, when we tend to move away from the experience. We are continually making guesses about what the other feels, which we usually don’t see as guesses. The lesson in the above exercise is that we should be much more cautious about accepting our own opinions of what another person is thinking.
The shortest way to avoid getting it wrong will be to sincerely ask what the other feels, being willing to receive their answer, whether or not to our liking. That attitude is needed to help the other feel the trust and acceptance needed to be honest.
One way to do this is to simply, genuinely ask, ‘What are you feeling inside?’