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Loving Communication

Although his perspective may perhaps be slightly more Buddhist than some Christians are comfortable with, David Richo[1] has some sage advice applicable to all of us. After all, all truth, regardless of its source, is God’s truth.

Most of us are not even aware that we come at people, including our spouses and children, with negative agendas that block loving communication.

We may sometimes come at people with fears, worries, or defensiveness. Or, with the desire to gain something from the other person. Too often, I’ve come at people with judgment, caught up in my own preconceived opinions of others. At other times, we may come at others with a well-meaning desire to control, advise, fix, or change them. And, there are other times when we might come at others with a preconceived fantasy or illusion about who they are (knight on a white horse).

Instead, Dr. Richo advises us not to come at people at all. Instead, come to people with unconditional presence. Unconditional presence includes what he calls “the five A’s.”

1. Attention. Be sensitive to the needs of others. Listen deeply. Pay attention. Focus. When people’s feelings are listened to respectfully, when we try to understand what people are really feeling, when we seek to empathize with others, a sense of trust and safety result.

2. Acceptance. Receive people respectfully and nonjudgmentally. Accept them for who they are. Offer approval. Love unconditionally. Let others know you are always there for them and will never give up on them.

3. Appreciation. Express appreciation, admiration, and gratitude for others. Communicate delight in others. Verbally acknowledge their potential.

4. Affection. Give appropriate kindliness, considerateness, thoughtfulness, and affection to others. What is appropriate of course depends on the relationship. What’s appropriate with your partner, isn’t with a colleague.

5. Allowing. Allow others the freedom and flexibility to grow and develop at their own pace without controlling or manipulating. True spirituality is never coercive.

This is exactly how Jesus came to people. Look, for example, at Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman in John 4. Samaritans and Jews were arch-enemies. Men, especially rabbis, never spoke to strange women in public. This woman was married five times and living with a guy she wasn’t married to. Jesus offers no condemnation, no judgment, and no coercion. Instead, he lovingly approaches her with attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, and allows her complete freedom.

[1] David Richo, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist and author who has written, among others, the very popular How to be an Adult in Relationships: Five Keys to Mindful Loving; 2002; Shambhala Publications; Boulder, CO. ISBN: 978-1-57062-812-2

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