We want to be heard. We long for connection. We feel better when people understand us. We hear this all the time, but what does it actually mean?
I found my answer in an uplifting conversation with a friend. When I looked at what caused the interaction to feel good, there were several things that I enjoyed. Yet, one aspect stood out above the rest: my friend gets me!
How did I know? I felt heard and understood by my friend. She made a comment about me that wasn’t judging – it was an explanation about my behavior that I had already come to realize. It was like she was reading my mind!
There was something about this experience that was hard to pinpoint, difficult to describe. Yet, when I dug deeper, I realized what it was. Things about myself I would normally be critical of – harshly judging myself – were softened. Without even realizing it, I’d begun to accept the way I am rather than critiquing it. It was reassuring to know someone else understands me – that she gets where I am coming from, and that I am not alone in my thinking.
Several words come to mind that help define this experience. Validation. Reassurance. Acknowledgement. Empathy.
Connection is about genuinely understanding where others are coming from, and being able to communicate this understanding without making them feel judged, unsafe, or weird. Connection is acknowledging them; letting them know you see them just as they are. It’s also reflecting – telling them that you hear what they are saying. For instance, when I have a tough day, it feels good to hear, “Man, you have had a bad day.” There’s something magical in this exchange.
I think that’s why therapy can be so healing. When you share your darkest secrets and faults, you want someone that gets you and is able to convey that connection, without judgement or criticism – and sometimes, without trying to fix it.
This reminds me of Carl Rogers and one of his core concepts, unconditional positive regard. “Unconditional positive regard” boiled down is a quality of relating to others that exudes respect and acceptance. Carl Rogers believed that human growth is possible when the therapist conveys this type of support. I wholeheartedly agree with Rogers! It’s important that your therapist gets you.
Connection – it’s what we crave. We are social beings, yearning to be heard and understood, without trying too hard or feeling bad about who we are. If you strengthen connections with those around you, and surround yourself with people that do the same with you, how could you not feel better?