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  • Writer's picturelarahammock

L-U-V-E - The Path to Connection

Active connection is the process of understanding, validating, and empathizing with your partner. My acronym for this process is LUVE. When people say they really feel heard or seen? It’s because someone has actively connected with them -- generally through this process. Below I'll outline the steps required for emotional connection with your partner in order from easiest to most challenge.

  • L- Listen - Step 1 is to listsen. I mean really listen. Put down your phone.  Turn your attention entirely to your partner. Act like you are going to have to take a quiz on the content of what they are saying. Really tune in.

  • U - Understand - Next, make sure you understand completely what it is they’re saying. To make sure that you have it, recap what they are saying and ask if you have it right. When we are hearing difficult information, it can be hard to have a good understanding of our partner's perspective. It's too easy to think about how that information impacts us. Knowing that can be the case, make a conscious effort to put aside your own views for now and really try to comprehend your partner's view. Continue to summarize and make sure that you are understanding everything clearly while getting confirmation from your partner.

  • V - Validate - The next step is to validate. Everyone makes sense internally. Try to figure out cognitively how their view makes sense for your partner. If you can’t figure this out, you need to ask more questions! You don’t have to agree with what they are saying or wanting to do, you only have to understand why it makes sense for them. Once you do, you can validate them. “I can completely see why you would feel that way!“ “Based on your past experience, I get why you came to this belief!” This is a cognitive, intellectual exercise, but is important to do before you move to the next step which is to

  • E - Empathize — Once you have a cognitive understanding of where your partner is coming from, only then you can move into a more empathetic stance. By this, I mean that you can feel emotionally in your body what your partner is feeling. Again, you do not need to agree with them, but you feel in your body a sense of their anxiety, dread, despair, or hopelessness. Empathy requires that you have both a sense of your own body's emotional activity as well as a connection to your partner's emotions. You need to be firmly "in your own skin." That sense that you have a softened, emotional, felt sense of someone else’s pain or experience allows that person to feel entirely known by you. Empathy also brings a desire to care for that person and reduce their suffering. This is the final step of connection.

Each of these steps represents developmental growth. You can't expect to leap directly from listening to empathy. And you can't master all of these steps in one try. Instead, each step requires a lot of repetition. In addition, trying your new skills in a more difficult situation (for example, with a more emotionally charged topic) will continue to build mastery. Practicing each step in increasingly emotionally charged situations will help you build the muscle memory and new neuronal paths required to have a more wholehearted and connected partnership. This path, L-U-V-E, is the process of active connection.

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