A new man awaits to be born

The preparation for the 4th class of the Effective Conversations course is difficult for me.

I sit in the living room with Eli and share my plans for tomorrow’s class. “I want us to learn how to see reality from other perspectives, get into their shoes,” I say.

When we understand that everyone is a hero in their own eyes, everyone believes themselves to be good and moral – we can understand them better. Yes, even terrorists. They don’t see themselves as terrorists. They see themselves as freedom fighters. They believe they have to save the world from colonialism and their people from the occupation and injustice. If we can see the reality from their eyes, from their perspective, get into their shoes, we will see ourselves in them. We will see that we hold on to the same unresolved issues they have because they are a reflection of ourselves. If we can be compassionate to them, if we can listen deeply, they will drop their guard, feel safe, feel heard, their suffering and resistance will decrease. The conflict may turn into a deep heart to heart conversation.

As our conversation goes on, we start to talk about white supremacy, and in particular menwho don’t respect women. How on Earth can we see the world from their eyes? I realize it is very hard for me. I’ve come across a new trigger. “The growth path never ends,” I say, smiling, to Eli. I take a moment to adjust emotionally and ask Eli if he can channel one of those chauvinistic men. For the sake of this exercise let’s say someone like Trump, what would his thoughts be? Why from his perspective are women less than men?

I ask him to imagine himself as… “No need,” he says, “I can easily get into this role.”

“I would not call myself a white supremacist. I’m just a real man, maybe a bit old-fashioned, a rational man. And, I wouldn’t say I disrespect women, I would say that there is a difference between men and women that our modern society is trying to eliminate. Feminism and equality are wrong concepts that disrespect the differences. Men have lost their masculinity and women have lost their femininity over this attempt to flatten the differences. That, in turn, caused lots of problems in our society: high divorce rates, loss of passion, more confusion of the gender roles at home and in work environments and more LGBTQI+ people.

“Women should do what they always did, raise kids, look after the household, cook for the family, support their husbands and take care of their appearance. Men should do what they are good at, lead and be strong, provide for and protect their family. This is just common sense and what has always worked. Women that focus on having a career neglect their family, abandon their kids who miss out on education and lose attachment to their mothers, and that’s also a problem.” 

“What about sexual harassment?” I ask.

 “I don’t justify that, but there is a lot of grey area there. Some women use sexual harassment to hurt and manipulate their bosses that don’t give them a raise. If a woman advances her own agenda using sexual innuendo and behaviour and then changes her mind, sues the man and says it was sexual harassment – that’s unfair as well.”

I feel myself tightening. I take a deep breath and take a look inside. An old fear surfaces. I was always afraid to be weak, to be seen as a sexual object, to be taken advantage of, to be dependent on a man. I never felt safe in the world. I felt that the world was not a safe place for women. I could never get rid of this deep belief.

I wanted to look good, and I wanted to be wanted as a woman, but not for my body alone, not without my soul and my qualities being seen. This “game” is confusing for so many women that find it hard to balance the seemingly contradicting needs. 

Eli sees that it’s not easy for me to hear that and he reminds me that those are not his opinions. He reminds me how much he is proud of me for doing this work for the world and that I’m so much more courageous than him by putting myself into all those conflicts. He can’t do that.

It helps me loosen up. I can see now from a “real man’s” perspective why they believe they need to be strong at all costs. Providing for their family gives them meaning, a reason to live. Everyone needs to be needed, appreciated and important. It’s the safety from which men can go hunt and take risks. It’s the primal brain of the hunter. But, things weren’t so simple, and that balance never worked well. Unfortunately, men oppressed women throughout history. Women were murdered, raped, abused, used, controlled, shut down, ridiculed, and burnt at the stake.  Women have had to endure so much suffering and trauma. We treated Mother Earth in the same way. Her giving nature is endless and her ability to create life is diminishing at an alarming rate. Mother Earth is not herself anymore. Nature needs to recover. 

Oppressing women throughout history has brutally deprived women of their true feminine nature and power. Women can’t be soft, accepting and loving unconditionally any more. Mother Earth cannot be nutritious and abundant as she once was. The more this happened, the fewer women were able to truly love and accept the men for who they are, instead, they were met with a fearful gaze.  Men could not feed their souls at home anymore and in turn, became even more aggressive, took forcefully what they believed to be theirs, to fulfil their needs. But, those needs were never truly fulfilled. They were left empty and ashamed of what they did, and never processed the guilt that caused this cycle to get worse and worse. It pushed men to go to war, to accumulate more, to consume more, to take advantage of natural resources, run after status symbols and be as powerful as they can, stepping on anyone that got in their way.

The feminist revolution wanted to fix the inequality, the unfairness, put an end to the suffering and bring women back to their power. However, since the game we played for so long was built by men and for men (the game of needing money to survive and thrive, the linear success that pushes to have more than we need and nothing seems enough), women were doomed to fail. Women fell victim to that game as well. We did our best to fit into this war-zone society, develop successful careers, be part of the decision making so we feel acknowledged, safe and respected. We only fit in if we became men. And maybe that’s what the “real man” is talking about when he doesn’t like career women. I can see the importance of our differences.

I remember myself as a little girl wanting to be a man. I hated my feminine body. I had a terrible period-pain, and I tried to hide my emerging breasts. Unconsciously, I resisted being a woman. I just didn’t want to be weak. My unconscious thought was “If I am weak I’ll be raped. No way!” Unsurprisingly, I was a tomboy. In elementary school, I wanted to do only what the boys did, at middle school I learned martial arts and fought only against boys that were two heads taller than I was. I trained hard to be appreciated for my physical power and went to the gym to have my muscles show. I was proud of the bruises that I got from fighting at the dojo, for strengthening my bones. Is this Feminism? Equality? That was what I thought back then.

If you were to know me today, you wouldn’t believe that I was like that. It took me more than a decade to unwind these deep-rooted beliefs about women and appreciate my femininity. Only from this honest acceptance of myself could I do what I do today. I can go into all those difficult conversations and conflicts, hold space for hurt souls to express themselves and explore their emotions, biases, traumas, cry and shed their old patterns of the past. I can see them through the walls they created to protect themselves, where they lost the connection with their hearts. I’m the mom they never had, the one that “should have” loved them unconditionally.

A society that truly understands the power of femininity appreciates the feminine traits of softness, compassion, intimacy, vulnerability, sharing, cooperation, expressing, feeling, motherhood.  It would be a society where women empower men and men empower women and we cherish our differences for the greater good of all. Women’s natural traits are the best “weapon” to balance the anger, greed, control, helplessness, cold-minded rationality and self-destruction that is so prevalent in our current society. Men today have lost their way, they have been detached from their feelings, stuck in a loop of having more and never having enough, running after empty success to the extent of self-destruction and the destruction of Earth itself. They are desperate to be held and seen.

A new man awaits to be born, one that will have no need to repress women and other living beings to meet his needs. He will protect Mother Earth for he knows in his heart her true value and the value of all life on our planet. He will be more powerful than ever, connected to his heart and his vision, motivated by wholeness, he will see the whole picture, this the leader we all wish for. 


If you liked this, follow me on Twitter. I teach people how to talk about hot topics without exploding or shutting down.

@yaelfiner

Depolarization

Our world is becoming more and more polarized and I’ve been looking for ways to help bridge the gaps. I hope you find what I’ve discovered useful.

Communication challenges

I interviewed more than 45 people on how they think and talk about hot topics from all sides of major conflicts. I talked with anti-vaxxers and pro-vaxxers, top environmentalists, loggers, Trump supporters, chiropractors, healers, Millenials, Christians and more. Most of the challenges I heard were about the difficultly to express our truth, to be heard, to be respected, to be ourselves around people who hold different opinions. I heard about the difficulty to continue a conversation after being labelled – as an environmentalist, as an anti-vaxxer, a Trump supporter, a conspiracy theorist.

I heard from people being ghosted for saying the wrong thing and from people doing the ghosting. A lot of the people I talked to fear conflict so much they avoid those they love and care for because of a difference in opinion on a juicy topic. I heard stories of friends losing respect to each other, judging each other and their intelligence and losing all interest in having any further conversation. Ken’s story of “breaking up” with his friend over a vaccination disagreement is a powerful example of this.

Better ways to talk

Throughout this, I’ve been collecting tools and techniques to de-escalate the conversations. I looked at the ways we get emotionally triggered and techniques that could help us avoid that. I observed my own deeply rooted biases and those of other people. I saw how these biases push us towards conclusions that only partially represent the truth. I discovered ways in which we can become more objective by bringing these biases to light.

I also inserted myself into many conversations online to see if these techniques actually work. One of them started with “Bitch!” and ended with “sincere apologies”.You can read about the full process in an article I published.

Effective conversations

Over time, these techniques formed into a method that I’ve been calling “Effective Conversations”. My goal is to help people move away from “us vs. them” and “who’s right and who’s wrong” type of thinking to a place of deep listening and actual solutions.

Effective conversations are the ground for healing our isolation and mental health crisis; for eliminating the illusion of separation that causes us to fight with each other; and for healing our sick world. It’s also the only way to find solutions that work for everyone.

I’m now teaching the first Effective Conversations online course with a small group of people. Let me know if you’re interested in joining one of the future groups.

So, who else should I talk to?

I’d like to interview even more people to get a broader understanding of the conflicts we face. Who should I talk to? Who’s got strong opinions and can’t stop talking about them? Please forward them this text.

Love,

Yael

Follow me on Twitter @yaelfiner for more juicy conversations.


If you liked this, follow me on Twitter. I teach people how to talk about hot topics without exploding or shutting down.

@yaelfiner

Engaging for Change

Contributed by Andrea Diaz

When I read Hemal’s initial tweet, my alarm bells went off.  I immediately jumped into a defensive and judgemental state of mind, “who the hell does this guy think he is?”, “he’s just another angry man with opinions and a keyboard”. I felt aggravated that this random man would call my friend a “bitch” and try to shame her sexuality as a way of getting his point across. Clearly, he wanted a reaction, he wanted a fight and I’m so proud of Yael (@yaelfiner) for not fuelling the fire.  I know if this was me I would have either not engaged with this man or I would have reacted emotionally and caused more harm than good.  

As I read on and I saw how Yael had responded to this man, I couldn’t help but be very impressed.  There was no sign of emotion “I won’t take it personally” (therefore not adding fuel to the fire), and there was a genuine concern and willingness to listen and learn.  His replies to her were what really blew me away.  Instead of insulting her again, he actually had some important and valuable things to say.  He was able to inform Yael (and everyone reading) the realities of living in Africa and the impact on divesting from fossil fuels will have on African nations.  This is where the learning begins, this is where solutions can be formed, this is the point of depolarization. 

With the right question, Yael had allowed the space for this man to express his views on the issue.  It became apparent the struggle he faces and the fear he feels about an uncertain future for his homeland.  You can hear the frustration in his words towards the lack of understanding the West has in regards to the reality of this issue.  The frustration of the West not taking responsibility for the global problems it has caused, and the lack of interest in helping developing nations out of this problem. His words made me think deeper about renewable energy and how even in what is a ‘global’ crisis, there is inequality in resource distribution for clean energy.  

In concluding their conversation when Yael asks what he believes the solution to be, his answer is simple, “All rich countries should Invest in Africa in renewable energy with long term loans”.  He actually agrees that renewable energy is the way to go but it will take the help of the West to achieve this.  In the end, I agree with him, that developed nations should be allies of Africa and other developing countries in getting access to renewable energy so that the world can begin to curb its reliance on fossil fuels. This is a global problem, requiring global solutions.  This discussion needs to include more voices from Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Island nations so we understand the full spectrum of what is to come regarding divergence from fossil fuels.  

This Twitter discussion came a long way from where it started.  What began as an explosion of aggression and frustration, ended in an informative and thought-provoking discussion.  It is a testament to Yael for maintaining a level head and being able to steer the conversation in a way that invited this man to open up to his truth and to share that in a more impactful way.  Had Yael chosen not to engage, we would have missed this opportunity to learn a little bit about the reality of life in Africa, and how our decisions impact the lives of others on the other side of the world. Had Yael chosen not to engage, we would have left believing that this was just another angry person on the internet, and would have never had a chance to hear his legitimate concerns and intelligent argument around renewable energy.   

As I finished reading the conversation, I left with a feeling of gratitude, curiosity and determination.  Gratitude for Yael for her courage in pursuing this conversation in a constructive way.  Curious to learn more about the struggles of developing nations in regards to this climate crisis and determination to do better and to support organizations that promote sustainability and global equality in the best way I can.  Thank you, Hemal for sharing your thoughts and views.  Thank you for bringing to light an issue many of us in the West are unaware of. 

You can also read Yael’s own perspective on this conversation.


If you liked this, follow me on Twitter. I teach people how to talk about hot topics without exploding or shutting down.

@yaelfiner

He called me a bitch! What would you do?

How should we deal with emotional and toxic people on social media? Should we just discard the conversation? Should we engage in it and try to explain our views to those people? Should we explain to them why they are wrong? What would you have done? 

A lot of our communication around what’s going on in the world is done over social media. We read our news feeds, we read other people’s responses to articles, tweets, FB posts and so on. Sometimes we take the risk to engage in conversations ourselves. The risk is mainly emotional, we fear of being attacked or misunderstood. We usually choose to avoid our difficult emotions and conflict with others. Sometimes the risk is professional: we don’t want to be seen as part of any group or side, because we are afraid to lose customers.

I engaged in a heated conversation on Twitter about a tweet Greta Tunberg wrote (link):

I was truly asking Jerry for his perspective and didn’t expect to get this extreme response:

Oooh, that hurt.

I felt misunderstood, my heart started beating faster. My ego was crying out for justice.

I was eager to respond.  In my mind, if I would just explain to him how he was so wrong… and who did he think he was to call me a bitch? He didn’t know me at all!

I took a deep breath.

And then another one.

And another one.

In the space created between one breath to the other, I cooled down a bit. I could think clearly again. I thought “This guy is very upset. Trying to explain to him how much he is wrong probably won’t be very useful.” “Bitch,” I thought, smiling to myself. Tzephora Berman, the veteran environmental activist, told me she’s been called an eco-terrorist. That’s one way to measure you are doing something meaningful!

I could stick to being hurt and misunderstood, but instead, I asked myself what is important to me right now. To be right? Or, to learn something new? I decided to try and learn something from this conversation. I wanted to learn more about this guy and why he was against Greta and the Climate action. 

That was all that he needed to calm down. He turned out to be a very intelligent man. A conversation had started. I learned about the difficult life in Africa, why he seemed to support the Oil and Gas industry and why he was so angry.

He explained:

It was like he was just waiting to be asked. He was eager to share his understanding and views. I was so happy to hear the deeper truth underneath the anger and hate. At this point, I had my own set of thoughts like whether renewable energy really was more expensive. I could do some online research, to check and counter his arguments, but I decided not to. It’s not important if it’s the absolute truth or if I agree or disagree with what he said. It’s not important now, because I wanted to hear more, learn more, understand deeply what is important to him and not waste this opportunity on debating facts.

The conversation was eyes opening. He offered his solution to Africa’s problems:

The solution he put forward was so simple, clear and straightforward. Rich countries that have damaged the planet for decades should support poor countries to have a decent life. I love it!

Now, pay close attention here. He was attacking me on Greta’s thread saying fossil fuels are here to stay, and it’s wrong for Africa to divest from them. But, after he had a chance to express himself and felt heard, he actually wanted renewable energy! He believed this was the long term solution for Africa!

Many times, we disagree with each other on a superficial level yet agree when we dig a little deeper. We started to exchange emails. Hemal had opened up to me, apologized for the insults and wrote:

Please accept my sincere apologies for the insults and whatsoever offended you. I have been through your website briefly and I am impressed by your analysis and thoughts and posts which are very informative, advocative for the truth and effectively perceives the reader and make the reader believe that still the world is a marvellous place and still there is kindness.”

Hemal felt heard and was willing to read what I write about. He was willing to listen.

What had happened?

When people get a chance to express themselves fully and are able to vent their frustrations, they end up in a different place emotionally. They have shifted from a FULL state to an EMPTY state. They are able, and many times want, to listen to you too. They drop their defences and want to get to know you as well. 

This is a fertile ground for real solutions to emerge, solutions that work for everyone.


If you liked this, follow me on Twitter. I teach people how to talk about hot topics without exploding or shutting down.

@yaelfiner

He wins the conversation but not my heart

A conflict resolution between Trump supporter dad and his socialist daughter.

Maya is twenty-eight years old and has a long history of disappointments and a “full belly”* where her dad is concerned. He is conservative, a Trump supporter, economy-oriented, and an information consumer. She is socialist and concerned with social dynamics. For years, their relationship has suffered from their miscommunication. And now she is on the verge of giving up on him completely.

For the last several years, she has been getting familiar with her inner world, trying out living communities to see what that’s like, and hoping to see a better world fueled by cooperation, shared living, and caring for each other. When I talked with her, she was already in a process of deepening her relationships and speaking her truth more. It has worked with everyone but her father. “No, my dad is a lost cause,” she says, convinced. “He is a narcissist, closed-minded, selfish, facts-oriented, very bad listener. He is like a running train that rolls over anything that stands in its way. I even believe he is not normal; something is deeply wrong with him.”

Is he aware of that, I wonder? “No, he believes he is a great dad. He is ‘old school’ and believes in traditional success. He wants me to thrive, get a career, make lots of money, be successful, and of course get married and have children. He’s worked hard all his life to provide for his family. He was never educated. He started with just a few dollars in his pocket, and he made a successful business all by himself. It worked for him. Therefore he believes that I should do the same.”

And what do you believe? “Oh Yael, I can’t avoid the feeling that we are so different! I can’t understand how a person I am so close to biologically can be so far from me emotionally. It hurts so much to be so alienated from him—I want to avoid that feeling! I do everything to avoid him. I even stopped answering his calls, but he keeps calling me and asking why I’m avoiding him. You see, he will never stop,” she says helplessly.

What happens when you do talk? “He talks over me, preaches to me. He says what he wants no matter what. He doesn’t notice me or how I feel, and he won’t stop talking even when I plead with him. He reads a lot and has lots of facts stored in his mind. I can’t win. I give up. He aggressively wins the conversation, but he doesn’t win my heart.” 

What would you want to happen in your conversations? “I want him to listen. I want him to know the truth. To get to know more about community living, to know that there are better systems in the world.” Why? What will happen if he learns that truth, I ask? She slows down to take a deep breath and reflects, “I want him to be more like me, so I can feel closer to him. I would be less alone in the world.” 

Maya has struggled with feelings of inadequacy all her life. She never felt okay. She never felt good enough for her parents, and every interaction with them takes her back to these old, painful experiences. One sentence from her father could trigger these feelings and cause her to stay in bed for hours to process her emotions until she felt safe again to return to the outside world. “The harder I tried to be okay,  to be good, to please, to be loved, the worse I felt about myself. I don’t want that anymore; I’m better off alone. I want to build my own family made up of like-minded people where I can be myself, speak my truth, and feel loved for who I am.” 

I wanted to hear Maya’s father’s side of the story, and I asked permission to speak with him. He agreed right away and called me a few hours later. As she had described him, he is very talkative and can easily come across as aggressive. It was very important for him to share his whole life philosophy and opinions with me. He spoke on why politics are so important and why Maya has to know all that. That was July 2020, just a few months into the beginning of the pandemic and BLM.

So he starts: “I vote for the liberals because they understand the economy. I don’t like Trump and his dirty mouth, but he is doing a lot of good things for the US. The problem is there’s no equality in the media. You can’t be right-wing in this country; the left doesn’t let you talk. It has gotten to a very bad place now. You are not allowed to be liberal. It’s anarchy (BLM). They want to defund the police now! They are violating human rights, breaking into shops, causing huge (financial) damage. There is a huge turn in our society.” He talks with anger, but I hear the pain that lurks beneath it.

He goes on, “I know I’m right because I watch Fox News, and they bring people from the right wing and from the left wing to debate. They hold a wide perspective, they do a good job investigating for their shows. I watched CNN, CBS, ABC, and MSNBC news sometimes, but they are all twisted, and they spread fake news. All they do is try to make Trump lose his position, talk about his dirty mouth and his private life, but they say nothing else. They don’t bring any other news. The media is biased.”

What happens when you talk with Maya about that and share what you’ve learned on the news? “She isn’t interested in talking and isn’t willing to listen. I can’t convince her. She is not objective, she doesn’t listen to facts, she listens to Alexandra Cortez and Ilhan Omar. They are stupid millennials who don’t know anything about how the world functions.” Now he sums up his philosophy in very clear and short sentences: “For income, you have to work. To live, you need money. This is a basic life principle that she doesn’t get. If the economy falls, we will all fall and suffer greatly.”

What about the climate? I know Maya is concerned about that; do you agree on that? “I agree that there’s a climate problem that we need to do something about. Everyone knows that, but you can’t do it from 0 to 100 in a day. Change takes time. The green movement opinions are not based on facts. If we stop using fossil fuels tomorrow, we will be in a deep shit.”

What do you want to change in your conversations with her, I ask him? “I want her to listen to facts; I want her to read serious news. But she will never do that. She shuts me up and says, ‘Dad, let’s not talk politics.’” Why do you want her to listen to your facts? “I think it will be good for her—it will widen her perspective.”

Then he adds, “I worked hard all my life so I can send her to university, so she can succeed in life, but the leftist professors there changed her opinions and told her their un-facts-based views, and now she doesn’t listen to me anymore.” We ended the conversation.

————————————————–

I felt this man’s deep pain, helplessness, and anger. If he knew how to express his feelings, he would say: I gave her everything I could, I did my best, and she chose the professors over me. I’m angry, left out of my family, neglected, alone. I was the father, the head of the family, I had a meaning, I was important. My money was needed. Now she doesn’t need me anymore. 

From his perspective, he is doing everything to be objective, to see the big picture and to watch balanced news and deliver his daughter the important information about the world. She is the one who can’t listen, doesn’t read, doesn’t know, and is closed-minded. He fails to listen to her deep needs. She doesn’t care about politics or Trump; she is in a deep spiritual process of being independent, finding meaning, being okay with the way she is, and she wants him to respect her for her life choices. She wants him to see her and her growth, her path, her struggle, to see how independent and wise she has grown.

When I look closely, I see that they are not really arguing—they are talking about different things. He is saying we can’t live without money, and she agrees with that. She is saying the way we live today is not optimal, and we need to live in a more community-wise way, but he doesn’t respond to that. He reacts to what she says because it translates in his mind as opposing everything he is. If money is unimportant, everything he is and does is unimportant. It’s a deep and unconscious connection between money and self-worth that many of us are trapped in.

Since Maya’s university days, the power dynamic has changed between them. She doesn’t need his money anymore, but he needs her attention. However, she still needs him—she needs his validation that she is okay. 

Her father is unaware that he wants her to listen to him so badly because it is his only way to regain his lost respect. They both long to be listened to, to be heard. To be heard is to be loved. To be heard means to have a safe place in the world. To be validated. When you are heard you feel close, connected.

I call Maya and tell her, You are speaking different languages. He doesn’t know how to express his feelings, but the anger and impatience you hear in his voice is coming from a deep, lonely place of losing you because you reject what he is desperately trying to say. And it’s important for him to share his knowledge because this is his way to be important in your life. I explained to her that she reacts to everything he says because she hears that she is not good enough and not because of what he said.

A few days later, she called me and delightedly shared, “I was able to express my feelings to him for the first time in history! I told him, When you ask me what’s new, I feel stressed. I have nothing new to say that will make you happy. I’m lying down in my bed for the last few hours, and that’s something you can’t appreciate. I feel I’m disappointing you and that I’m not good enough for you. This is why I’ve been avoiding talking with you.”

Her father said, “I didn’t mean that, I really wanted to ask how you are feeling. I never meant to make you feel guilty or to cause you discomfort. I love you.”

They are still very different, consume different news, interested in different lifestyles, and a good world is a different concept for each of them. And yet, something new is happening here, an exciting possibility to embrace their differences as part of a whole, to connect on a deeper level, beyond their political views. To be heard and be validated, to be needed and whole.

_____________________

* A “full belly” is an Hebrew expression saying we hold lots of unprocessed emotions, hurt, unsaid things and trauma in our bellies.


If you liked this, follow me on Twitter. I teach people how to talk about hot topics without exploding or shutting down.

@yaelfiner

Lost a friend to vaccination

“What do you do?” Ken asked me.  I explained to him that I research how people communicate and think about ‘hot topics’ because the polarization between groups of people in society is getting worse and so many people are losing relationships and family connections over disagreements. He said “OMG! Yael you nailed it, people are so emotional and you just can’t talk to them!”

Ken is in his mid-40’s, a successful businessman, smart, charming, has been practising mindfulness for many years and is a strong believer in vaccinations. He was telling me about a conversation with his friend who is an anti-vaxxer. For 10 years, they’ve been close, they did lots of things together, playing, biking, outdoor activities and had good, deep conversations.

But, just a few months ago (pre-Covid), they had a tense conversation which caused him to almost lose interest in the friendship. “Is that the end of your relationship?” I asked,

“I’m distancing myself from him right now,” he said.

Ken took it to heart when his anti-vax friend told him quite passionately and somewhat aggressively that if he had kids and would vaccinate them it would be like putting a bullet in their head. Ken felt attacked. “It was so intense and out of proportion!” He cried out. “I was afraid to respond”.

“Would you really give up on a good friend just because you think differently on vaccinations?” 

“I lost all respect for him. If he can believe in something he reads on Facebook and makes important decisions based on that… I lost respect for his ability to discern the truth.

I questioned his intelligence because his decision isn’t based on data and research. He is influenced by social media that believes in false science.”

“Did you have any disrespect for him before that last conversation as well or it all came about with this one conversation?”

“No, not before, I always appreciated him. But, my feelings had changed in that conversation. I had this disgusting feeling in my guts and felt uncomfortable. I believe anti-vaxxers are stupid. They allow themselves to be manipulated by the mass media.”

I hear this a lot. People believe a friend or loved one is a rational and decent human being. Then they have a conversation about a triggering topic and suddenly they perceive the same person to be a morally corrupt and raving lunatic. What’s going on?

“Have you asked him what he is basing his information on? What is the reason he is so emotional about it?”

“No way! I’m not interested in hearing any of it. He is so emotional! I can’t talk to him. I can’t talk logically with him. He has manic intense emotions on why vaccines don’t work. I just feel like ‘I’m right, you are wrong and I don’t want to listen to your opinions and engage the conversation.’”

“So, you are not interested in any conversation with him now after he shared with you his intense concerns and fears about vaccinations?”

“I’m more clear today on who I am and who I want to be surrounded with. I want to be surrounded with logical, intelligent, open-minded and not emotional people!” He said with deep conviction. “I’m going to move on and let go of old relationships that don’t work for me anymore.” 

Our world is drowning in polarization driven in part by social media that helps us surround ourselves with like-minded people. It’s comfortable, but in seeking that comfort we tend to distance ourselves from opposing opinions and people who are otherwise important to us.

“How do you know you are right? What are you basing your information on?” I asked him.

He was uncomfortable with the question, looked at me and said, “I feel weird not knowing which side you are on…” but then continued.

“I don’t have any data or information, but I believe vaccinations helped the world. The majority of vaccinations are working and saving lives. They might have some side effects but it is the outlier. “The anti-vaxxers will emotionalize that outlier and focus on the rare cases of people getting hurt by vaccinations. Anti-vaxers don’t look at the statistics! They don’t look at the data!”

I can hear he’s very passionate about this and press on.

“What makes this so emotional for you?” 

“I feel he’s violating what I consider to be true, my foundations. But I’m not interested in doing the research to prove I’m right.”

“So, you don’t have data and you don’t want to do the research, but you feel very strongly that you are right,” I smiled, “Can you say more about that?”

“I believe the earth is round, that we breathe oxygen and that vaccinations work! It’s fundamental. I don’t need to check it. I was vaccinated as a kid, my parents loved me and they vaccinated me. I never questioned that. This is how I grew up.”

At this point, he paused for a few long moments and looked at me tilting his head. It seemed something was clicking in his mind. Something was shifting.

“I’m… I’m not entirely confident about the information. I feel a sense of emotional rejection to even read about it… because… what if I’m wrong? What if I find out that he is right? That I’m the emotional one here… that I’m the one who never questioned his own beliefs. What if I become be part of them? Those crazy fringe groups. I feel resistance to be in that camp. I feel comfortable where I am, in the majority camp!”

Ken took a deep breath and shook his head. A more complete picture seemed to be forming in his mind.

“Wow, I’m realizing now it’s my pride speaking. It’s kind of us vs. them feeling. I want to part of the group that I consider to be better, stronger, bigger. In so many areas of my life, I belong to the minority, and I hold on to the belief in vaccinations just because it feels better to be in that group.”

____________________________________________

I called him a few days later. This was a huge shift to experience in the course of a single conversation and I wondered how he was feeling and whether anything changed in his relationship with his old buddy.

“I realized I was holding a strong position, I was judgmental, emotional and overly defensive, which came from a deep fear of belonging to the wrong group. I was distancing myself from my friend. I was the one whose opinions were not checked or questioned. I don’t want to be that guy who loses friendships for this. I care about him. He is a really good friend. I almost lost him. 

I feel softer. I feel like I undid a knot. I called him and shared this with him.
I don’t have a sense of disrespect for him anymore.
I don’t have a sense of us vs. them anymore. 
I feel less emotional about it.”

Of all the conversations I’ve had with people on both sides of a conflict, Ken’s shift was the quickest. He’s been practising and teaching meditation for over 20 years and radical shifts in perception aren’t new to him. Still, like most of us, he was blind to his own biases in this case.

I was honored to be present for the transformation and I hope this helps you, the reader, examine your own strongly held beliefs and see if maybe, just maybe, you hold on to them a little bit too strongly.


If you liked this, follow me on Twitter. I teach people how to talk about hot topics without exploding or shutting down.

@yaelfiner

How to talk about the climate crisis with your friends

I know you already encountered this phenomenon: smart and intelligent people who believe that the climate crisis is a fraud. Who believe the climate crisis is not man-made, that species always went extinct and this is part of evolution. They say it’s just natural to experience the heavy floods, wildfires and storms once in a while, it was always like that. And actually, everything is just fine.

And, you look at them with this funny look, with a sense of arrogance ‘cause, come on!!!  You can’t believe that this person, this friend of yours, this person you thought to be smart and funny, actually thinks those things. 

You believe that if they just knew or read the right news, their eyes would open up, so you present them some basic information to prove your point. You are positive that they will come to their senses if they just knew the facts! But, whatever you do, whatever evidence you share with them, the alerting science models, the graphs and the statistics – nothing changes their minds. 

Some have counter-arguments to share with you and you find yourself in a daunting argument. Some just don’t want to talk about it. They say it’s not their job to save the world, they say they are too busy with their own life struggles that they have no room for big problems. Some say that they don’t understand enough to have an opinion and some get anxious and defensive.

You find yourself helpless, frustrated, angry, scared and confused – all at once. If they don’t believe in science, what does that mean? Are they really so dumb and closed-minded? Is there any way to convince them they got it all wrong?

A few days or weeks go by, and the call to connect with them awakens in you.

You know you have to try, do your best, be bold, for humanity’s sake.

This time you are more cautious, your eyes don’t shine as much. You have already been rejected before by all those people who didn’t want to listen to you. It hurts to be rejected, ignored, put down and pushed away. You do not want to feel that way again. No – you refuse to feel that way again. 

You come across a really good article that sums the whole problem up, maybe this time they will listen? Even though you still feel tightness in your chest when you think about them, you send the article. You ask them to read it. You hope that they will read it and maybe change their minds. You wish they would stop going on cruise ship holidays, you wish they would change their carnivore diet or stop using single-use plastics. Your mission is so important. You hit send.

You ask them about it the next time you meet. They didn’t even open the document! They didn’t even take the time to read!

What is it? Don’t they get it? What is going on?

It’s their world too, and it’s falling apart!

Why don’t they listen to the obvious facts? To science? 


So, what is really going on? Why don’t they listen?

Your facts are not being considered at all because they put a lot of emotional pressure on the other person who feels overwhelmed and unsafe to let this information touch them. They sense the danger in reading something that might make them feel uncomfortable, that might change their whole lives and perspective. They might feel guilty, sad, or out of balance. They might realize that they spent their entire lives or career going in the wrong direction. They might have to consider that they and their family are part of the problem. It’s unravelling.

Whatever the reason may be, people won’t listen to your information if they feel unsafe and to do so with you. They will protect themselves, their emotional well being and their identity with all their might.

I know you feel you know the truth, and it’s so obvious for you and they just got it all wrong. I know you really want them to stop doing damage and start showing some care for the planet. You want that because you care. You care for the planet and you care for them. You wish they would change because you will feel closer to them, connected, united by the common cause. If they change it will show they also care. It will show they understand you were right, it will make your life better. It will also give you a sense of success.

Deep inside, you are looking for connection and intimacy.

If you can put aside what you want them to do and how they have to change their ways and talk with them from your heart that cares for them and for your relationship. You will find out they are more attentive and can listen. They will have less need to protect themselves, they will share with you more and you will feel less alienated. Then, quite naturally, they will want to hear from you. The conversation will change from who’s right, to let’s listen to each other and share our views and learn on the other’s perspective.

When you share your truth in a safe space and you are being heard, you feel connected, seen and empowered. They don’t have to agree with you or change their behaviour right away. You want them to listen to you because you need to express yourself and feel safe to be yourself with them. The change will naturally occur without arguments and persuasions.

Remember, no one can argue with what you feel. Share your deepest truth, your feelings, your concerns. Don’t focus all your effort on conveying the facts.


If you liked this, follow me on Twitter. I teach people how to talk about hot topics without exploding or shutting down.

@yaelfiner

When the search for truth turns into anxiety

“I was devastated, I was in a deep depression. Everything felt black, I’m not sure I want to tell you all of it I don’t want you to feel the same”. Ella had doubts concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, things didn’t make sense to her, so she did her own research. In the next two months, she dived deep and searched for the truth that is not to be found on the mainstream media. The information she had found was hard to contain. It’s the worldwide scam, the lies, the misinformation, one world order, the collaborations of doctors, the systemic control over people, forced vaccinations and what not.

It is easy to get anxious or depressed from all these horrors. Which are breaking our sense of security and deteriorating our trust in the systems. But, whether the information we read is true or not our emotional reaction to the information already kicks in. The anxiety is already prevalent. Anxiety is a fear of fear, it’s a fear from something that is not affecting us at the moment, but has the potential to do so.

Many people like Ella, when feeling anxious tend to continue to looking – and finding – more. We do that in order to understand more, to examine the information, to feel secure (at least in our knowledge of what’s going on). The feeling in the body is heavy, the heart beats fast and things that usually make us happy are no longer doing that. Life is painted in shades of black. Although in our daily lives very little has changed, the feeling after reading this information transfers us into a horror movie.

One possible and I think the most common response to anxiety from the news is to not read, not know in order to avoid the feelings that anxiety brings with it. This method has its cracks because even when you turn away from it, it still knocks on your door and penetrates your awareness. Ignorance doesn’t prevent what is happening in the world from affecting us and doesn’t help us respond in an effective way.

Another very common strategy is to dive into the rabbit hole, into the depths of information to capture every little bit of it and supposedly, put together an image that is the truth. The desire to know more and more and be on top of it, to have as sense of control over what is happening. This truth is supposed to give us a sense of connection with reality as it is and even some inner peace. “I know the truth, I’m nobody’s fool,” “I won’t go like a sheep to the slaughter”. This strategy has its own problems as it produces a loop of anxiety. We’re trying to understand and gain control of our lives but in practice, the more information we’re exposed to the less in control we feel. In practice, the anxiety deepens.

Both of these strategies are responses to information, one is in avoiding it and the other is in diving into it. As if all that matters is the information, its correctness or wrongness.

There is a third, radically different strategy. Instead of putting our the mental energy on knowing what’s going on, we can put some of the focus on our emotional processing and fulfilling our need for safety and security. Anxiety itself is a warning flag, it is a sign from the body that we have important needs that are not being addressed. In this case the need for security.

When you read an article that “drowns” you in anxiety, that produces a lump in your throat, tense shoulders, shallow breathing and a feeling that your whole world has shrunk to a point and everything is painted black, you can dive into what you feel. Instead of rejecting these feelings, instead of ignoring their existence, instead of continuing to read and adding fuel to the fire, instead of analyzing the situation or rushing to come up with conclusions –

You just let your feelings and sensations be.

You notice that the energy in the body goes to the shoulders and the body contracts and you stay with it. It is critical and important information that comes from deep places that want to protect you, it comes from your subconscious, an early response to a state of danger.

A very important mental change is happening here. Instead of rejecting and resisting what is happening, you are surrendering. The relaxation of letting go produces something special and exciting. The anxiety changes, it turns from “Life is awful and there’s nothing to live for” to “Oh, I have strong energy in me that cries out to be heard.” Listen carefully. It matters. It’s not the information out there that matter. The call that arises from within and guides us on how to be the masters of our lives,

A very important mental change is happening here. Instead of rejecting and resisting what is happening, you are surrendering. The relaxation of letting go produces something special and exciting. The anxiety changes, it turns from “Life is awful and there’s nothing to live for” to “Oh, I have strong energy in me that cries out to be heard.” Listen carefully. It matters. It’s not the information out there that matter. The call that arises from within and guides us on how to be the masters of our lives. This wise anxiety tells you to stop, it’s telling you that something big is happening here and you are suddenly present that it has a place within you. It doesn’t become you. The anxiety is no longer painting everything. It just one part of all the parts that are you.

This wise anxiety tells you to stop, it’s telling you that something big is happening here and you are suddenly present that it has a place within you. It doesn’t become you. The anxiety is no longer painting everything. It just one part of all the parts that are you.

Suddenly, you realize that instead of the news controlling you and your feelings, you have returned to the leader’s seat and taken control back in your hands. You now feel grateful to the anxiety for reminding you of what is important to you. That you are important to you.

And now that you have calmed down and are breathing deeply again into your lower belly, it’s time to remember that you are actually no less important than the news you are reading. It’s time to ask yourself: What is important? What basic need of mine isn’t being met?

Our needs are security, love, uniqueness, intimacy, touch, nourishment, health, fulfilment.

There is no such need as a “knowing the truth.” The search for truth can be an attempt to fulfil the need for security or to fulfil the need to be special or healthy. Just as there is no need such as “money.” Money is a means to get your needs met. And just like with money, knowing the truth is often confused with the goal itself.

To discover the real need, you may want to ask yourself what is important to you and keep asking several times until you get deep enough.

For example:

What is important to me? It’s important to me to not be lied to. Why is it important to me not to be lied to? Because to live a lie is to not live. Why is living a lie not living? Because there is uncertainty in a life of lies and I feel lost. Why is it important to me that there be certainty? Certainty is security. And we have reached the need for security that we’re trying to address by seeking certainty in the news.

Another thing is hidden here that it is important for me to live. There is a desire to live! What is it like to be alive for me? Enjoy this moment. Do you enjoy this moment?

Now that there is a focus on what is important to you and what motivates you, you can think of other ways to fulfil your need for security. For example, focusing on your body and exercising it increases actual confidence. It may not make sense, but the feeling of security does increase. Meditation also does that. Any action you take in the direction of what you believe in increases your sense of personal security.

The desire for certainty and the absence of certainty is a dynamic that we dance around all our lives. There is no certainty in life. We produce false feelings of certainty by buying life insurance, by working a permanent job, by accumulating money in the bank, by maintaining a relationship and practicing routine. We seek security and certainty in a world that is changing faster than our brains can get it. However, our very ability to live in uncertainty, to relax into the discomfort, to stay with the tension that uncertainty produces – produces a sense of security and sustainability that no information in the world can give you.

Practicing staying in discomfort, allowing & accepting overwhelming emotions, identifying your true needs and taking effective action is the key to healthy coping with any information that comes your way. In addition, this quiet and private action actually contributes to the world, instead of being anxious and increasing the power of anxiety in the world. You become a source of light to everyone around you. Accept your anxiety with love and it will empower you from within as nothing has empowered you to this day.

And now, as you feel empowered, aware of your true needs, feel secure in the face of uncertainty, and are in a high state of consciousness, free from fear, new possibilities open up for you to think further about essential and philosophical questions.

Is it more moral to foribly vaccinate the majority of the population in order to protect the minority? Or is it more moral to let nature take its course and risk the health of the minority to protect the freedom of the majority? Which is more important, freedom or safety, majority or minority? Can both be equally important?


If you liked this, follow me on Twitter. I teach people how to talk about hot topics without exploding or shutting down.

@yaelfiner

How to deal with bad news?

We are exposed to a lot of news (especially bad news) every day, and each of us develops a strategy to deal with that. Some consume so much news in hopes to get a grip on what’s really going on that they feel tense, overwhelmed and empty. Many stopped consuming news altogether because they feel very vulnerable when exposed to so much negativity. Others take it to heart so much they get depressed, bitter and spread fear and frustration to those around them. None of these strategies are particularly helpful.

I would like to suggest another way to deal with bad news. A way that puts you in the center, a way that empowers you and supports your growth, while allowing you to feel safe, to keep exposing yourself to the world (bad news) and at the same time allows you to find your own way to respond effectively to what’s going on.

If you just watched a piece of news, that coloured your future in black, and you feel like you have no air to breathe, you feel tightness in your belly and less energy to live, you are triggered! Being triggered means that your emotional buttons were pressed, and you are now reacting from an unaware place and without control. This is dangerous. Triggered people make  unconscious decisions, based on emotions that someone else wanted to trigger in them.

When something has such a strong grip on us, we want to question it to make sure we are responding effectively in a way that support us and the others. The most important steps to deal with the information are:

  1. Notice you’ve been triggered
  2. Process your emotions
  3. Question your preconceptions

Notice you’ve been triggered

There are two primary ways to notice you’ve been triggered:

  1. You notice a distinct difference in your experience before and after reading or watching a piece of news. Before, you felt relaxed and happy. After, you became stressed and anxious. That is a warning signal that you’ve been triggered. It is sometimes hard to notice because we tend to forget how we felt just moments ago, the same way we forget our dreams when we wake up.
  1. You notice circular thoughts – your mind coming back again and again to the same image or idea you read or watched somewhere. You also notice there’s a tension in your body as a response to those thoughts.

Processe your emotions

Processing emotions is not the same as getting them under control or repressing them. Our emotions have a lot to tell us and we can find a lot of wisdom in them by listening deeply.

There are three steps to processing your emotions:

  1. To identify the emotion you first need to separate the story which I call “the trigger” from your feelings. Write down the new information that triggered you. What did you read or hear? Let’s say you read news article about a white bear dying because of icebergs that are melting at an accelerated rate. 
  1. Now find the emotion you experience about this story. We’re looking for one-word names of emotions: hopeless, scared, angry, devastated, guilty. Those are the emotions. Beware of phrases that begin with “I feel that” such as “I feel that we’re not doing enough” isn’t an emotion, it’s a thought.
  1. Now, put aside the story for a few minutes. Just be with your emotions as fully as you can. Take a deep breath and focus on the feeling the way it shows up in your body: the sensations, the temperature, the texture. You want to do that until your feelings don’t feel as strong and overwhelming. It can take a while if you’ve never done that before. The more you practice the easier it gets.

Becoming aware of your emotions and learning how to listen to them, will help you transform and dissipate them. You’ll be able to find your true self and connect with the wisdom that is beyond your intellect. You’ll be abel feel centred and safe, even if the news is really bad. You’ll be sure no one can trigger you or pull your strings.

Question your preconceptions

We all have our biases. When we hear something it either fits our current belief system or it doesn’t. If it does, most of us won’t question the new information. You’ll can notice that happening when hear yourself think “I knew it,” and “Oh, of course!” It might happen even as you are reading this article (which doesn’t make it true, only conforming to what you already believe about your mind).

To get a broader perspective, you only need to ask yourself two questions:

  1. Why do I believe this information to be true or false?
  2. What would it take to change my mind on this topic?

Try it on the following list of (completely made up) headlines. Which do you automatically believe and which do you discount? Why?

  1. Trump and Putin are planning a coup d’état in China
  2. Science confirms: Climate change is a hoax
  3. Meningitis vaccine officially proven to be harmful
  4. New study shows: Eating meat is essential for male mental well being

Questioning your preconceptions and beliefs is the real freedom. We all afraid of being manipulated and controlled. We all want to know the truth. However, in a post-truth world, the forces attempting to manipulate our opinions  on both sides of every major issue are very powerful. We don’t need to research every topic to death. But we do need to become aware of our automatic responses to be able to judge information clearly.

The more we question our beliefs and listen to our emotions, the more we’ll develop flexible thinking and deep awareness. We will then wake up from having fixed minds, from being sold on ideas, from being triggered and activated, from hating people that we don’t really know and have never met!

We will then wake up to the reality that each of us is part of the polarized mess we’re in, and stop reinforcing it.


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@yaelfiner

Why people don’t listen to facts?

When the Covid-19 pandemic started, I was in my last trimester with Yara, and I embraced the need to slow down. I couldn’t move so much anyways :).

The doubt I had about who is behind the pandemic and what are the ways governments deal with it was shoved down and pushed away by the need to be present and relaxed for the upcoming delivery.

Consciously and unconsciously I didn’t want to hear anything that would have taken me out of balance at that point in my life. I didn’t read what my friends sent me, I didn’t watch the videos and I even found ways to avoid seeing those friends. I was trying to protect myself, I wanted to stay relaxed. I wanted to keep my life as it was even with the new pandemic. I sensed the possibility of becoming anxious if I let myself dive deeply into the conspiracy rabbit-hole. I didn’t want to get a confirmation that there was evil in the world, this world I was somewhat guiltily bringing a new baby into. I avoided reading articles and talking to people that could open that anxiety Pandora’s box in me.

I don’t know if the various conspiracy theories are true or not. It’s not what I want to talk about here. I want to talk about why I wasn’t open to looking at this, why I was avoiding that information and those people. And what it did to me.

Since we are all human beings and share similar emotional experiences, we can extract the essence from that example: I sensed danger to my emotional well being, therefore, I pushed away information. I did that by avoiding reading about it or talking to people who held strong opinions. I was avoiding the people that I normally love. That is how the deepest gaps in our society form.

So, why don’t people listen to facts?

People don’t listen to what you have to say and to your facts when they sense that their emotional well being might be at risk. When they sense danger. When they feel they might lose their peace of mind and become anxious. When they believe you’re about to take them out of their comfort zone. So they put their defences up. You can see it in their faces which becomes either dismissive, cynical or aggressive. And they attack with their own set of facts, which they believe as much as you do yours.

If you look inside yourself, you might be able to see that you do that too when they present their facts. You find it very hard to listen, you believe they are wrong, and it makes no sense for you to listen to what they have to say. You have lots of justification for that, you don’t want to waste your time and energy on “bulshit”. Sounds familiar? This is your defence mechanism. It’s the same as theirs, but with a different (and being my readers, likely better founded) set of facts and conclusions.

And so, one defence mechanism meets another defence mechanism and we get arguments, hate, distrust, avoidance and, indeed, war.

How can we get them to listen?

If you want them to listen, you have to be the one who listens first. And it’s going to be as hard for you to listen to them as it is for them to listen to you because you are going to be putting your own emotional well being at risk. You are going to expose yourself to potentially convincing arguments without setting up defences, without planning a response. You’re going to feel vulnerable, exposed, possibly lonely. Your ground might shake, and so may your hands. I do this for a living, trust me, it is not pleasant. But while it isn’t pleasant, it is exceedingly effective. If you really listen, and I’ll teach you how to do it in a moment, they will eventually run out of things to say. They will feel complete, and in feeling complete they will be open to your arguments. Even better, you will now understand their entire strategic arsenal of facts and arguments and will be able to respond effectively.

How can we listen well?

Begin the conversation by exposing your vulnerability.

“You know dad, I never really listened to you, and I’m sorry. This conflict we have is my fault too. I want to listen to you. I want to get to know you. Please be honest with me, tell me everything, I promise to listen this time.”

At this point, they are going to start talking and you are going to want to roll your eyes. Notice your internal reaction. Notice the need to react, to dismiss, to argue back rising within you. Notice yourself being triggered and planning a response. Notice, but keep your mouth shut and keep breathing. Because noticing what is happening within you is while listening to them make you a better listener. 

Expect to feel overwhelmed by their energy, your resistance and the new information. That’s OK. You can ask for a moment to process what they’ve said so far.

“Dad, can you give me a moment, please? You’ve said a lot and I need to process it.”

This both gives you time to ground yourself and shows respect for them.

If they pause, don’t jump in, just ask if they have more to say on this. Do your best to avoid asking questions, because your questions will likely be loaded and ineffective.

Once they have fully expressed themselves, they’ll have the space to listen to you. You can now say your piece, or just give them a loving hug.


If you liked this, follow me on Twitter. I teach people how to talk about hot topics without exploding or shutting down.

@yaelfiner