Reach out with your heart
By: Donald A. Tubesing, PhD, and Nancy Loving Tubesing, EdD
Excerpted from Seeking Your Healthy Balance
Reaching out can be a risky business. When you commit yourself to loving your neighbor in general, you never know when a particular neighbor is going to pop up with a need you can fill. It takes an attitude of openness and curiosity to leave your personal circle of security and step across invisible boundaries into the unknown.
It’s not too hard to offer your services to an elderly neighbor whose lawn needs mowing… or help out a charity you enjoy…Think the last time you were with a group of people. Which people did you include in your reach-out circle? Which did you ignore or interact with only superficially? For most of us the second group is by far the larger.
The neat, clean lines we’re tempted to draw between the people who belong in our neighborhood and receive our care, and those who don’t belong and are therefore excluded from our care-giving, tend to disappear in times of crisis when our connections as part of the human family suddenly, unexpectedly, draw us closely together in intimate contact with strangers.
Reach out with care and concern
People need people. Reaching out with care and concern for another heals both the receiver and the giver! Break beyond your boundaries and give yourself to others. They need you. You can make a difference in your world by reaching out with your attitudes, with your heart, with your hands, and with thanksgiving.
The most valuable skill for reaching out to others is the art of listening with your heart. This gift of listening deeply and carefully to the concerns and feelings of others is called empathy.
Empathy literally means to “feel in” to stand in another’s shoes for a moment. Everyone needs empathy. Click here for a group of assessments that will help you open up to others.
Another important skill is the ability to reach out and literally touch someone. Most of us learned to keep our hands to ourselves as we were growing up…In this society we keep our distance. Why not get used to giving people hugs. It’s not that hard. Some people may be surprised at first, but if you practice it often enough, your neighbors will soon figure out you’re for real. Touch is a powerful way to reach out.
Positive caring demonstrated by physical contact lets high energy flow between people, filling each person with vigor and vitality. You can hardly touch without being touched in return. You have a marvelous health-giving resource at the end of your arms and many touch-hungry neighbors waiting for physical strokes. Initiate a health-enhancing exchange. Make sure that touch is a part of every contact you make.
At this time of year in particular we reach out with thanks-giving. A little appreciation goes a long, long way. Studies have shown that gratitude is a more powerful motivator than money. Most of us will really put ourselves out just to hear someone say, “Thank you.”
If you want to improve your thanks-giving style, you could try one or more of these suggestions:
- Form a mutual-admiration group. If some people in your life don’t like to give and receive appreciation, find some who do and spend time with them.
- Select small, unique gifts that carry a personal message from your heart. Surprise people with them. Gifts you create – poems, notes, wall hangings – speak most clearly.
- Once again, get into the habit of thanks-giving. Say it directly! “Thanks for listening to me.” “You’re always so positive. Thanks.” “Knowing you care keeps me going. Thanks.”
To be truly healthy we must reach out beyond ourselves. When we share each other’s burdens and joys we become channels of healing. No matter how timid or tired or selfish or crazy or young or old we are, we all have something important to offer each other. Train yourself to notice others’ needs and then be ready to share your gifts when they are appropriate.
Click here for exercises to assess your reaching out skills.