The language of love

When I speak to groups or counsel individuals, I want to converse in the way they can best hear me.

by Scott Kalechstein — 

Recently I presented a lecture and workshop on the healing power of music at a conference. It was a thriving New Age market, complete with Tarot readers and crystal salespeople offering their wares to shoppers looking for a little tweak in their reality. Guitar in hand, I would stroll around the exhibit hall, asking assorted attendees if they wanted to hear a song.

One such woman replied with gusto, “Yes. Please sing me a John Denver song.” I graciously informed her that I was a prolific songwriter in my own right, and that I would much prefer to sing her one of my own. “John Denver!” she replied with a fervent tone that began to grate on my nerves.

Unconsciously, I tried to match her energy. With an abundance of cockiness and just a hint of arrogance, I suggested to her that she give me a topic, any topic, and that I would instantly improvise a song just for her. She was unimpressed. “John Denver is what I want!” she exclaimed with a sense of entitlement that had officially begun to piss me off.

Abandoning what was left of my patience, I blasted her with my ego’s bullhorn, informing her that I have eight CDs of my own, thank you, and that if she wasn’t so fixated on John Denver she might have a Rocky Mountain High peak experience hearing something new from someone who might very well be the next up-and-coming John Denver!

Her reply was firm and consistent with her previous requests. I felt heat rising up my neck. I was starting to take this a bit too seriously. I was feeling very tempted to move on to greener pastures and more open ears. Instead I took a breath, surrendered the power struggle, looked into her eyes, and began to play “Annie’s Song,” one of my favorite John Denver ballads.

As I started singing “You fill up my senses …” she began crying. She was openly weeping, with a big grin on her face. There we were, sharing a miraculous moment, right in the midst of the busy marketplace. I thought about stopping the song to offer my support, but her beaming smile told me she was quite all right.

When I finished, she practically crushed my guitar in her efforts to hug me. I was hoping for a few words about the depth of her feelings, and she didn’t disappoint. “I met John Denver once in Colorado, and he serenaded me just like you did. I will never forget the personal interest and warmth he showed me. Your song brought it all back. Thank you so much.”

I went back to my booth, touched and stirred up by the experience. I reflected on how close I came to passing her by and not honoring her request. She asked me for a healing in the language in which she could best receive it, and I thanked God I had the willingness (and the repertoire) to offer it.

I thought about the potential miracles I have missed, the times I have refused to speak through somebody’s John Denver, insisting on communicating in the language I preferred, rather than seeking to learn a bit about their dialect.

When I speak to groups or counsel individuals, I want to converse in the way they can best hear me. If inner child is a foreign concept, or if the word “God” closes the mind, I try to remember there are infinite ways to say the same thing. How might I say it differently? Can I be linguistically creative and flexible?

Recently I had a session from a woman who could only communicate in lingo she had learned from a personal growth workshop, one I had not taken. How frustrating! How limiting!

In matters of the heart, it pays to learn a second language, especially the one of the beloved in front of you. A person with a bad sunburn does not enjoy receiving love in the language of a hug. Someone with a fear of abandonment may not speak the same love language as a person with a fear of suffocation.

Have you ever noticed that these two, one expressing abandonment fears and one scared of suffocation, tend to be drawn to each other? These matches could be a language laboratory made in heaven for the purposes of healing. “Don’t leave me” and “I need space” join in a holy friction and hopefully learn to overcome the language barrier between them.

As Paul and Layne Cutright, authors of You Are Never Upset for the Reason You Think, remind us: “Relationships live or die in language.” Most relationship problems can be traced not to a lack of love, but to a lack of language skills.

My partner and I have been learning each other’s love language. For instance, she likes to collect herself a bit when she comes home before being hugged and kissed hello. Initially, I took her arrival moods personally, perceiving her as cold and aloof, but when I learned her language, I was able to withhold any judgment and give her the space she needs. Although it is more my natural dialect to greet her at the door with the unbridled enthusiasm of a puppy, I have trained myself to wait until she comes to me before I pounce and lick. Her rewards have been well worth my restraint.

When I take my work to foreign countries, the people are so pleased when I make an attempt, no matter how clumsy, to communicate in their native tongue. My intention is always warmly and graciously received. Marshall Rosenberg, international peacemaker and teacher of nonviolent communication skills, constantly reminds his students that heartfelt intention to connect is always more important than skills or lack thereof. He encourages us always to put connection before correction.

The language of love is the language of the one before us. In all our relations, whether between countries or partners, it is our sincere intent to learn the language of the one we are communicating with. This builds a bridge between hearts, making us multilingual lovers and personal as well as planetary peacemakers.

 

Scott Kalechstein is a counselor, coach, minister, inspirational speaker, recording artist and modern-day troubadour. Scott’s songs are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any illness or medical condition. If while listening you laugh your head off and your heart opens, but symptoms still persist, please see your doctor. scott@scottsongs.com or www.scottsongs.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 26, Number 6, December 2007/January 2008.

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