I was doing a keynote on the healing power of music at a Mind, Body & Spirit Conference in Spokane, Washington.
The Exhibit Hall outside the conference rooms was a thriving marketplace, complete with psychics, healers, and crystal salespeople offering their wares to shoppers looking for a tweak in their reality.
I graciously informed her that I was a prolific songwriter in my own light, and that I would much prefer to sing her one of my own. “John Denver!” she replied in a demanding tone that grated on my nerves.
Unconsciously, I tried to match her energy, in an attempt to protect mine. With a louder than usual voice bursting with cockiness and just a hint of arrogance, I suggested to her that she give me a topic, anything about her world or her life, so that I could instantly improvise a song just for her.
“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 a direct hit from my ego’s bullhorn, informing her that I had nine wonderful CD’s of my own, thank you, and that if she wasn’t so fixated on John Denver she might have a peak Rocky Mountain High experience hearing something new from someone who might very well be the next up and coming John Denver!
“John Denver, please.”
At least she said please.
I felt heat rising up my neck. I was starting to take this a bit too seriously. Tempted to move on to greener pastures and more flexible ears, I took a breath, and asked for help in surrendering the power struggle that had infiltrated my nervous system.
I looked into her eyes, and before my prosecuting mind could continue its case against her, I 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. In fact, she was openly weeping, with a big grin on her face as well.
There we were, sharing an intimate and touching moment, right in the midst of the busy marketplace. Her tears were confusing to me. 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. I needed that today. Thank you so much.”
I went back to my sales area, 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 love in the language she could best receive it, and I was grateful I had summoned up the willingness to give it.
I thought about the potential moments of connection I have missed, the times I have refused to speak somebody’s John Denver, insisting on communicating in the language of my own comfort zone, rather than seeking to learn a bit about their dialect.
When I coach and counsel people, I want to converse in a 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 an infinite number of ways to say the same thing. Could 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 she was involved in, one that I had taken. Needless to say, there was a language barrier between us.￼
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 painful sunburn does not enjoy receiving love in the language of a bear hug. Someone with a pressing fear of abandonment may not speak the same love language as a person who leads with a fear of losing themselves in intimacy.
Have you ever noticed that these two, one expressing abandonment fears and the other frightened of losing freedom and autonomy, tend to be irresistibly drawn to each other?
These are matches made in Heaven, a divine language laboratory with mighty potential for healing and growth. “Don’t leave me” and “I need space” join in holy friction so that the two can grow through and past 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.
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 non-violent communication skills, was constantly reminding his students that our heartfelt intention to connect is always more important than our skills or lack thereof. He encouraged us to always 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 that builds a bridge between hearts, making us bilingual lovers and planetary peacemakers as well.
“I am here to be truly helpful.”
-A Course In Miracles