In recent conversations I have heard others argue, "sometimes you just have to call people jerks." They aren't saying that you need to say this out loud to others, or that the people whose behavior doesn't meet your needs aren't children of God or the Universe. What they are trying to communicate to me is that certain behavior is "not acceptable." By calling people a jerk you have passed a judgment on the actions and not on the people themselves who of course, according to our Unitarian Universalist principles, always have inherent worth and dignity. So it's okay to let the inner chatter label people as jerks, right? Or to use this label or any other label as a short cut to trusted friends to speed up and clarify communication, right?
I've been thinking about this and here's what goes on for me. If I use the word "jerk" or categorize people in any way, even just in my thoughts, I shift. My heart constricts and I am less open to listening, empathizing, and connecting to other people and the dream of the way I wish to live. As a practitioner of Compassionate Communication therefore I attempt to identify the needs of what others are attempting to meet and let that be both the inner and outer conversation. In this way my heart opens to life and possibility and what we might do together.
Practice: One time today, observe when you label someone and she how you feel with this. Then identify the needs the person is pursuing and attempt to empathize with them. Does this make a difference in how you feel?