As a warm-up exercise to one session we had to do an activity that really pushed my buttons, but which I think is a very simple tool to help us understand ourselves and other people better. It’s an exercise that could create more intimacy in our relationships and would be a great opener to many types of personal development workshop.
We were asked to get into pairs and to place ourselves sitting opposite each other, looking into each other’s eyes if that was possible for us. For the next three minutes one person would then repeatedly tell the other person ‘What I really want is….’
We would repeat the phrase, filling in the blank with what we felt was appropriate in each moment, and our partner would sit in silence and listen to what we have to say.
We were told that as we progressed, accessing deeper needs and desires inside ourselves, we may be surprised that what we really want can appear as something other than what we expected.
With these words ringing in my ears, I felt an undeniable apprehension about the task. I blamed it on my British nature, but I felt afraid at the thought of revealing myself too deeply to a stranger, of losing some control.
My partner began with his list of wants, and it was a surprise to me, although I’m sure not to psychologists, that we shared 95% of the same desires. I don’t want a Ferarri or a Harley, but when he shared ‘What I really want is to stop looking’ I felt an intimate connection with this relative stranger.
My turn began and sure enough, I was soon exposing desires that I don’t feel on the surface every day. I’m a confident independent traveller, but I was voicing that basic human need to be safe, to be protected.
As three minutes slowly ticked by it became evident how keenly emotion and the intimacies of our soul can be carried in our eyes, if we take the time and face our discomfort in looking long enough.
Afterwards I was aware that it’s too rare that in my personal relationships I take the time to ask about and understand other people’s core needs and hopes.
The session left me wishing that we all could connect more honestly and openly with one other.