The key to profound intimacy
Do you have a deep connection with your husband or wife, with your girlfriend, boyfriend, or lover, with a potential girlfriend, boyfriend, or lover (or even with a good friend)?
To what extent can you share "everything" with your lover? Or how much do you maintain a mask?
Most of us are starving for a feeling of connection with others. We are starving for connection and for romance. But we don’t know how to get it or we think that there’s no one out there who can be our true friend.
Now you can have all the intimacy that you want or need. Let me explain how.
Whenever I meet a new person with whom I suspect I might enjoy a deeper feeling of connection and intimacy, within the first 30 minutes of our conversation, I often make an invitation such as the following:
“Jill, before I respond to your question about why I moved to China, in order for me to answer you with complete honesty and openness, I need to introduce you to a word that I invented, okay?
"We’ve been having a nice conversation for about 20 minutes. We’ve been friendly with each other and we’ve been learning some things about each other. Even though I have been open with you to a certain level, I am also aware of some automatic thoughts and feelings that I have chosen not to share with you. And I suspect that you also have been having some automatic thoughts and feelings that you haven’t shared with me, right?
"I have a mask. And you have a mask. We have good reasons for wearing a mask. It helps us feel safer, more comfortable, and more secure in the moment. If we said everything on our minds, we might feel very afraid of how
the other person would react or feel about us.
"Nevertheless, we pay some big costs in wearing our masks. I can think of at least two major costs: First, it prevents us from truly understanding each other. Second, it prevents us from developing deep feelings of connection or friendship. Does this make sense?
"However, it’s not so easy to remove our masks. So I’ve invented a special word that—if you’ll experiment with me in using it—will help us remove our masks, step by step, in a way that will feel much easier and more fun than it otherwise would.
"Let me explain the word to you. The word is ‘RAFTS,’ an acronym that stands for ‘Reluctant and frightened to share.’ RAFTS sets up a special context for what is said immediately after using it. It puts the other person on notice that you are about to share a thought or feeling that you might otherwise hide. It lets your listener know that you are frightened/nervous and that you are choosing courage to share this with him or her.
"It lets the other person know that your intention is not to hurt or scare him or her or in any other way damage your relationship. Instead, your intention is to create deeper understanding and a better relationship. By speaking the RAFTS word you are asking your partner to listen within this context as she or he hears what you have to share. It is asking your listener to hear you in a non-judgmental way and with some appreciation for the courage you are choosing.
So, here’s how it works, Jill:
Using the RAFTS idea, both you and I will begin to notice the automatic thoughts and feelings that we are hiding from each other, and, when we notice such a thought or feeling, we ask ourselves, ‘Would I be willing to choose the courage to openly share this thought or feeling with this other person?’
"If the answer is ‘yes,’ then I would say to you, ‘Jill, I have a RAFTS. 'By saying ‘I have a RAFTS,’ I am letting you know that I have some concern about sharing some thought or feeling openly with you. I am choosing courage to share it with the intention of helping us to understand each other better and also with the intention of possibly feeling more connected with each other.
"This helps you to listen to what I have to say in a curious and non-judgmental way and with some appreciation for my courage. Do you understand, Jill? Would you be willing to do RAFTS with me?
"Thank you. Okay, now I am ready to answer your question about why I moved to China. This is a RAFTS for me to share with you, okay? For various reasons, as I grew up, I learned to like women more than men. I like men and I have many men friends, but, all in all, I prefer women. For example, if I am at a party and a group of women are talking together and a group of men are talking together, I will always go talk with the women. Women, in general, are more interesting to me than men. And, on top of that, I have found that I like Chinese women more than any other women in the world! This is why (at least a major reason) I moved to China!”
At this point, Jill may or may not do a RAFTS back to me. If I continue to do RAFTS with her throughout our conversation, inviting her to join with me in the process, then, most often, a feeling of deeper friendship, intimacy and safety will occur for both of us.
Accelerating connection and understanding
If you really want to accelerate the process of connection and understanding,
then make the following suggestion:
“Jill, why don’t we play a game. I will ask you a RAFTS question (a question in which I feel some nervousness or fear in asking, usually a personal question) and then you will ask me a RAFTS question. We’ll go back and forth. Okay?
"If either one of us doesn’t want to answer a given question because it is too personal for us, then we have the freedom to say, ‘No, I will not answer that.’ ”
Of course, the RAFTS process, like any other, takes some practice. By asking others to join us in RAFTS and by engaging in the actual RAFTS process, we are presented with continual opportunities for choosing courage.