"The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace" Carlos Santana.
It has been really interesting watching postings on my Facebook feed in relation to the EU referendum and the subsequent Brexit.
Feelings are running really high, and in some cases are leading to angry, judging and blaming arguments and accusations. Some friends are falling out and un-friending each other. Perhaps it will be a long time till they reconnect, maybe they never will.
I want to explore some of what happens when we find ourselves in a volatile conversation like this, maybe with somebody at work, in the pub or especially somebody in our family. It could be over anything that the person feels really strongly about.
Seek first to understand, then to be understood
We listen through our own filters - our values, our beliefs, what we feel is important. We get caught up in a thought about how we feel in response to what we are hearing and what we want to say to respond.
We interrupt, talk over them, try to reason or counter argue our point. This has the effect of creating frustration, not feeling heard. A person not feeling heard will simply get louder and keep repeating the message that is so important to them.
We are on different sides of the argument. Each side has a position and is defending that position. This creates a distance between the two parties and an argument or debate from position can never be won.
If we can listen with an open heart and an open mind and from a place of letting go of needing to know, we can begin to understand what is important to the other, in a way that helps them to feel deeply heard and acknowledged.
“All generalizations are dangerous, even this one.”
― Alexandre Dumas-fils
We generalise. For example "British football fans are hooligans"! All Brexit voters are racist.
Generalisations are lazy language and can be inflammatory. If we are in the category being generalised about, we will push back, hard.
If you hear a generalisation ask the person to be more specific.
Two simple questions you might ask are;
'in what way are (for example) British football fans hooligans?'
'Are there any British football fans who aren't hooligans'?
This gets you and the speaker, more information about what it is that they mean, I helps the person to feel heard and understood, helps them clarify their thinking and it keeps you both out of position..
We challenge the person and not their view.
On facebook I have seen people say things like, 'that is rubbish, you are a moron!'
This is attacking behaviour at the level of identity and will certainly cause deep hurt and counter attack.
Challenge the viewpoint or the behaviour, not the person themselves.
Questions you might ask are
'I am keen to get a better understanding about why you feel so strongly about this. Please can you explain'?
'What are the key things that really matter to you here'?
'What is it about this that is so important to you'?
And in response, you might learn something and get a new perspective and you may not. You might then say, 'I see it differently, can I share what really matters to me about this....'
Or I agree with the part you just said about x. Where I differ is y. This is healthy debate and is to be welcomed.
Instead of saying 'that's rubbish', say instead, 'I don't agree with your point of view'
Instead of saying 'you are a moron for saying that', instead say 'I don't feel that comment is helpful'
We don't Own our stuff
We use 'you' language not 'I' language. For example 'you are wrong' instead of 'I don't believe you are right'.
'You made me really angry when you said that', instead of 'I felt really angry when you said that'.
We don't accept responsibility when we get it wrong.
If you are the person that says 'you are a moron', you might then say, I'm sorry, I didn't mean that, it wasnt fair. What I meant to say was that I don't agree with what you just said'.
It is much easier to immediately take ownership and retract the comment than it is to repair a damaged relationship later.
Some examples of when people have worked this out well on Facebook are;
' I don't want to fall out with you over this, can we agree to differ'?
'I am happy to take any of my friends that voted differently to me out for a beer so that I can explain why it was important to me to vote the way I did'.
An extreme example of where it hasn't gone well is an example of a person threatening to disclose secrets on line about people whose view she feels strongly about. That threatens trust and without trust there can never be real resolution and understanding.
There has never been a more important time than now to build bridges and to have conversations based on tolerance, and understanding. And for me, out of that comes compassion and a sense of shared humanity and love.
If you want to find out how to gain confidence in having sensitive conversations, please ask about my courses, How to Have a Courageous Conversation, Assertiveness and Enhancing your Communication Skills with NLP, or why not sign up for a coaching session with me
The perfect way is without difficulty
Over the last few months, I have been having a crisis of self belief and self confidence and this is a pattern for me that comes and goes. Its like a monkey on my shoulder.
It has come about for a reason, (also a pattern for me), that is a healthier one. I am incredibly curious about life, about people and about experiences and this last year I have thrown myself into many new situations involving travel, stretch and meeting many different kinds of people.
I changed job and chunked up to working at a regional and national level instead of just a local level. I went freelance part time. I joined Ulab, a movement to make a difference to self, to organisations and to society. I started an online international coaching circle. I completed a life changing NLP trainer programme and have done other in depth courses in Clean Language and Applied emotional intelligence.
.. and yet I still am prone to imposter syndrome. I can feel less clever, less articulate, less qualified, less proficient or whatever, and on occasions I have noticed (and occasionally others have noticed) me withdrawing into myself rather than contributing, for fear of looking daft.
When I notice myself in this particular state, here are some strategies I have found work for me. I hope that in sharing some of them, they will be useful to you too.
Recognising patterns in myself has been helpful. Keeping a journal and writing in it on a daily basis is incredibly helpful in recognising patterns. Once you notice a pattern you can 'pattern interrupt' and do something different - anything - to get a different result. I make an effort to be kind to myself, give myself positive feedback. I say STOP to myself when the negative inner voice starts up. I allow my body to tell me what it needs in terms of relaxation, a walk, some nice food. And I talk to somebody I love and who loves me about what it is that is on my mind..
Just do it. This week when I had to do couple of things that were new to me and where didn't have a clear objective, I just had a go, literally put it out there and took feedback. and the feedback was great, really positive with a few helpful suggestions that made it even better. My tip - don't wait till you have it right or perfect or have all the answers or fully understand it - just put it out there and be clear that whatever it is is a work in progress and that you would like feedback and constructive critique. This builds trust and relationships too as you bring an honesty, openness and a vulnerability that encourages the same in others.
Facts not Mindreads. Do you think people are thinking something about what you are doing (and its usually not so positive)? This is a mind read!
Instead why not ask them? Be honest and be specific about what it is that you want feedback on. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Asking for feedback is incredibly helpful in challenging and testing your own assumptions.
When I told my boss about how I was feeling he was flabbergasted and gave me some wonderful feedback that gave me a different perspective. He understands the areas I feel weaker on and has been incredibly generous in sharing tips and strategies and also how he has often felt the same and what he does to get himself in the best state.
Get in your best state. Recall a time when you felt confident, happy and creative (or whatever resources you need in your situation) and go back to that time as though it is happening right now. What are you seeing, feeling, hearing, tasting and smelling? What are people saying to you, what is the environment like, what are the expressions on peoples faces as they interact with you, how are you interacting with them?
As you are really at the peak of that experience, anchor that. To anchor simply make a replicable gesture such as touching your thumb and little finger together, or touching your elbow - something discrete that you wont do day to day and as the intensity of the feeling subsides, release your anchor. Repeat this process three to five times.
Now future pace. Imagine a time in the future where you will want to be confident, happy and creative (or whatever your resources are). Take yourself to that specific time as though it is happening now. Touch your anchor and see yourself in that picture, feeling confident, happy and creative. Again notice how you are engaging with people and they with you. What are you seeing, feeling, hearing. Are there any tastes or smell?
Release your anchor as the intensity of the experience subsides.
Now imagine a time when you are in a situation that isn't going as you would like it to. Touch your anchor and notice how you are, how people are reacting to you, how your body feels. What are you saying to yourself? What are you hearing from others? Are there any tastes or smells, and again, as the experience reduces in intensity, let go of your anchor.
How does that now feel?
Do keep topping up your anchor by reimagining your experience and touching your anchor. Notice the difference that this makes to how you feel when you use your anchor.
You can also use pictures, smells or objects as anchors. I use two bracelets with messages on as anchors and I wear one or both when I need to. One says 'believe in yourself' and the other, 'do what makes you happy''.
Recently I have been really antsy. For me that means not being able to settle to things, starting and not finishing them, poor sleep and a constant restlessness. When I get like this, I feel like a caged tiger and I feel compelled to get outside and walk.
Even though I am a town dweller, there are some lovely walks nearby - a country park and a bike trail that passes three lakes. I find the walking really helps to self sooth and I can do one of several things to change my state. If you find yourself feeling similar, why not try one of these...?
I walk mindfully, simply listening to birdsong and noticing how many different kinds of song there are. Or I might simply focus on my feet and the feel and sound of them as I walk on the path. Sometimes I will focus on the patterns of light and wind on the water. This has the effect of putting my attention outside of myself and my breathing slows and the tension in my body disappears. Being outside in the light and the sun is incredibly important to me.
Other times, and I can also do this whilst walking, I seek the sensation of what I am feeling. Where is it located, does it have a size, a shape, a colour. I think of that sensation, just notice it, what else comes up? What is it telling me?
I am non judgemental and non self censoring and just listen to what emerges. What is the gift that the sensation brings? What is the message it has for me? Once you understand the root of the sensation, thank it. Ask it what it wants to have happen next. And then notice, has the sensation changed? Does it now have a different size, shape location. How do you feel that is different? What do you think that is different?
Other times I might do a clean language selfie and this involves simply asking yourself a few questions. You can film this on your webcam or just do it.
Below is a link to a clip of me doing a clean language selfie. Not a very glamorous video - I have a cold and there is washing in the background - but its real! It was when I felt stuck in project managing a big leadership event at work and it was the first time I had ever organised anything like this.
It lasts 8 minutes and bear with it to see the transformation in my words, tone and body language. Why not give it a go yourself?
Please feel free to comment or ask questions
About the author
I love learning new stuff, I get a real thrill from making new connections with and between things.