“Don’t Hear This!” … and what to do instead

 In Blog, Effective Dialogue

(Time to read: 2-3 minutes)

It came as a shock to me.

One minute I was having a satisfying conversation with a friend.

The next I found myself arguing with her – repeatedly.
No NVC in sight.

What happened?

The trap I fell into

My friend was sharing some of her beliefs about the world, which included some “negative” beliefs that I do not share.

Then I started sharing my beliefs with her.

The trap I fell into was hearing her thoughts.

After all, beliefs are just a kind of thought. And thoughts generally don’t help us connect to one another, or to other people here on the planet.

How we got out again

I take no credit for this.

Of her own accord, my friend started saying “When I remember sitting with women in kitchens in Africa and Central America, and hearing their stories, and how trapped they feel…”

Ah! Of course!

Our beliefs are just things we create to make sense of our experiences.

So I could not connect with my friend’s beliefs. But I could connect with her experience.

With her pain at the women’s stories.

And with her longing that all people have lives of meaning and purpose, self-respect and choice.

Instantly we were back in connection again. No more thoughts. No more argument.

How we can avoid the trap in future

Of course there are other ways to become disconnected. I’ve written about some in the past. I’ll write about more in the future.

And “hearing thoughts” is one trap we can be aware of, and so be more able to avoid.

How could I have done it in this conversation?

I think the most effective thing would have been, as soon as she came to a natural pause point in sharing her beliefs, to ask “Are you thinking of a particular situation as you share this?” or “Is there a particular example of this that you’re aware of?”

I believe that would have created a welcoming space for her to share about the women and the kitchen tables that I found so helpful in connecting with her.

And I believe we can use this same strategy in any future situation where someone starts to talk about their beliefs, ideas, or other thoughts.

Staying Connected

Of course, if we use this strategy, it will be important to put our focus, not on the particular situation or example, but on:

  • the feelings of the person telling it, and
  • what those feelings are telling us is important to them – the intangible values they want met in the situation.

Your Turn

Is there a conversation you’ve had recently where this strategy might have helped you stay in connection?

I invite us both to keep our eyes open for opportunities to try this strategy, and notice what happens.

If you’d like to share your experience, you can email me here.

*  *  *  *  *

Would you like to get more skilled at hearing feelings and what’s important to people – both yourself and others?

In a supportive and encouraging atmosphere?

Then I invite you to check out our upcoming workshops and practice groups.

They provide support to build that skill:

  • Opportunities for practice
  • Quick tips and short-cuts to make it faster and easier to get there
  • A caring community of support.

We’d love to have you join us!  Weekend Workshops here  –  2-hour Practice Groups here

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