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How Difficult are YOUR Conversations? Part II

From: Jay
Sent on: Friday, March 15, 2013 5:51 AM
Hello,
Last weekend was great. First, we had fun hosting some 900 people at the festivity at our retreat center on both days (will share the photos and video when ready.) Alongside, the retreat on 'Contentment & Empowerment' was powerful. Besides the usual good feedback, one that stood out was "until today the best experience of my life was skydiving. But now it's the meditation from this weekend." You don't hear that too often :)

Next, I'm headed east this weekend to co-produce a super fun project - www.PeaceintheParkFlorida.org.

If you are in the Bay Area in late June, I invite you to join a workshop I'm leading on identifying and overcoming your fears.

Continuing the discussion from last week, here are some tips & tricks for effective conversations!

With love,

Janardhan

Last week we started taking a look at the anatomy of conversation and the three main factors that underpin a difficult conversation.
 
Here are eight suggested guidelines to drive, hazard and fog free, down the conversational road.  Their usefulness and application, their emphasis and effectiveness, will vary depending on who exactly is in front of you, or the context of your exchange, or the history you share and your mutual expectations of one another.  It's these four underlying factors which ensure most relationships are, by definition, 'messy'.  And it's in those difficult conversations that we usually make the most mess!
 
1  Remember your primary responsibility 
After a lifetime of conditioning in which we learn to believe it's 'the other' that makes you feel what you feel, and therefore think what you think, and do what you do, it's not easy to remember ...no it's not them, it's me!  Most conversations will drive up to this illusion and either get stuck, as the habits of emotional reaction and blame kicks in, or both parties will give up and back away with a simmering, mutual resentment.  A conversation between two self made victims seldom gets very far.  Don't wait for your post conversational personal reflections to realize that you reacted because you forgot to take responsibility for your own emotional state.  Otherwise life becomes a series of very brief conversations!  
 
2  Respect is the secret ingredient 
Difficult conversations are usually with a) someone of whom we are scared, which means we are fearful of what they might say, or b) with someone that we have decided we simply don't like.  Any previous negative experiences (memories of suffering that you attributed to them) or any previous negative judgment will not allow you to give respect to the other.  You won't be able to affirm their innate worth and goodness as a human being.  And any conversation that is without mutual respect to some degree or other is going to flounder as animosity flourishes fast. 
 
If you cannot instantly rise above such memories/judgments, or put them to one side, try this interim measure to introduce respect from your side of the table.  Find at least one or two positive qualities or attributes within 'the other' and see them as that during your interactions.  It doesn't need to be said, although you can say it, sometimes it helps.  But primarily it's your vision of them that transmits that you are ascribing value to something within them, however small.  They will sense that you value them.  This is sometimes enough to unblock your own ability to connect and communicate calmly and clearly, and it makes it easier for them to reciprocate by responding openly and proactively.   But don't depend on it happening instantly!
 
3  Resistance only leads to persistence so...stop it! 
Once you have accepted that it's you that is responsible for what you feel it'll be easier to dissolve your resistance to them, even when you don't agree with their idea and/or their opinion.  Resistance kills our capacity to hear the other clearly and eats away at our ability to understand them.  Misinterpreting and misunderstanding are the most common ingredients of a difficult conversation.  All because of mutual resistance.  Acceptance doesn't mean you agree but it does mean any disagreement ceases to be an obstacle to your connection and communication.  Who stops resisting first?  The one who decides to be a leader! 
 
4  Listen from your heart as well as your head 
Listening from the heart can instantly soften a difficult conversation and remove most of the ... difficulty!  Instead of being concerned just with their facts and your feelings, you become equally interested in the feelings of the other.  You are also ready and willing to share your own feelings when the moment is right.  But in a way that isn't just dumping all your emotions onto them.  Listening from the heart is a skill, an art, that some people seem to have naturally while others take a lifetime to learn.   
 
It can be difficult for many to say what they feel as opposed to what they think when many of us don't know the difference between our thoughts and feelings, most of the time.  Start to practice expressing your feelings in quiet and humble ways, on your own, in front of a mirror, or in the car, as you talk to your self (when you're on your own of course!).  Once you start listening and speaking from the heart you start to create a deeper connection with the other.  That's when all those ideas and opinions, memories and perceptions from the past, start to lose their power to make the conversation unpleasant. 
 
5  Be like bendy toy 
When entering into a difficult conversation there is usually something that we want or something we don't want, which is also a want!  This will always be a threat to your ability to stay calm, be flexible, to compromise, to roll with the others energy.  This 'wanting' also diminishes your ability to understand the other and if there is one thing that is going to make a difficult conversation difficult it's mutually rigid misunderstanding.  But who is going to start being flexible...first?  Who will offer the first compromise...first? Who will inquire and acknowledge how the other 'feels'...first?  Who will let go of their 'position'...first?  Who will bend with the breeze, a little...first? 
 
6  Avoid presumption, assumption and consumption 
It almost goes without saying that conversations work better when we presume nothing and assume nothing.  Most of us know the consequences of presumption and assumption and the time and energy it can take to repair a relationship that has gone askew because of either. When you make an assumption or presumption you become 'closed' around your own conclusions about their motivation, intention and behavior. Being open, even when you want to be closed around your assumptions, is an obvious imperative to a stress free exchange.  Otherwise it just gets very tense for both parties.  Even better is to genuinely care about the other.  When you can care for and about the other you will do a lot of 'asking', which in turn will naturally reveal and dissolve your assumptions.  Too much care however and you are likely to consume the others story and live their story as if it was your own, recreating their emotions as if it were your own.
 
7  Drop the past and pick up the future 
This is both an obvious and well-recognized principle of all conflict resolution and all effective communication strategies - don't dwell in the past by continuously going over the past. Ask only once what happened and what, if anything, can we learn.  Then, how do we go forward, how will we deal with the same situation/issue next time.  Revisiting the past tends to generate emotional heat and the impulse to search for someone to project that heat onto.  This is often why some conversations can easily descend into to an emotional flame-throwing contest.  
 
8  Never 'Dextify' 
Watch out for the following symptoms from our old friend the ego!  Defending, explaining and justifying - otherwise known as  'dextifying'!  Never do that.  Never let them do you!  As soon as you do you are saying, 'I am on the defensive' and the other will start to think they have power over you.  And unless and until they realize it's an illusory power, they will just try to keep it up.     
 
It's not easy to NOT jump into defending, justifying or explaining mode when challenged in any way.  One thing that helps is to create the habit of asking before telling. By asking how they perceive or interpret the issue/situation/topic you give your self the opportunity and space to restore your inner coolness and openness.  There is more likely to be a reciprocal response of, "Well what do you think, how do you see it?"    In that moment all difficulty in the conversation tends to dissolve.  You are chilled because you are no longer reactively 'dextifying'.  And they are open.   
 
Conversations become difficult for different reasons.  But the root cause always lies within us not them!  It's really just a statement to our self that we need to learn more about our self and why we are making things difficult in the first place.  But it's not easy to see that the other person is never the problem, regardless of what they say or do. But if we can say to our self, 'now what is this person, this conversation, this scene we are both in, trying to teach me', we may find that we can come away from the interaction with some moments of personal enlightenment and access to a deeper strength within our self.    It's just that we may have to do that in retrospect at first! 
  

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