When patterns are broken, new worlds emerge.
- Tuli Kupferberg
Have you ever been a conversation with someone and realized that it was going nowhere? That the two of you were simply NOT on the same page? It may not even be that you are arguing -- in fact, you may be saying a similar thing -- just using different semantics to prove your point. Have you known that frustration? I know I have and I find it to be draining.
I have learned that most of the time when this situation occurs it is crucial to pay attention to what is NOT being said. Generally, it's what is missing from the conversation that is the real issue. Beyond the spoken words are the fears and insecurities that we often mask. It's not that we are purposely trying to hide our true feelings. It's just that we may not have the vocabulary to say what we accurately want to convey. On the other hand, we may have the vocabulary, but may be slower to process what we truly feel. Either way, it makes for an exasperating conversation.
To be constructive, one wants to get to the source of the other persons heart and not just deal with the spoken words or symptoms. How do we do that?
The single most effective tool that I use in these situations is to listen intently and silently ask myself: what is this person NOT telling me? Generally, it is a need that can be uncovered.
Have you ever had a disagreement with someone and the issue wasn't even really what the conversation was about? As an example, a client of mine, let's call her Sue, argues with her husband, Jim, about money. Together they make plenty of money, yet his spending habits are much more extravagant than Sue's. They may argue about the money he has spent on his "toys," but if Jim would stop and ask, "What's NOT being said here?," he might find that his wife has a high NEED for security and when he spends the way he does, it makes Sue fearful about the future.
On the other hand, if Sue would ask the same question, "What's NOT being said here?," she might discover than Jim has a NEED to be accepted in his peer group and having "toys" provides him with a way of participating with a group, thus getting that need met.
Now, understanding the unique needs of Jim and Sue, can you imagine that their 'money' conversations might take a new, fresh direction in the future? This new scenario leaves a whole lot of room for compromise, doesn't it?
It's always most effective if two people are in touch with their needs and can communicate them as they come up. We each have the responsibility of remembering that the person we are in conversation with is probably not a mind reader. It's wise of us to share openly if we want to get our needs met and build healthy relations.
OK, suppose you ask yourself, "What is NOT being said here?," and now you want to share what you think the real deal is with the other person. How do we do that effectively? It is essential that we do our own internal work and come from a place of love.
The two biggest blocks to someone receiving your message are judgment and attachment. Anytime you judge someone, you identify them as being separate of you from you and, therefore, break your connection. By the same token, when you have an attachment to the outcome (i.e., your agenda), you put yourself ahead the other person, once again breaking the connection. This is worth repeating -- do your own internal work and come from a place of love! Establishing an authentic two-way connection can be a complex process, however, the rewards are great when one learns to uncover the core need and communicate clearly with a pure heart.
Beth Burns is a Professional Life Coach, partnering with motivated people on their personal and professional goals.