Tool to improve communication: TWO people in the room, not ONE.
Do you have the courage to speak your "truth," as Voltaire called it, and to listen? This is not easy for many of us.
In fact, not long ago I was at a meeting where we as a group needed to make a decision. I had thought about the topic, did some research, spoke to some colleagues and was very clear about what we needed to do. I was convinced, hooked on being right and righteous.
I was so convinced I was "right" that I was struck with how closed off I was to listening to anyone in the group with a different point of view. Suddenly, I realized this position went against absolutely everything I believed in and know is true: that listening facilitates real communication and conversation.
I knew I wanted to make a shift. So with all my energy and strength I said to the group, “I have a very strong opinion on these issues AND from my heart and head I want to listen to your opinions.” What a lesson.
Often we forget that we are separate and have different opinions, different memories, and different perceptions of what actually happened, and there is no one right way. Even if you totally and absolutely know that you are "right,” all you know is your perspective. When you don’t allow the other their perspective, there is only one person in the room. There is no room for two, and communication is stopped, killed, deadened.
Here's an exercise, a first step that will strengthen your communication. The more we speak our truth and listen, the more we can have a conversation, and communication that grows and evolves us.
- Person A speaks her appreciations to Person B. B listens and doesn't interrupt. A gives concrete examples (e.g., "When I asked you to turn the computer off and you did, I really appreciated that."). Person A gives a concrete example for every appreciation.
- Person B speaks her appreciations to Person A. Again, very concrete examples. Person A listens, hopefully with head and heart, and does not interrupt.
- Person A speaks resentment, once again using concrete examples. Person B listens, no interruptions.
- Person B shares resentments while Person A listens.
Do this for a short period of time — three minutes each, maximum.
At first you are practicing speaking and listening. There is no responding. When you have developed a muscle, you can respond if you want to after the other person has shared. No discussion, just a simple response.
This is a powerful step. In the end you do not have to agree. You may really disagree. However, if you’re listening with your head, heart and body, you will most likely be affected; you and the other will find your authentic way.
Although I’m focusing on conversations between and among people, this also applies to communication between different parts of ourselves. For example, when faced with a decision, it can sometimes feel like several voices are going off in your head. It’s valuable to listen to all of them, to not dismiss.
You can follow the same structure as in the exercise above to talk things out with yourself. Respect all of the voices, listen to each one, and you’ll find your authentic way.