Tuesday, November 26, 2019

How to listen when you violently disagree

I recently had a spontaneous and deep conversation with my Lyft driver, Jose, about strategies for spending time with family and friends  who have beliefs and values that differ from our own.  (Politics, religion, lifestyle are three biggies that come to mind.)   He expressed sadness that his family gets together but isn't close like they used to be. His own religious practice and sobriety are handled with silence.  "We just don't go there;" these topics are "off limits."

The sacrifice and trade-off of peace-keeping harmony is less authentic connection.

Here are a few challenges to consider as you gather over the next few weeks. Invite people to try "going there" on topics that are usually kept off limits with a few agreements that might create more of an open climate.

Consider adapting something like Don Miguel Ruiz’s 4 Agreements (I've added my own comments):
 Be impeccable with your word.   (watch your language, tone, and body for expressions of judgement!)
♡ Don't take anything personally.  (Give yourself credit for initiating something very challenging)
♡ Don't make assumptions.  (you KNOW they happen in our minds, but consider putting them aside and asking versus assuming or name-calling/labelling)
♡ Always do your best.  (Start by holding yourself accountable to this disciplined behavior, hopefully you will inspire others to do the same, but if not be willing to walk away knowing that you made an effort to connect)

If you engage in a topic where your perspectives and beliefs differ, notice and suspend your own judgement in service of understanding the other person not their position. Listen with true curiosity rather than a goal of being right or changing someone else's mind.  Consider saying something like, " I would like to discuss our different opinions openly and with curiosity if you are willing to care-fully give it a try.  Let's work to understand each other better and resist the urge to try to change each other's perspectives, or fight to be right"  and "While I disagree, I admire your passion and you know I love you"

One last note of caution - this might work best if done early in your time together and avoid trying this if alcohol has been consumed, it just makes emotional self-control much more challenging for all parties!  Sometimes though, it seems easier to do the things on this humorous list (thank you Graham) than to actually engage, listen, suspend judgement, exhibit curiosity when we just want to shut the other person down or disengage......

The goal of listening to understand is not being right, it's  true connection.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

This year I've been LISTENING to my body

Personal share - water-falling & ankle-rolling: 
On January 12th I took a beautiful hike with my dear friend and our dogs along a trail filled with waterfalls.
On the way back down,  I stumbled and rolled my left ankle laterally 90% with the ankle-
bone rolling and crushing down onto hard granite.  I managed to hike the mile-and-a-half back to the car.

(sprained ankle tip: keep on moving if not broken, natural pain relievers and inflammation reducers will keep you at bay until you can get to your destination or help)

For the next 3 months I pushed a hard pause on my trail-marathon training, and went through some rough endorphin withdrawals.  I knew that this was going to be an opportunity to dig deep into my toolbox of skills to listen to my body and emotions with curiosity, self-compassion, and patience as it slowly recovered...................

Here is a peek into my journal where I reflected on lessons from my ankle.

In the past, I have been frustrated by injuries and angry at my own body.  This time I chose to intentionally observe, listen, love and learn. 

I applied skills and tools that I offer to others - here's the list that kept me sane and healing:

  1. Daily meditation
  2. Thinking and communicating words of self-compassion
  3. Researching and consistently doing rehabilitation and strengthening exercises
  4. Celebrating small wins during my recovery
  5. Patience with re-building my running endurance, then speed

I'm happy to say that this past Sunday,  I completed the North Face Endurance Challenge Half-Marathon, and beat my estimated finish time significantly. 

This year has been hard work both physically and emotionally, and as I crossed that finish line, I had a joyous feeling of, "that was well worth the effort!"

Thanks to all who support me through this journey of life!

Monday, November 11, 2019

How do I listen to someone who RAMBLES?

Thanks to my amazing mom, Judy, for suggesting this topic.  This is especially on-point given the holiday season coming up.  Think of those various parties and family gatherings.

Sometimes we have great "conversational chemistry" with someone where the topics flow easily and turn-taking is natural because you are truly curious and interested in each other, and probably share similar values and views.

BUT....what about when our values and views and level of depth to our interest on a topic differ?

Here are some suggestions to consider when you have that "trapped" feeling of trying to listen to someone who can't seem to pause for a breath, or give any space for a question, or turn-taking:
Really listen with curiosity and interest if you can, it can be such a gift to listen attentively to someone who is passionate about their topic, and perhaps they rarely get the chance to share this with someone who cares  (even if you can't relate or don't agree with their perspective - politics, religion, values make this much harder!)  Notice your attention, if you find that you are pretending to listen this is defeating the experience for both of you.  If you are truly tuning out, feeling frustrated, or just needing a change of scenery from this discussion, you may want to try need to consider some of these next suggestions.
Ask a closed-ended question when you have the opportunity to jump in (this will result in yes, no, or a factual answer) "Which sport will your daughter play, soccer or lacrosse?"  or, "Have you made a decision what to do about this?" This can often bring the topic to a close.
Make a physical gesture to interrupt politely - I often raise a hand (or two) if I really need to say something (pardon me but I need to use the rest-room, I need to check-in with my partner etc)
Be clear with your time-limits
Let them know that this might be more detail than you can absorb
Engage the speaker with compassionate feedback, especially if the rambler has trouble with turn-taking and listening to you when you are sharing

Any and all of these are better than rejecting, avoiding, or fake-listening to a person.
Please share your ideas, stories and challenges.  I admit this one is so hard for me!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

5 Habits of Exceptionally Good Listeners from Nick Wignall

Great advice from Nick Wignall from PSILOVEYOU website on the 5 Habits of Exceptionally Good Listeners:

Here is his list, but please visit the link above to read the full article, it's worthwhile!

1. Focus on the person, not the problem  - Most of us are problem-solvers at heart
2. Ask open-ended questions - conversations are more than information exchange. They’re about connection.
3. Reflect back what you’re hearing - shows them that we care and that we’re listening carefully
4. Validate their emotions - acknowledge whatever it is they feel without shame or fear
5. Validate your own emotions - Nothing sabotages your ability to listen faster than defensiveness

I am as encouraged by the comments on this thread as I am the outstanding writing of Nick Wignall.
He also offers several sample open-ended questions and useful pro-tips.

Which habit is the one you are willing to work on this week and how?

Monday, November 4, 2019

Listening and Empathy - Why "I understand" is NOT an empathic response

Sometimes, when someone else is telling me about their situation, I cut in with a seemingly empathetic, "I totally understand"
9 times out of 10, what I really feel is that I've got that person completely figured out, or I've lived through a similar experience enough that the story-telling triggers the memory of MY experience. 
Here's the problem:
The person was sharing their story and experience with me and instead of listening and asking questions  that would invite the person to expand and go deeper into their story, my mind wandered to my own..
Even worse is seizing a pause in the conversation to, "tell you about my similar experience" or jumping too quickly to advise, "have you tried...." The first is where I take over the conversation with my own story (NOT listening) then, a "have you tried" which is telling someone what to do (advice disguised as a question)
Taking turns can be a great way to be in conversation; notice who is doing more of the talking?   What more can you learn by asking one of my toolbox favorites, "what else?" and "tell me more (about)"
I've been making an effort to speak less and listen more wherever I am; social, work, even conflict.  I admit that it feels STRANGE not to talk as much, and benefit is that I am learning more about the people in my life.