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.

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