“Unsolicited advice always comes across as criticism.” – Dr. Paul Silvestri
(And, feeling criticized is why we try to balance the scale by noticing their faults so we can discredit their advice, right?)
I was telling my daughter about getting annoyed with a friend who always gives me advice about everything. I expected sympathy from her, but, pesky daughter that she is, pointed out that I have a problem with giving unwanted advice too.
Ok, I guess I should have asked for advice about that, but…I was too busy noticing others’ faults and their opportunities for improvement to work on my own.
I’m finding out that I need advice much more often than I ask for it, and that I give advice much more often than anyone wants it.
According to Alan Alda, “I am not relating and listening well enough until I am willing to be changed by the person who is talking.”
What??? You mean I can’t be impatient to say my part? Or, roll my eyes, or think about what I need to do while you are talking?
This is such the opposite of what I usually want to do, which is to change or mold the other person around my own ideas and perceptions.
Totally brings my routine to a grounding halt!
But, I tried it yesterday and…
- learned something
- made the other person feel heard
- broke down barriers and the tension that had prevented communication in the past
Hearing the music of the earth with Shakespeare takes a slowing down and a de-prioritizing of our own expectations and demands.
People too, even the difficult ones, have “music” for those who listen.
Many of us will not hear the “music” of important people in our lives because our own noise drowns out what they want us to hear.
Fathers disappointed with sons.
Mothers disappointed with daughters.
Sons and daughters unheard by their parents.
Husbands frustrated with wives.
Wives hurt by husbands.
Bosses mad at employees.
Employees hate bosses.
Hearing their “music” is the first step to fixing heartbreak.
Only then, our “music” won’t be noise to them.
No one cares about what we want until we care about what they want.
The biggest communication malfunctions happen when:
- Something is weird and we don’t say anything because we don’t know what to say.
- We let time go by and things get weirder because now it is even more difficult to bring the subject up.
- We allow a relationship to fizzle because of an “elephant in the room” that we pretend is not there.
- Things become strained or artificial because everyone is thinking about it and hoping that the issue will magically fix itself.
- It rarely fixes itself without an honest, vulnerable conversation.
I now know that we can save and improve many relationships merely by openly admitting the awkwardness and uncertainty we feel.
Humility breeds humility.
Honesty puts honest people at ease.
Everyone is afraid. Someone just needs to go first.
Were they engaged?
Ok, I know it is close to Valentine’s Day, but I am not referring to that type of engagement.
This is about knowing the difference between the people who really care about what we are saying and the people who are only politely pretending to care.
It has taken me far too many years to notice the difference, but finally doing so has made a profound impact upon how many words I speak.
Formerly, I would just keep talking long after someone had stopped listening because I was too insensitive or naïve to notice. What a waste for everyone!
Engagement makes life worth living. Wait for it.
Save the airspace.
“Some people just love drama and seek it out.” I hear this often but disagree that people try to create drama.
Rather, drama-makers are merely those whose pain lies close to the surface.
When drama-makers exhibit behaviors of gossip, worry, jealousy, anger, bitterness, rage, discontent, opposition, or unhealthy competition it is because, slightly below the surface, they are…
- worried about losing something,
- confused about how to get what they need,
- struggling with self-esteem issues,
- feeling overlooked,
- insecure, or
- needing affirmation
Few of us are immune.
Contrary to public opinion, it is not just women.
And, at work, it is not just employees. Many bosses ask me to fix the drama. To do so, I must start with the boss.
If we want to stop drama, we must start with ourselves.
We must exit the dreaded drama triangle.
I don’t like to listen to someone complain. Do you?
I don’t enjoy hearing someone obsess over something that should not have happened to them. Do you?
I don’t want to spend my time with someone who is criticizing, judging, or pontificating. Do you?
We have better things to do with our lives.
Then, why is it so difficult for us to remember not to subject our listeners to our own monotonous monologues?
Making sure to “zap” instead of “sap” people of energy is a good way to jog our memory.
“What could I have done differently?”
The first time I used this phrase was in a case where I felt my partner had not listened to me. When I asked, “Can we talk about what just happened? What could I have done differently to have gotten your full attention?” he relaxed, said he was sorry, and gave me a suggestion that I still use…with unprecedented success!
The phrase removes accusatory language and doesn’t put people on the defensive, thus increasing our chances of staying in dialog and experiencing the thrill of cooperation.
I wish it were not the case, but most of us have multiple opportunities to work through relationship dysfunctions. This phrase is a useful tool.
(Dr. Dean C. Delis has a similar discussion about “No-Fault Communication” in his book, The Passion Paradox.)
Some of us pat ourselves on the back because we avoid difficult people. Some invest time and effort to understand why others may perceive us as being difficult.
Some of us congratulate ourselves for not saying what we really wanted to say to someone. Others learn to say what we want to say in a manner that is non-threatening.
Some of us burn bridges. Others perform regular maintenance on bridges so they may be crossed when necessary.
I often tell new leaders that this one skill will set them apart from all their competitors, but that it doesn’t come naturally. What we instinctively do often makes matters worse.
Learning to speak calmly and assertively when we would rather fight or flee pays off royally in every area of our lives.