If we want someone to hear our side of the story, we can’t start with it. We must start with their side of the story, so they know we get it.
If someone communicates to me in this manner, I find no need to defend myself (because they are defending me) and I can listen to the other side of the story with ease.
For example, if someone felt as if we had disrespected them when, we feel they misunderstood us and were overreacting, the following would get us the best result…
- I understand that you felt disrespected.
- I never want you to feel disrespected.
- I am so sorry that you had to go through that experience.
- (Then (and only then), the other side of the story)
If, instead, we merely say, “I understand,” be prepared for the other person to roll their eyes.
This was the question I was asked in a seminar after describing an ugly relationship meltdown with my husband’s best friend.
After the confrontation between us, while expressing amazement concerning the friend’s behavior, my husband kindly guided me into also seeing his friend’s point of view. For the first time, I realized I had been threatening his best friend’s ego with my sarcasm, thinking it was done all in fun and he should know that. I thought he shouldn’t take himself so seriously and rationalized that I wouldn’t be offended if someone said the things I said and neither should he. I had inadvertent treated him the way I wanted to be treated instead of the way he wanted to be treated.
The unfortunate answer to the question, “Why hadn’t my husband told me earlier?” was, “My husband had tried many times to tell me but I had argued, maintained my position, and changed nothing.”
I now regret my mistake; my failure to listen carefully to the guidance, and to be sensitive to the frustration others were feeling with my communication habits. And, yet, the message of my biting and hurtful sarcasm had been delivered through friends, relatives, and enemies over the years countless times before. I had managed to adamantly justify my obstinate behavior because my mind was firmly sealed and guarded against opinions that differed from my own.
How do I avoid the same mistake in the future?
- I remember how badly we all need balance and guidance
- I listen carefully to others’ observations (without interrupting them)
- Instead of getting defensive, I ask questions for clarification
- I maintain healthy detachment by keeping my ego out of the way
- I say, “That’s fascinating” instead of “That’s bullsh*t.”
What a better world it would be if we learned earlier rather than later!
Byron Katie’s point is this:
- Our happiness has never been a function of what someone else thinks of us.
- Our happiness has never been a function of someone else changing their mind.
- Our happiness has never been a function of someone seeing things the way we do.
- Our happiness has always been a function of our choice.
- Our happiness has always been a function of letting go of our perceptions, preconceptions, misconceptions, and under-informed opinions.
- Our happiness has always been a function of healthy detachment from our own judgments.
Open up to change.
Say hello to freedom from being upset about what others do.
Assume the best.
Because, “Assumptions are the termites of relationships,” according to Henry Winkler.
If we think that someone is treating us poorly or has an unhealthy attitude toward us, it’s better to ask them about it than to appoint ourselves judge and jury. What if we are wrong? Better to err on the side of giving the benefit of a doubt.
Every one of us, regardless of how kind, experienced, or insightful has blind spots.
Last night, I needed help seeing mine. I was too close to see the pain of another. (Thanks Bernie.)
One of the biggest ironies of life: we try to get what we want from someone by attacking, criticizing, or accusing…and then, are surprised when they don’t respond in the manner we desired!
What are we thinking?
Can we not remember how it feels when someone attacks, criticizes, or accuses us? Has this behavior ever made us excited about cooperating? No! Even if we give in and give the other party what they want, it is with reluctance and resentment.
If you want cooperation, it always begins with partnering: remembering, 1) how they feel is critical to the relationship, and 2) packaging our requests in what they want. For example: “I’ve been thinking about how I can help you. If I had this…I could give you that…”
When I used the term “personality wavelengths,” I received this comment, “That is an interesting way to use “wavelength” especially to an old radio repairman like myself. Different wavelengths in a radio cause harmonic distortion and ultimately a communication failure.”
Hmmmmm…What was God thinking when he threw us all together?
God: Gee, I know they are not going to understand each other, but, I need all the types in order to make the world work. There are going to be lots of hurt feelings and reality shows about this, but I really don’t have a choice. The funny thing is, they are all going to believe that everyone thinks like they do. Okay, well, the good thing is that they’ll have to ask me for help to solve this one.
This week I have heard friends describe a boss, an ex-husband, and an associate as “evil.” All three accounts elicited an automatic cringe from deep inside me.
The cringe comes from grasping the inevitability of severed communication paths caused by the indictment of “evil.”
Of course, I felt sympathy for my friends’ relationship agony, but more so for the prolonged pain brought about by this type of labeling.
- Believe the best rather than the worst. (They may just be insecure, frightened, or constipated).
- Remember that all of us are guilty of hurting others.
- How do you know you are not part of the problem? Have you humbly listened to their side of the story without accusation?
- Be courageous enough to move on. Only you control your life.
For a quick turnaround in any stalemate: 1) Silence your mind. 2) Picture the individual with whom you are in conflict. 3) Think about the beginning of your relationship. 4) Admire their uniqueness. 5) Think loving and supportive thoughts about them.
This practice also works if the person we are in conflict with…is ourselves.
So many misunderstandings can be chalked up to overreacting to something someone said before taking the time to ask a few clarifying questions.
I noticed this pattern in all of the Nicolas Spark’s movies that I have seen. High drama could have been avoided if only one person had the maturity to say something like this: “What you said hurt my feelings or seemed insensitive. Can we talk about your thought process, please?”
What prevents us from saying something this mature is simply the emotional state that we have refused to control.
So easily done if we simply:
- Stop (Catch ourself in the state of tension.)
- Ground (Notice a larger world around us.)
- Center ( Reaffirm what’s important.)
A life of low stress is suddenly more than a dream.
At a conference, I was teaching conflict resolution using a contingency-plan approach when things have gone wrong;
I used a real-life example from my relationship with my husband. “So what if this happens again, how would you like me to bring up the boundaries we agreed upon so that I don’t sound like a nag?”
The audience applauded when I finished the story, but one woman yelled out, “But, you didn’t make him pay for his mistake!”
I was so pleased when women in the audience answered her, “She wanted peace not revenge,” and “It would have been a lose-win, ” and “If he loses, so does she.”
It has taken me too long to learn this: making someone pay doesn’t help in the end (contrary to the Eeny-meeny-miny-mo ditty).