Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thoughts on 'gettting'

In past blog posts (HERE, HERE & HERE), we have talked about the process of ‘getting’ somebody, or being ‘got’ - how rare it is, how deeply meaningful it can be. However, it’s still a rather vague concept. For one thing, it’s a very American usage, almost slang, and probably not meaningful to non-American speakers of this already maddeningly complex language. So I thought it would be worthwhile to spend some time exploring it and understanding it better.

I suppose one could consider two contexts of getting. One, when you set out to get somebody – to initiate communication with a person with the intention to connect at a level deeper than the outermost layer (refer graphic HERE). The person could be a playroom volunteer, a family member or co-worker – anybody with whom you have an interest in a closer relationship. Alternatively, you could be already in a conversation with somebody and you now want to take it to a deeper level. Example: an argument or other intense communication. In either case, this is primarily an exercise in communication driven by an intent to connect deeply. How about trying on these suggestions in your next attempt at getting somebody:

- Intention: to connect to this person at the level of their deepest hopes and fears, to give them my complete attention during this process

- Attitude: What this person has to say is important. I will respect it even when I don’t agree, because their opinion is just as valid as mine. When they are talking, it is their time to talk; there will be plenty of time later to express my thoughts. If I let them have their say completely and exhaust their urge to express, it will bring them to a point of peace and may actually help them listen later when I want to talk. My attentive listening will be an act of love and peace in the sea of superficial and competitive conversations that typically surrounds us.

- Actions: I will give the speaker plenty of eye contact, and try not to let my gaze wander. Nods and “m-hm”s provide feedback that I’m listening, but I will also ensure they are genuine. If the conversation is interrupted, I will be the one to prompt them to resume. I will summarize and restate periodically to confirm that I have heard and understood correctly.

A simple principle from which I have benefited immensely is something I first read in Stephen Covey’s books many years ago: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. At first look, it appears to be altruistic: give the other person’s views priority over your own. That always makes it a tough sell, especially when in the heat of debate or when the topic is something near and dear to one’s heart. However, as I implemented it in my daily interactions, it quickly became obvious that there’s a self-serving angle to it too – when I have deeper insight into my partner’s position, I’m better placed to respond effectively. And if my intention is to genuinely seek resolution or common ground, this principle quickly becomes second nature to use.

To implement this principle most effectively, not only must you understand, the other person must know that you understand. What Covey recommends is that before you state your point, first restate the other person’s point in your words to their satisfaction. Try it sometime, especially in a really intense argument; it can be one of the most powerful, validating and loving experiences you can give yourself. It happened to me just the other day. A close family member came at us out of the blue, guns blazing. He was furious; so clearly upset that he was physically shaking and close to coming to blows. Now, this is a very uncommon situation for me, and it would have been easy to take the fight-or-flight perspective. However, it was very empowering to instead focus on his emotion, and invite him to fully share why he felt that way. The resulting conversation helped us all explore some important issues and we ended at a deeper and closer place than before.

I realize this comes from having a measure of internal security - feeling comfortable in my own skin, knowing that I am lovable, worthy and adequate, that I have something worthwhile to offer someone sometimes, that I don't have to feel threatened by negative feedback.That is just working on the communicator, in addition to the communication.

In what ways do you supercharge your communication?

Happy Thanksgiving!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Read, smile, think and post a message to let us know how this article inspired you...