Living and working with people gives so many opportunities to learn how to negotiate, discuss, hear, and be heard in everyday conversations. Internet discussions are also full of these opportunities, but committed to media rather than in real time. So many learning opportunities are becoming available to me with a small change in my thinking.
What typically runs through my mind when having a discussion in which I feel we are not “agreeing”:
I hate being misunderstood. When someone takes something I say wrong, I get frustrated. If they had responded the correct way to my statement, then I could make my point better. I have to back up and explain to them another way, so they get the precise point I was making. Then I feel better and the conversation can proceed.
What my calmer (deeper? wiser?) self who observes the mind’s antics is starting to understand:
I hate being misunderstood. I feel a need to be known as correct and precise. When someone takes something I say wrong, If people don’t respond according to my plan, I get frustrated overthink the mismatch and make myself unhappy. If they had responded the correct way in agreement with my fantasy to my statement, then I could make my point better I could tell myself that this was a good conversation. I have to back up and explain to them another way, so they get the precise point I was making. By staying with my version of how things should go, I stay within my comfort zone. Then I feel better and the conversation can proceed.
I have started to do a couple of things during challenging conversations, and the results are delightful.
- I pause for a few seconds before responding verbally. I let the annoyance-thought sit in my mind for a few seconds before talking. That alone usually causes it to weaken a bit.
- Then I ask a mental question or two. What new angle are they bringing to the conversation that I had not considered? What are some ways that they might be right?
- After the pause, I respond with an acknowledgement that provides space that can be filled in later, like “OK”, “Ah, all right”, “Oh, I hadn’t thought of that”, “I’m not sure I understand what you mean”, and one that is usually loved: “Good point”. These are all invitations to participation, and will suspend a judgement.
Employing these steps helps me to move with the conversation, rather than keeping the thought “they don’t get it” ruminating in my mind and turning off my receptivity. When I move with the conversation, it often ends up being about something other than I initially thought. It leads to less irritation and more peace. I learn, and I smile at what a bitch I was in my own mind.