Rana, Put that Hammer DOWN! (More effective tools for hard conversations.)

“Between what is said and not meant, and what is meant and not said, most of love is lost.”

Khalil Gibran
The Right Tool Hard conversations like the one George and Rana are having might, at times, make someone want to pick up a hammer. Let me assure you, this is never the best tool for dialogue. (Is the other person really worth felonies?)
Listening to Anger While the hammer isn’t a great choice, listening to the anger that prompted it is. Anger gets a bad rap, mostly because of the ways we express it. Many of us fall into the habit of trying to prove how angry we are with volume and intensity.
Ironically, when we believe ourselves about how angry we are, we are freed up to use our anger as data in a much more effective way.
For more on using both anger and rage well, click here. For our purposes today, let’s just hold out there that when we have the ability to regulate our “fight or flight” responses, (see my video series on taking your power back here,) we have the ability to express the needed changes that are pinpointed by our anger.
It’s all in the “how…”
So… How?? My undergraduate degree was in Communications - Broadcasting. Every Comm Major in the U.S. can tell you that Communication 101 Building Block One is about message transmission.

We have a thought.
That thought goes through all of our personal filters, language choices, assumed meanings. We speak the thought. The other person hears the thought and channels it through their filters, language and assumed meanings. Even when we know people well those messages can become a tangled mess of miscommunication.
If we are going to understand and be understood, we need to find ways to non-reactively make room for the other person’s filters.

Powder Kegging Sometimes our bodies and minds just move too fast. Someone will say what they thought was an average, non-offensive sentence only to find their eyebrows singed off by the other person’s irate, aggressive and/or deeply wounded response. Now the mind and body of the sender, sans eyebrows, is also coming to party with flames, guarding against the surprise attack they just received. Now we are careening fast and furious to a place of no return.
Have you ever watched one of those crime movies or shows where you think you know what happened and then they magically find an audio-visual recording that, when slllloooowwweeedddd wwwwaaaaayyyyy dddoooooowwwwwnnnnn, the scene isn’t at all what you thought at first? Conflictual conversations require something similar in order to create that necessary room for a different way of understanding what happened.
Reflective Dialogue There’s a technique that I learned in couples counseling training called “Reflective Listening.” It is tedious.
It is annoying. It is hard, especially when you find yourself reacting to what the other person is saying, knowing that your job is to listen and understand and not react. (This is particularly
difficult for those of us with ADHD. Compensatory skills will be required.) However, for all that struggle, it really is helpful, and I believe, worth the struggle.
Here’s the basic idea:
The Format The Reflective Dialogue has five parts to it.

  • First, you decide which person is “sending” and which is “receiving” first. The sender relays one message to the receiver, putting things in terms of their own experience of the issue. They use “I” statements, avoiding accusation. Accusations will completely derail the other person’s ability to hear what’s being conveyed. I typically encourage the sender to send in “bite sized chunks,” because the receiver needs to be able to reflect back what was heard. It can get to be a lot very quickly.

Both people are likely going to need to go back again and again to those“Taking Your Body Back” tools mentioned above. It’s really hard not to go into reaction mode when you hear a version of events that seems to leave out a whole lot of information that makes it look and sound very different. However, if you want that part to be heard, you are going to want to try to understand the other person at least as well as you want to be understood by them.

  • Secondly, the receiver reflects back what they heard, in their own words, without adding, spinning it, judging, or otherwise finding clever ways to convey how much they disagree with the statement.
  • Third, the receiver works at picking out the feelings expressed by the other person.

I can hear some of you now:
“Feelings? Blah blah blah!
I’m so sick of all of this “snowflake touchy feely stuff!
Can’t we just address the ISSUE?!?!?” Here’s the thing though - The issue is just data. The thing that has you wanting to reach for the hammer isn’t the data; It’s your emotionally interpreted response to the data that’s smashing into the other person’s emotionally interpreted response. The data is merely the clothes that the real issue is wearing.
If you’re going to “get naked” on an issue with someone who you are not happy with, it had better be a safe enough environment where you know you will be heard, especially if you disagree.

  • Fourth,
    the receiver works hard at understanding where the other person is coming from, even/especially if they would not feel the same way in a similar circumstance. You don’t have to be wired the same way as the other person in order to care that this is what their experience of you is. (Do NOT waste time on The Wrong Conversation!)
  • Fifth,
    SWITCH!! Lather, rinse, repeat, swapping sender and receiver roles.

I Thought This Series Was About Stereotypes?? It is, friend, it is. I promise. If we go rushing into an exploration of situations and people that set us off in spectacular fashion, we need to have some fundamental skills in place first.
Otherwise we will only perpetuate and deepen the problem.
Next week I will offer a tool that helps those “sends” be more effective without compromising the message. I’ll also bring George and Rana back to demonstrate.
They’ve been getting really good at this stuff there in the fitting room while we’ve been talking! Be prepared to see them demonstrate some Communication Ninja skills!
In the meantime, take a moment and think through what that reflective dialogue might sound like between Rana and George, with the data they’ve already given usin previous blogs.
I’ll meet you back here next week! If you’re struggling with communicating hard topics in your life, contact Tiffany today. Let’s work together to make a success plan!