“Sometimes a problem isn’t really a problem, but the solution in disguise.”
(Richelle E. Goodrich)
Well that went south fast…
I found our heroes, George and Rana, back in the fitting room of relationships, yelling at each other, hurling accusations and “Well YOU’s” like light sabers, each intent on showing the other person just how awful they really are.
Um… hello?? We have officially lost it.
Some version of this has happened to nearly all of us. We start out well intentioned, but then the other person says just the wrong thing… and down we go. Fortunately, this is not the end of the story.
Four things need to come into play to turn this ship around:
- Self regulation. Each person needs to use their skills to literally “get in their right minds” as many times as possible so that they can do the conversation well.
- A commitment to a common goal. They need to know what’s in it for them in order to be willing to shift from “winning” to “me and you against the problem.”
- Grace. No, not the stuff you said at the dinner table at Grandmas. What I’m referring to is the ability to recognize that all of us human folk are valuable, and at the same time, all of us human folk completely screw up sometimes. If we can value the person while still making healthy choices about their behavior, (Do I say something about it? Do I ignore it? Do I get as far away from it as possible?) we put the dialogue in a context where we can be boldly honest without shredding each other. It lets us be empathetic toward the other person without giving damaging behaviors a pass.
- Dialogue tools including Reflective Dialogue and The XYZ Formula, which our heroes will demonstrate today.
First thing’s first
Nothing’s going to change here until Rana and George take their power back and get into their neocortexes (thinking part of the brain,) if there is any hope at all. Rana prefers Baby Breathing, while George is partial to the stealthiness of Peripheral Vision. I invite them to stop and take three breaths and center themselves. They also agreed that they would stop talking any time the other person held their hand up, taking the moment to take 3 more breaths and recenter again, as often as needed.
And trust me… they needed it.
It’s a simple as X, Y, Z
Not easy, mind you, but simple. George and Rana had already agreed to do Reflective Dialogue. In fact, they tried it. Which is why we found them in the fitting room last week and had to talk Rana down from throwing a hammer at George. They needed more effective tools.
Rana still contends that George deserved it, but she’s willing to consider something that might work better. We are arming her with three letters instead: X, Y and Z.
Things took a sour turn when Rana, as “sender,” (see explanation of Reflective Dialogue here,) told George that he was acting like an “entitled little asshat who believes the world should bow down to him.” To his credit, George did attempt to reflect back what Rana said, but he was so ticked off that he dispassionately spat her words back at her at lightning speed and rushed off into “Who do you think you are!!!” in retaliation.
There may have been a hammer involved at that point.
We agreed to hit rewind and try again. Using the XYZ Formula, Rana was able to say what was true for her and tell George how she really feels, but without attacking him personally. It went like this:
George, it feels like often when we are pitching to clients, you seem to take the meeting over. When you (X!) talk over me in client meetings, it leaves me feeling (Y!) disrespected and disregarded, and that’s not ok with me. Would you please (Z!) work with me, and show the clients that we are a team that works together for their success?
So Rana you’re saying that when we meet with clients you think I talk over you and that makes the client think we aren’t working together. You feel disrespected.
Now that is something George can understand because he feels that Rana does the same thing.
Flip the Script
When Rana was satisfied that she had sent what she intended to and that George had heard her correctly, George was able to pinpoint the feelings that he heard in what Rana said. He let himself imagine what it all felt like for Rana, and he told her so, with specific details that assured Rana that he truly understood. Then they switched places.
Believe me, it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t smooth. They had to stop and breathe several times, and offer each other grace and patience. But they did it! Not only is their work relationship much more candid and respectful, they both learned a lot about themselves.
About those stereotypes
Remember what I said a few weeks ago about cultural differences? We often feel that our way is the *right* way to human and we can get offended when someone else’s way violates our sense of things. We do harm when we assume others are wrong simply because they are different. This is the knot that Rana and George are untangling.
- George read Rana’s manner as aggressive. Females have almost always just given him the floor. He honestly had never even noticed. It was just the way things were. But Rana walked into a room expecting to be just as much as a leader as he has always been. At the time he really didn’t know why it annoyed him so much. Now he has a whole different perspective on his assumptions.
- George had also never noticed, until Rana pointed out in the rest of their Reflective Dialogue, that it was culturally normative for males in George’s culture to always compete for everything from parking spaces to promotions. George had a hard time swallowing that he was acting that way too, but he was coming to see that Rana was a really sharp observer, and she was right this time for sure. Why was he doing this? Answering that question could help George be a lot more intentional about using his competitive energy well, and letting go of it in situations where it isn’t helpful.
- Rana felt so justified in her ire that she hadn’t ever considered that George might not have been conscious of any of the things she was struggling with. Rana assumed that George was choosing to be inconsiderate. In her family, people of all genders were trained to be mindful of how they affect others. (Sometimes, she noted, to a fault, where they were overfunctioning for one another.) It never crossed her mind that other families don’t have the same expectations.
- She also expected George to read her mind, (see Ask Culture v. Guess Culture here,) which is also normal in Rana’s family. She now understands that George is not going to know when he’s doing something that isn’t okay with her unless she tells She plans to practice the XYZ so that she can communicate those kinds of issues much more clearly.
Pulling the pieces together
Now that we have seen the tools that are required for discussing hot button issues, I’m going to explore different stereotypes in the coming weeks. We are going to do our best to listen to other people’s experiences and understand them in their own context, instead of through our assumptions.
I plan to offer these stereotypes based on real people, (confidentially,) and we will look both at the stereotypes we might hold against them, and also at what positive dialogue could potentially sound like.
In the coming months, as mentioned in my newsletters, I am going to be working on a podcast titled “Tttthhhooooooosse People!!!” with my cousin/colleague, Brandon Miller. We intend to help people from very different perspectives talk constructively about the way they are stereotyped. Hopefully they will have as much success as Rana and George. Stay tuned!
Are you having a hard time communicating with people who are very different from you? I’d love to hear from you! Contact Tiffany right now, here.