couple talking

Interior Monologues

Have you ever had a conversation where you didn’t feel heard or understood? Have you ever become angry at someone else because their words didn’t seem to match their actions? Does it feel like our conversations, maybe more so now, seem to be disconnected?

The reason why communication is usually stilted is because we do not know, own, and express our truth, and because we are taking people at face value instead of looking at the motivation behind their words. One of the most powerful notions I have learned lately is that everything someone says and does, is ALL and ONLY about them. Let that soak in. What people are saying and doing is simply a reflection of their needs, expectations, and perceptions.

Let me give you an example. I help with administrative tasks for my husband’s business. To get done what I need to get done, I need information from him. He is very busy, and it is often difficult to receive the information I need from him. For a while, we had some conflict. I was playing the nagging wife trying to get information from him. He would then, rightfully so, get angry at my nagging.

It wasn’t until we looked at what was under the surface, at the true motivations we both had for our words and actions, that we were able to understand and improve the situation. From my side, I thought my husband didn’t care enough about me to get me the information that I needed. I wasn’t pestering him for information. I was desiring love and attention. From his side, my husband thought my nagging was an attack on his ability to do his job. He thought I was berating him for being incompetent. Much larger topic than just workflow, isn’t it?

To help us navigate the real issue, we need to take a step back, seek to understand, and share our truth.

Take a step back

As I help others with conflict, the first thing I tell them is to remember that everything someone says or does is all and only about them. Taking a step back to uncover, as much as we can, the story behind the story, provides us with understanding, empathy, and the ability to address the true issue. Instead of focusing on what seems to be the issue, when we can see the bigger picture and we can work to resolve the real cause of the conflict.

Seek to understand

The first hurdle here is willingness. It is much more comfortable to be a self-righteous victim and attack the other for what they are saying and doing, than it is to take the higher ground and seek to understand. However, as we saw in my personal example, if I stayed in my self-righteousness and just continued to pester for information, nothing would be solved. It is beneficial to all involved to understand the truth of what is going on.

Share our truth

If we don’t share our truth, if we don’t explain why we are acting the way we are, we can not expect our problem to be solved. The first step here is taking the time and having the courage to look at why a situation is difficult for us. What is our underlying backstory? When we can uncover that and share it, we are then closer to having our needs met.

Look at some of your current challenges. Take a step back. What is the real issue for you? Have you communicated your truth and your needs? Have you sought to understand what may really be going on with the other person? Are you working to solve what is below the surface?

conversation

Healing Differences of Opinion

I remember a time in the past when friends of mine talked up a restaurant for weeks. When we could finally have dinner together, my friends were enraptured by the atmosphere, service, and food. Before, during, and after the meal their exuberance and praise was over the top. When my critique of the meal was given, it was lower than theirs. What astounded me was not only our difference of opinion, but my friends’ reaction. They took my honest experience as an afront to not only the restaurant, but to them. They had tied their self-worth and self-esteem to their belief about the restaurant. When I was less than praiseworthy of the restaurant, they felt I was insulting them.

Sound familiar? In the heightened political climate over the past years, do you or those around you take differing political views as a personal insult? I believe one of the reasons there is so much political tension is that we have moved away from honest discussion of issues and instead are defending our political affiliation as our sole identity. We no longer lean right or left, we ARE Left or Right. When our identity and self-worth are tied to something outside of our self, it leads to insecurity, fear, and either fighting for our ideology or becoming depressed and insecure when our ideology is attacked.

conversation, listening
Photo by Joshua Rodriguez on Unsplash

A recent Fast Company article explored the concept of our values being tied to our worth and how to have honest conversations. It states, “Yet hanging out with like-minded people is the opposite of open-mindedness. It signals a reluctance to learn and grow, and a false sense of security about your own values, perhaps because you are afraid to have them challenged as they are the core definition of yourself, or you fear that they are too fragile to hold when exposed to a different form of thinking.” The article has some terrific advice around this subject that I would like to share and expand upon.

Be Teachable

The article brought up the importance on continued learning. It is the concept of remaining teachable. When anything stops growing, it dies. Such is true with our minds. When we think we know it all, we have closed off and killed our minds. As I get older, I have learned that the only thing I know for certain is that I don’t know anything. By staying in an I-don’t-know mind, I strive to see situations without filters, I try not to judge based on my experience, and I have an openness to see things anew.

Listen

Listening is a key component of learning and understanding. Hearing out another’s view does not mean we agree with them or that one party needs to convert to the other’s beliefs. Instead of cutting off someone with your thoughts or attacking them for theirs, listen. Listen to what it said. Listen to what is not said. Listening leads to understanding which leads to acceptance.  To accept is to stop fighting reality. The reality is that someone has a different take on a subject. Peace is found in accepting the reality that not everyone thinks like I do. Accepting is not choosing who is right and who is wrong, it is listening to, comprehending, and understanding each other.

It Takes Two

You can be open. You can be a terrific listener. You can be accepting and willing to come together. The other person may not. It is important to have healthy boundaries. If the other party is not willing or able to listen with an open mind and only wants to attack, you do not need to continually expose yourself to that abuse. Move on to the next person who is a bit more openminded. You can not repair a relationship on your own. Both parties need to be willing to come together.

It is not always easy to hear out someone else’s views, especially if the views are very far away from our own. But to heal our country and our personal relationships, we need to become open-minded and accepting. Little by little we can begin to feel confident in our own self-worth, remove our fear, and come back together.