Thursday, August 20, 2009

Drown Out the Discussion

It seems we have reached a point in Washington where the divisive rhetoric is so loud that we can't hear the facts anymore. This drown out the discussion strategy for trying to defeat health care reform isn't new. It has been used time and time again over the 200 plus years we have existed as a nation to drown out the voices of change. This truth is it isn't limited to Washington.

In our relationships some of us use the same strategy when we disagree. Instead of talking respectfully and listening attentively, so as to understand both sides of the situation, some of us practice drown out the discussion tactics. We appear to be listening when our partner is sharing their point of view, however what we may be doing is forming our next talking point. Many times we may be so absorbed with our own agenda that we hear virtually nothing being spoken. This can be a major contributor to poor communication between ourselves and our partner.

How do we become more attentive and focused as a listener? We keep our posture in an attitude of attentiveness. We lean forward slightly and look our partner in the eye. We keep our hands free and unoccupied. We listen without passing judgement or forming a reply. We focus on what is being shared. When our partner has finished speaking we reflect back the essence of the words and emotion that has been shared with us. We ask for confirmation. If necessary, we allow corrections and repeat the process until we have fully grasped our partners point of view. This process allows our partner to feel heard and validated. When our partner is satisfied that they have been fully understood they will be ready to listen to our point of view in the same manner.

Conversely, when we are the one sharing we focus on being succinct. We try to proceed through our points in a logical manner flowing from idea to idea in as few moments as possible. If we share too much at once our partner may lose our overall concept and be unable to comprehend our point of view. If we have a great deal to share we may need to break it into segments shared one at a time. When our partner reflects back our words and emotions, we listen attentively to ensure that the entirety of our message has been received. If we need to make corrections we do so gently and respectfully. When we are satisfied that we have been fully understood we thank our partner for their patience and compassion.

These simple ideas can bring us out of the morass of confusion and into the light of clarity. Communication can be misinterpreted easily. Tone of voice, words with multiple meanings, a look, a sigh, all can turn a discussion into a disagreement. With patience and practice we can learn to have a productive discussion even when we disagree.

As we find our voice and begin to speak our minds, we may encounter disagreements with our partner. Our ability to disagree without being disagreeable will ensure that we keep good will in our relationship. As we do so we increase our self esteem. We practice self care in our daily lives using our tools and practicing compassion. This form of communication is a tool we will use and cherish as we walk our path of recovery.

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