Have a Voice

Imagine a world where we truly could be like Sara Bareilles wants us to be.

What would the world be like?  I think it would be full of action, full of honesty, full of development, and, dare I say it, full of smiles!  But, that isn’t how the world is.

What keeps us from being brave?  Our fear keeps us from doing a lot.  We fear that we may hurt ourselves by exposing a dark secret or by looking stupid in front of others.  We fear that we may hurt others.  People will think that we think they are stupid or that we don’t deeply care for them.

This post is meant to help us practice being brave.  I hope to help with two mindset changes: 1) A fear of the world full of action, honesty, development and smiles not existing if we don’t speak up and have important conversations; and 2) A mental toolbox to help us have important conversations.  I wanted to share what I found most useful from my reading the book Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler.

Tools for a Crucial Conversation

First, knowing what a Crucial Conversation is will be helpful.  Think of any time when you felt nervous to speak.  Chances are you were in a situation suited for a Crucial Conversation.  Here is the wordy definition in case the emotional one didn’t work: A Crucial Conversation occurs during moments of high emotion, high stakes, and (potentially) opposing opinions.  As a general example, telling a friend or family member to get their act together would be considered a crucial conversation.

Below are the tools which I found most useful.

Look for signs of being uncomfortable, then start the conversation

Here are some common signs.

  • Rapidly beating heart
  • Wanting to move away and be alone
  • Thinking the other person is stupid
  • Wanting to hit something

Once the signs are realized, saying, “I am uncomfortable,” is a way to start the conversation.

Create Safety with Others

Be upfront about the importance of the conversation.  Share the goal of the conversation with the other person.  This helps to avoid letting the goal suddenly switch to winning.  Usually, at least one of the goals is to understand what the other person thinks.  Coming from the angle of trying-to-understand is much safer than the angle of trying-to-change.

On a similar note, ask for the other’s help or opinion.  People will need to be reminded that the conversation isn’t meant to be an attack.  When others cause us to question ourselves, we become naturally defensive.  Therefore, being able to be an empathetic listener will also help to consistently create safety.

State Objective Facts

Compare the following two comments.

“You are a weak, dispassionate, and lazy coward while managing your classroom.”

“Students keep talking after the quiet-down signal.  Meanwhile, you sit straight-faced for about a minute after giving the signal.  No discussion takes place about the students’ inappropriate behavior takes place afterward.”

Both comments would be hard to hear, but the first will likely cause a much stronger defensive act than the second.  If we want to help, then we must avoid using emotionally charged phrases.  Plus, we can’t solve a puzzle without first laying out the pieces.  Using objective facts accomplishes this.

End the Conversation with a Clear Resolution

What actions will take place now?  What criteria will be used to evaluate the next performance?  How have your views or opinions changed due to the conversation?

Ending the conversation by answering one or a few of these questions will help ensure the conversation was meaningful to have.

Imagine a World Without Crucial Conversations

What if you never said, “Hello,” to your partner?

What if you never stood up for the kid being bullied?

What if you never said, “I love you”?

Remember how good it felt after those conversations.  That good feeling is what life would be missing.  I hope we can fear the losing of that good feeling.  If we truly do fear it, then we will all act bravely.

 

 

The Art of Listening

The Untaught Skill

Listening for feeling is a rarely taught skill.  Within the Common Core, listening is found.  Here is one of the standards:

Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives.

I have a feeling people assume that only facts are being said.  But, how often do we say something we don’t really mean?  Or, there is a hidden meaning in what we say?

Empathetic Listening

In order to understand a person, we must understand his/her emotions.  Human behavior stems from emotions.  Throughout our lives we are told to be empathetic, or to try to put ourselves in the other’s shoes.  Empathetic listening is actively being empathetic.  But, it has a bonus!  We get to check if we are correct almost immediately.

Below is an example of empathetic listening done by a father to his son.  This is taken from Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

S: Boy, Dad, I’ve had it!  School is for the birds!

D: You’re really frustrated about school.

S: I sure am.  It’s totally impractical.  I’m not getting a thing out of it.

D: You feel like school’s not doing you any good.

S: Well, yeah.  I’m just not learning anything that’s going to help me.  I mean, look at Joe.  He’s dropped out of school and he’s working on cars.  He’s making money.  Now that’s practical.

D: You feel that Joe really has the right idea.

S: Well, I guess he does in a way.  He’s really making money now.  But in a few years, I bet he’ll probably be ticked off at himself.

Note the responses by the dad.  They contain both the content of what the son was saying and the feeling the son had.  This is a great model of how to show someone you understand them, both in content and in emotion.  Now, if the dad was wrong in either the content or emotion, the son would correct him.  That was the added bonus I mentioned earlier.  Also, compare this to how a “normal” person would respond.  A normal person would likely argue with the son as soon as leaving school was brought up, which is a non-productive dialogue.

  Why is Empathetic Listening an Important Skill?

People are far happier when they are understood.  By showing, or at least attempting to show, that you understand, the other person feels important.  This develops trust, which is required for complete honesty.  And with honesty, we get all the data we need to solve problems.  Who doesn’t like solving problems?  Boom.  Happy.