Here’s the question ~
Is it possible to have real, juicy, effective and intimacy-building conversations without sounding like you’ve morphed into some self-help sap, or are reading aloud from a psychologist’s best-practices manual?
Inspired by Dan Wile – a wonderful California-based couples therapist whose work champions building intimacy one conversation at a time – I’m presenting my own take on how you can show up as the non-communications-major, bumbling, inarticulate, feisty and often forgetful self that you are and still have the real, juicy, effective and intimacy-building conversation you both crave.
- Presume incompetence Unless every conversation goes smoothly, and leaves you and your partner feeling more connected and in love, you’re probably a novice communicator like the rest of us. So – since this is most likely the truth – embrace it.
- Leap first Reveal your hand. It’s a great way to start. See the previous post on 7 steps for speaking with your partner more effectively. It might get things started if you let your partner know some of the things brewing for you.
- Flush out the Demons Our minds are never tabula rasa in conversations. It helps if you can notice what you’re dragging around: a sugar headache, an assumption you’re fixing to confirm, a flaw you’re trying to catch-in-action, a point you’re trying to prove. If you can just fleetingly be aware of these – even if you can’t flush them out – maybe you can herd them to the corner so you can listen with fewer distractions.
- Do the Hokey Pokey Put your whole self in. Listening is highly physical (and cognitive – see next point). Don’t sit there like a stuffed panda: Nod some. Get closer. Lean forward. Furrow the old brow if you’re confused. Engage with what your partner is telling you with an impressive array of body parts.
- Sweat some It’s hard work listening. Engage that pre-frontal cortex (it uses about a bagel’s worth of energy a day). If you don’t turn on the brain and think about what you’re hearing, odds are good you’ll miss 25-50% of what’s coming at you. So, reassure your partner you’re “actively listening” as the good communications experts invite us to do. This will help you to…
- Interrupt Sure, it can lengthen the time it will take you and your partner to hash a topic through, but you’ve already presumed incompetence on both your parts. If you want to interrupt because you’ve genuinely lost the plot and want to understand – go for it. Get their attention, jump up, lean back in your chair with a “Woa there, I think I’m getting this but you lost me when you said … can you put it another way?” But, if you want to interrupt because you want to make your point and stop understanding your partner, then don’t. In other words, interrupt to clarify not to steal the floor.
- Disagree At some point your partner will wind down. Now, hold on tight to the idea that you do not need to agree with what they said – all you have to do is let them know that you know what they said. Try saying “I’m not saying I agree with you – I may or may not, I’ve not thought about it yet – but I do want to be sure that I am getting things from your point of view. So, for you it’s about . . . “. And off you go – summarizing your partners main points.
- Common Enemy The goal of all this week’s postings has been to help you get to know what’s going on inside of you with sufficient clarity that you can talk about it with your partner and unite together on the same side against the common enemy of disconnect-in-the-face-of-whatever-it-was-you-were-originally-fighting-about.
I would dearly love to know if any of these suggestions are helpful – or not! Thanks in advance. Gemma