Sunday, June 12, 2011

Just Getting Started

Often we don't speak up about how we feel because:

1 - We are afraid to express our anger
2 - We are afraid to make someone else angry
3 - We are afraid we may become embarrassed
4 - We are afraid we may embarrass someone else
5 - We are afraid to open up publically
6 - We are afraid to reveal too much of ourselves

You get the idea.....

When we DON'T speak up about how we feel, we betray the fact that we haven't by expressing our emotions in other ways. We may:

1 - Withdraw entirely from the discussion - shut down
2 - Use phrasing and "word games" to avoid saying what we'd like
3 - Use sarcasm or humor to convey what we feel from behind a "mask"
4 - Use passive-aggressive words to convey an implied meaning ("Are you going to wear THAT?")
5 - Use labels to imply things, rather than define them precisely ("He is SUCH a company-man!")
6 - Attack others with our words, rather than address the specific issue ("You must be an idiot!")

I am saying that when we don't SPEAK up, we often ACT up - and in doing so, we cause huge issues in our communication. As soon as we start to ACT up, we begin losing interest in the content of our communication and start focusing on how lousy the other person is to deal with. We stop solving the problem we wanted to work on because we created another.

Because we ACTED up instead of SPEAKING up.

We never learned how to conduct a conversation that has significant importance for one or more participants in such a way that everyone feels safe to speak up. We know enough to say "Watch Your Step" when we are working with others in a difficult terrain, in order to preserve safety. So what do we say to them when we are working on a perilous topic, in which someone is likely to become anxious?

1 - "I recognize that we may touch on some difficult subjects. We all need to keep in mind that we are here to address [define specific issue] and NOT to fault."
2 - "We need to cover some pretty sensitive topics and i suppose that some of us may feel like we are being chastised. I want us all to keep in mind that this is to remain constructive and respectful."
3 - "We all know that errors were made on this project, but knowing it isn't enough to prevent them from happening again; we need to address them. To do that, we need to identify them in a caring and respectful way. We need to keep this a safe place to bring these things up with each other."
4 - "I don't know how we can do it without hurting some feelings, but we are going to need to talk about this. Let's make a promise to be honest, extend each other the benefit of the doubt, and recognize that each of us have been doing what we think is right. We need to help each other understand what the full impact of our actions has been."
5 - "I don't know how to say this without just saying it, but I first need you to know that I believe that you have been doing what you think is right and don't believe that you have any ill will about anything that I know of."

In other words, we convey that the topic is important enough to discuss honestly and that we know it might be controversial. We convey that we know that it could make others feel unsafe, betrayed, or feel as if they should not speak up. We convey that it is ok to feel that way and still ok to speak up so long as it is done respectfully and without malice. That will get us started.

Next time we can talk about how the next few statements are handled.

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