Question: I’ve been around some people who seem to always know what to say. They respond with some mixture of wisdom, compassion, courage, strength, and assertiveness – and seem to intuitively know what mixture of these qualities is needed. Are people just naturally that way…or what’s the trick?
My answer: I’ve had the experience of simply “riding” my intuition when communicating, and being very satisfied with the result. It’s not totally reliable though, so I see the communication work I do as providing myself and others with “training wheels” to help with communication when the intuition dries up, or when what I’m intuitively drawn to say seems to be making things worse. Training wheels are also known as “stabilizers” in the UK – and what I’m describing here can certainly contribute to my sense of stability, even when navigating through difficult conversations.
So, riding with the “training wheels” means I limit myself to thinking, speaking, and asking about just four areas of focus.
* What am I hearing/seeing right now? What did the other person actually just say or do – can I get clear on what I’m actually observing separate from my thoughts and judgments about what’s happening?
* What’s the impact on me of what I’m hearing/seeing? How am I feeling?
* What do I want, fundamentally, at this moment, or in this conversation?
* What am I moved to do or say? What do I want to ask the other person to do, or to tell me?
Focusing moment by moment on these four areas of inquiry usually helps me to communicate. And if I want to take this a step further towards really connecting with the other person and moving towards mutually satisfying communication – I will ask myself the same four questions about them too, repeatedly, as the conversation proceeds. What are they observing? What’s the impact on them? What do they fundamentally want? What would they like to hear from me or ask of me? You’ll see these basic questions at play throughout this blog.