Saturday, August 28, 2010

Compassionate Communication

A lot with people are talking about how to communicate better. In addition to substantive conversations, I like nonviolent communication as a model to strive for. It’s also referred to as compassionate communication, highlighting the empathetic nature of the process.

You can read more about it in Rosenberg’s book, but there are basically 4 steps that you can employ as needed, when communicating and when listening. Here are a couple of examples for communicating.

Step 1 – Observe without judgment or evaluation. For example, I see you looking away and wonder if you’re thinking, or bored, or something else. Instead of, Am I boring you?, a sarcastic jab.

Another example, I notice you missed your curfew since it’s 12:30 and your curfew is 12:00. Instead of, Why are you always late?

Step 2 – Separate feeling from thinking and express your feelings without criticizing or blaming. For example, I see you looking away and wonder if you’re bored and it worries me that I may not be interesting enough. Instead of, I’m feeling hurt because you don’t think it’s important to respond to me.

In the curfew example, I feel afraid that something may have happened to you when you’re not home by curfew. Instead of, Do you ever think about how worried I get when you’re late?

Step 3 – Connect what’s happening with some human need. For example, I need to feel valued and when you look away when I’m talking and don’t respond, I feel alienated. Here we must distinguish between human needs and how we are to get those needs met. In this statement, I’m just putting it out there.

When you’re out past midnight and don’t let me know where you are, I start to feel afraid that something’s wrong and I need to have peace in my life. I need to have peace, but it’s not necessarily up to you to meet that need. Bringing us to Step 4.

Step 4 – Request something to meet your need. For example, I’d like to hear what you think about this.  Can you tell me?

In the case of the missed curfew, I’d like to hear from you when you’re going to be late. Ask for what you want, not what you don’t want (i.e., I don’t want you to be late).

Bottom line, the other person doesn’t have to give us what we ask for. But asking is important. It helps us gain clarity and express our needs. Then we can decide how to handle things if we’re refused, or perhaps given an alternative. Often we may actually get what we’re asking for. Perhaps your companion is just pondering and can’t figure out how to articulate what they’re thinking. Maybe your child thinks it’s time for a later curfew and will now ask for one.

Listening works the same way. You friend may react to your request with anger or more silence. You can listen to their anger and reflect on it in the same compassionate way, e.g., I can hear from your tone that you’re feeling angry and I’d like you to tell me why. Regarding the curfew, From your explanation, I’m thinking you want a later curfew. You may or may not decide to give your child what they want.

I like the calm, clear communication that results. It takes a lot of work and practice to get there. I’m guessing on this last bit, since I still haven’t arrived.

Talk.  Coldplay.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Online Dating is Official

It’s official. According to a story today on NPR, more than half of modern couples meet on-line. That doesn’t include the people who meet in bars but actually met first on-line.

As the psychologist quoted pointed out, no one knows what you want the way you do. And you can screen for things important to you via on-line dating services. Sure you’ll meet some people you’re not interested in seeing again, but that’s always true of dating. It's still a lot quicker than traditional meets.

Shop as many sites as it takes to find one you’re comfortable with. Look for sites that capture your interests if the biggies like don’t appeal. You can date by ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, geekiness, profession, wealth, politics, athleticism and probably anything else you’re interested in. Consider free sites if you’re not sure about the commitment.

Other tips for on-line dating:

- Tell the truth and present your best self, but there’s no point in saying you’ve got an athletic body type or college degree if you don’t.

- Consider different options like speed dating and matchmaking services.

- Be safe, i.e., use your head.

- Do not personalize everything; if someone doesn’t get back to you there are a million reasons why.

- Be ready to move on if something doesn’t feel right or isn’t working right.

- Consider anyone who meets your criteria. You can always ditch them later and it’s good practice.

- Have fun!!!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Happy People Have Real Conversations

Did you know that people who have substantive conversations (vs how ‘bout this weather conversations) are happier? It’s not surprising, since really connecting with people requires more than an exchange about atmospheric conditions.

I have a few suggestions about how to have real and substantive conversations. At work, use the honest question approach recommended by John Baldoni. The principles are be curious, dig deeper, be open-ended, care about what they’re saying, be interested in what they’re saying, and take your time. If you can’t be interested and caring, why are you trying to have a conversation with this person anyway?

At home, the same. In social situations, the same. With your kids, the same.

In other words, when you talk with people, be focused. Try to learn something about them you don’t already know. Show them you care and are interested in what they have to say by making eye-contact, leaning forward, nodding and asking follow-up questions. Use open-ended, not yes-no, questions. Do not be thinking about what you’re going to cook for dinner or what you’re going to say to get them to change their mind. Do not be checking your phone. Just practice listening, paying attention and asking good questions.

Maybe you’ll find yourself walking away feeling a bit happier. It’s cool to really connect with people. And as Chris Peterson, positive psychologist par excellence, says, people matter.

A good listen:  Connection. The Rolling Stones.