By: Charles Gaby, Counselor, Consultant, Author, Yoga Instructor
Co-owner of Sync Yoga & Wellbeing in West Dallas
There’s a divisive political climate in the country today, and though retreating from difficult conversations might seem to be the path of least resistance, it makes me wonder. Are we truly comfortable living in a country where about half the people don’t interact honestly with the other half? I hope not.
Though it may seem that there is no path forward in these conversations, I assure you that often there is. Here are five tips for conversational intelligence – the Five As.
Before you engage in any constructive conversation, you need to accept that your feelings are your temporary “truth of the moment” – and so are the other person’s. Acceptance is important, even if you don’t understand the why.
Can you notice what you are feeling and the feeling being expressed by the other person? Begin by tuning in to the emotion. Be aware that emotion is motivation, and until it is honored there is no real communication. When that emotion is anger, you may want to take a breath and choose not to become defensive. Reassure yourself of your safety and manage the feeling of threat.
If you have given attention to the first two As, you will be in a good place to inquire. Inquiry is the heart of true dialogue. Where do we get our perspectives? What experiences have we had that led to the feelings we have about them? Is there a goal involved that we are trying to accomplish? If so can we name it? What are you hoping for? Why?
Let go of the outcome. Allow what emerges to emerge – let it be what it is. Perhaps you will be surprised. Intimacy, the sharing of our true selves, involves as much conflict as it does harmony. Sometimes, we need to just let it be without forcing the other person into our boxes and categories.
No matter what happens, we can appreciate the willingness to engage, no matter how limited or defensive. The goal is to appreciate the other’s experience and journey regardless of what little common ground we may share.
Please note, there are times when we should walk away from angry and defensive conversations. There are those who are incapable of dialogue at times. But, if you try the 5 As, you may find it more likely to regain real communication. The goal is honest interaction.
Charles Gaby has 25 years of experience in counseling and consulting. He’s an author, yoga instructor and the co-owner of Sync Yoga & Wellbeing in West Dallas.