Aim for a respectful and compassionate quality of connection, so that everyone can express themselves, be heard and understood. Trust that the connection is more important and more nourishing than being right, or even just having your say. Connection means to try to be open and stay in touch with what matters to the other person – and to yourself – in each present moment.
LISTEN MORE THAN YOU SPEAK
We have two ears and one mouth – a reminder of what is important! Listening is key to a healthy relationship. Often we are only half listening, waiting for our chance to speak, wanting to make our point. When our attention is with our own thoughts, we are not listening. Listening means to enter into the world of the other person, to intend to understand them, even if we disagree with what they are saying.
UNDERSTAND THE OTHER PERSON FIRST
When another person feels you understand them, they are far more likely to be open to understanding you. Willingness to understand involves generosity, respect, self-control, compassion and patience. Be ‘curious instead of furious’ about how others are different from you.
UNDERSTAND NEEDS, WISHES AND VALUES
Everything people say and do expresses an underlying need, longing or value. We can learn to identify and ‘hear’ these needs, even when they are not expressed explicitly. Because all human beings share these needs, they are our magic key to unlocking mutual understanding.
TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR FEELINGS
What someone else says or does is not the cause for how we feel, it is the trigger. Our feelings are stimulated by what’s happening. For example, if someone does not do what they say they will do, we might tell them, “You make me so angry, you are so unreliable!” This inflammatory accusation could be rephrased as, “I feel frustrated because it’s important to me that we keep to agreements we have made.”
MAKE REQUESTS THAT ARE PRACTICAL SPECIFIC AND POSITIVE
Make requests that will help fulfil our needs. This stops us just complaining, and allows the situation to change. Don’t ask things of others that are too vague or too big, or are expressed as a negative request, e.g. “Stop making so much noise.” Be positive and specific, e.g. “I am working. Can you please use the headphones while playing video games?”
USE ACCURATE, NEUTRAL DESCRIPTIONS
When we are upset, we often interpret what has happened, using judgmental language, rather than accurately describing what has triggered us. This can get us into a fight immediately! For example, instead of simply stating, “You didn’t call me,” we might interpret and then accuse, “You don’t care about me!” First describe the situation in a neutral, accurate way, free of judgments or blame.