How the two of you begin this conversation will set the tone for how effective your dialogue will be, and it’s vital to have some guidelines in place. That’s why we developed three commitments each person can make, before beginning a discussion to resolve a conflict. You are making these commitments to yourself, for your own growth. The results will benefit your communications in any relationships.
The 3 Commitments
I commit to staying curious about the other person’s experience and perspective, because they have stories and perceptions that lead them to FEEL how they feel, that I cannot possibly imagine or intuit without receptive, curious, authentic listening.
I commit to staying grounded in my own body, breathing slowly, and speaking slowly, because I know it will contribute to the outcome I want: love, connection and mutual understanding.
I commit to using language that does not project, but owns my experience and feelings, because I take responsibility for myself and only myself.
Tools for Sitting Together
Choose an object that is neutral to both of you, not fragile, and feels good when held. This will act as a moderator, otherwise known as a talking stick. Whoever is holding the talking stick is the one who gets to speak at any given time, whoever is not holding the talking stick, is an active listener. Both roles are of equal importance and each person will get a turn at each.
Set a Timer
Using a timer restricts either person from dominating the dialogue and also gives space to the partner who finds it more difficult to express verbally. We will explain how to use it in the dialogue below.
Choose who will be Person A and Person B.
Set the timer for 10 minutes and whoever is speaking first (Person A) will hold the talking stick. It’s time for Person A to share their perceptions and feelings using language we discussed in our previous article.
Once the Person A has spoken and completed, put the talking stick down (you are not required to use up the 10 minutes. If you finish before the timer goes off, feel deeply if you are truly complete.
Take 1 minute to feel your bodies and emotions. Before Person B will share about their feelings and perceptions, there is a crucial step that often gets missed. Person B will mirror back what they heard to Person A. You can reflect on the following prompts as well, to offer something that authentically demonstrates your understanding and empathy to Person A. Here are some suggestions:
Hearing you say “X”, I feel…
What I understand is…
Walking in your shoes, I think, I physically feel, or I emotionally feel…
With this awareness, I feel…
If something was not understood, give the stick back to person A so they can elaborate further. Misunderstanding each other is usually what gets us into conflict in the first place. So be extra clear as you embark on this journey and know you are taking the time to get to clarity and that everyone will have equal time.
Now person B takes their turn. Follow the same steps throughout your dialogue. You can have as many rounds as needed until you find you both fully feel felt and understood.
A few extra tips.
Watch for “should”. These may be thoughts that arise telling you things like you have to get through the discussion within a certain time frame, that you aren’t free to take a break to take care of yourself, that you should be and feel differently than you actually do, or that your partner “shouldn’t feel that way”, that your partner shouldn’t think what they think. Give everyone freedom to be themselves and let go of outcome. To reach a deeper level of connection may take time. Breathe.
In our next article, Ronit and Sahar will continue to deepen the discussion of up-leveling communication. We will look at how getting clear about your own needs helps to resolve conflict (think: boundaries!).