A couple of days ago, while flicking through the TV channels, I happened upon a parliamentary debate. Within minutes I was completely fixated by the arguing, finger pointing, jeering, laughing and posturing that went on. The most curious part of it all was there seemed to be no positive outcome!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer in my right to have a very personal point of view – one which might be completely different to anyone else. But, the one thing I am absolutely sure about is debate doesn’t leave me feeling heard, understood, valued or seen. It does quite the reverse. It leaves me feeling defensive, frustrated, alone and completely misunderstood.
The reason – debate is a non relational way of navigating difference. By its very nature it wants us to doubt what the other person/s is saying. It also encourages us to believe there is only one right and valid perspective which means it places a high value on winning and ‘having the last word’.
There is sufficient evidence within the field of neuroscience which confirms arguing, and feeling there can be only one winner, triggers defensive and/or attacking behaviours. Neuroscience also shows that once in defence or attack mode we lose our ability to be relational. If we lose our ability to be relational, we lose our ability to be understood and valued. If we lose our ability to be understood and valued we are likely to do one of two things:-
- Find more destructive ways to be heard
- Withdraw our energy from the situation and the relationship
The interesting thing is neither gets us any closer to feeling understood and valued.
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Posted by Kerry-Lyn on 27/10/11 at 11:57am
Ever noticed how, at a certain stage in their development, a child’s favourite word is ‘Why?’ It seems to prefix just about everything they say - ‘Why did he do that? Why can’t I have that? Why does a cake rise? Why do I have to get dressed?’
To be on the receiving end of the constant stream of ‘Why?’ is not always easy. But, as adults we encourage children to ask as many ‘Why?’ questions as they can. Particularly, because the ‘Why?’ question is so fundamental to our development. It demonstrates curiosity and a yearning to understand how things work and, assists us as we begin to make meaning of what is happening within us and around us. ‘Why?’ is often the first word we use to articulate our curiosity about the complex workings of relationship.
In its purest form ‘Why?’ is a fabulous question. Yet increasingly I notice, for many adults, this tiny three letter word is experienced as threatening, invasive, blaming and combative. As a result the response to it is one of defence, attack, anger, panic and/or fear. What’s fascinating is it seems to be happening in any number of contexts i.e. intimate relationships, employer/employee, between friends and colleagues as well as customers and staff members.
The most distressing part - no matter the context, the result is always the same – disconnection!
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Posted by Kerry-Lyn on 19/10/11 at 09:14am
Picture the scene – I’m sitting in the hairdressers with one of those really ‘attractive’ black plastic capes around me with my hair primed and ready for a blow dry. I’m casually chatting away to my hairdresser about my weekend when a woman walks through the door and angrily asks to see the manager. Her face clearly says ‘I’m not happy’. The manager walks over and asks how she could help.
I watch as the two quickly descend into what looks like two lionesses fighting rather than two amazingly beautiful, intelligent women talking about a problem that, between them, they needed to resolve.
As I sit in my chair, watching everything through the mirror, I can feel my stomach lurching, my heart rate rising, my mouth becoming dry and deep pangs of sadness as I recognise an old but familiar pattern being played out right before my eyes.
The pattern – feeling unheard and unsafe; needing to defend or attack; repeating myself over and over in the hope the other will ‘get it’; voices and energy rising; and the use of more aggressive and defamatory language.
Missing ingredient = Listening
In that moment I realised what was missing. The simple ability to LISTEN!
It was clear that both women were completely unconscious they weren’t listening to each other. Instead they had been ‘taken over’ by the most basic of survival mechanisms – the ‘fight/flight/freeze response’.
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Posted by Kerry-Lyn on 04/10/11 at 10:03am