Monthly Archives: January 2017

The Connection Project – Seek to Understand

Have you ever had one of those conversations where you know the other person is not listening to what you are actually saying? It makes me think of the “discussions” I had with my parents when I was trying to convince them my plan was a good one. The whole while they are talking I’m thinking about another angle to my argument, another way I can state my case. For all I know they were agreeing with me. I have no idea because I’m completely engrossed in my argument and how to best present it.

I’m much better at listening in a passionate conversation than when I was a teenager. But I still have plenty of room to grow. I’m more likely to catch myself now than I was then. My hope is someday I don’t have to catch myself. That listening to rebut is a thing of the past for me. It’s good to have goals right?

Being passionate about an event, a topic or an issue is a good thing! We need people who are passionate and willing to put themselves out there. It’s how almost all change happens. Passion is good. There has been an abundance of passion this past week alone. People are excited and scared, anxious and fearful, hopeful and relieved. It is all over the board with such intensity and emotion.

Listening is also good. Actually focusing on what someone is saying; their words their body language and their heart. (As an aside, remember, we aren’t all perfectly eloquent and certainly not all the time. Some times things come out all wrong. We phrase things in a way that can be interpreted differently. Considering the heart of the speaker helps avoid focusing on one phrase; getting stuck on semantics of a sentence.) Try really listening to understand what they are expressing. Hear what they are saying, not the clichés, not what you think they will say based on how you have categorized them, but what they are really sharing.

Stephen Covey’s 5th habit of “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is seek first to understand, then to be understood. It makes sense. If you want to connect with someone, you need to understand where they’re coming from. What motivates them, what drives their passion, how did they come to the view they have? All important details in really connecting. You can assume all day or you can really try to understand. You may find you can actually relate to and empathize with how they landed where they did.

There are some great resources out there about active listening. You can find tools and tips to help you focus. In fact the Department of State website is a good place to start.

This week’s assignment: Focus on understanding the person who disagrees with you. Spend time in conversation, real conversation, with someone with whom you disagree. Listen to their words, their body language, their heart. Remember they may not be the most eloquent. Try really listening to understand what they are expressing.

From last week: There were certainly plenty of opportunities over the past week to look at how we categorize people. From political party to marches and even some football! How many times did you categorize someone else and make assumptions about them? Be honest. Did you catch yourself at all? It’s hard when you feel very passionate. We are all a work in progress. I’ve read a lot of comments on a lot of posts. Many of them are truly awful. Things people would never (or certainly should never) say to each other. On the other hand, there are a few of my friends who are very skilled at discussing issues without attacking individuals. I am learning from them.

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The Connection Project

I thought it was about time to dust off the old blog and once again share my thoughts on everything, or at least on some things. When I started this blog nearly 7 years ago I was looking for an outlet. A way to share my thoughts and ideas. It became a bit of a journal of parenting. And then the kids got older, life got crazier (I didn’t think it could) and I embarked on a new role with a new organization. I decided to put the blog in storage for a while. I have been hesitant to put much out there knowing that, whether I intend it to or not, what I write becomes a reflection on the organization I work for. And I believe the world, and specifically the internet, has changed a lot in the last three years. It is a more divisive, angry place.

I also know that writing is cathartic for me. It allows me to process what is happening around me and helps me to clarify my views. I could write and keep it to myself. Or I could share it and hope it helps someone else to process the world as well. Not to come to the same conclusions or opinions, but to think things through in a slightly different way. The title of the blog Considering the Options reflects my view on life, we always have options. Choices in how we react, respond or behave. So today, I am launching a series I hope will make an impact. I hope this will help those who know me or follow my blog to process the world around them. As I mentioned, these are my thoughts, my opinions. They are not the views of the people I work with or for, or the organizations of which I am a part. They are mine.

The Connection Project – Why?

I am lucky enough to have friends who see the world through very different filters than I. And I have very passionate friends. I have young friends, those the same age as my kids and friends who are enjoying the proverbial golden years. Friends from small towns and big cities, those who live close to where they grew up and those who live (or have lived) halfway around the world. I have friends who have chosen not to have children, and who are not able to have kids. Those who have adopted and fostered to adopt. Friends who gave birth to one and to many. Friends with children who look just like them and with children who are a different ethnicity.

I have friends who have been married 50 plus years and who are newlyweds. And I have friends who never went down that path. I have gay friends and straight friends and some who are bisexual. I have friends who are doctors and lawyers and such (did you just sing that in your head like I did?). And I have friends who dropped out of school. I have friends who are farmers and railroaders, teachers and clergy.

What’s my point?

When you try to, you can categorize people in a million different ways. You can label them, assign them a trait. You can put them in a box based on that thing, that one piece of them you’ve chosen to identify.

Many of these friends have expressed a desire to live in a more civil and compassionate world. Friends are concerned to varying degrees – from genuinely concerned to obsessively frightened. People are fearful of “what the world is coming to.” What kind of world our children and grandchildren will grow up in. People are certain the world is going to hell in a handbasket so to speak. I think every generation has had that feeling to some degree, but I do believe it is different today.

So what can we do about it? How do we fix this world that’s falling apart? I am just one person and the problem is so big.

I think the answer lies in connection. It lies in individual relationships. People connecting, one by one, with those around them. So today I am beginning a journey. A journey to share ideas for making this world a more palatable place. A place I will be excited to have my grandchildren live.

I would love company on this journey! If you are brave enough to take a hard look at your role in this handbasket headed for hell:).

This week’s assignment: Spend time thinking about all the ways you categorized the people around you. Be cognizant of when you put someone in a box; make assumptions about them based on one aspect of their life or personality. Recognize when you dismiss someone’s thoughts, opinions or views because of who you believe they are.

Feel free to comment here and share your experience. I would love to hear how it goes this week!

 

 

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