What if the whole point of your human existence was for you to learn how to get on with other people?
Not for others to learn how to get on with you, or to understand you, or to communicate with you in a way that you liked. But for you to learn how to get on with others, to understand them.. For you to learn how to adapt to the environment that you are in, and to speak and listen not for your own gain, or to prove a point, or to be right, but solely for the other person's benefit.
Imagine how different our relationships would be. Imagine how differently conflict would be handled (if it happened at all). Imagine how much nicer we would be to each other, how much more patient, how much more understanding, how much more forgiving.
Recently, I learned a really amazingly simple technique to help facilitate highly effective and honest communication.
As most of you know, for the last few years I have been studying with Grandmaster Dr Issam Kadamani. I have learned so much about the importance of communicating what we are feeling as the way to honest and open communication and to happier and more liberating relationships. Effective communication is not about stating the facts (because facts are so subjective), or listing the chronology of things (because no-one will ever see or remember things in the same way), but about simply expressing, without blame, without judgement, without anger to each other, about how we are feeling.
My kids have been going to a very small and simple Aikido dojo in Brighton for the last couple of years. Their teacher there, Kieran, is a former ballet dancer, turned yogi, turned Aikido master who also happens to be a high school teacher with a young family of his own. Kieran teaches the kids class because to him, they are the most rewarding students to teach. Because they listen, and they absorb, and they are so open to trying new things.
One of the strategies Kieran teaches his students to help them communicate, and to help them help others to communicate with them is this:
In our home, we recently had an opportunity to really put this strategy into practice. In this instance, it was an opportunity for me (who is not always the best of listeners) to be able to listen to my kids, and for my kids to be able to express how they are feeling, and for them to feel like they were heard - really heard. When a person is honest in what they are saying here, and what's being expressed is being owned entirely by the person expressing it, the person who is listening will listen in a completely different way.
In this instance, my kids did not get what they wanted (and they still haven't got it). But when I asked my son to use the when you, I feel, because framework, he was able to express to me how he felt, and I was able to understand exactly how he felt about this situation. Whether or not I agreed with him was not the point. Whether or not he got what he wanted was not the point. What mattered, was that we had a framework for both of us to express how we honestly felt, and the other person was then able to understand and support us in that feeling.
It's not about getting what you want.
It's not about getting the last word in.
It's about understanding.
It was unbelievably incredibly powerful and I really encourage you to use it next time you are in a situation of conflict or disagreement with another person.
And just in case you were wondering, this is how the conversation went:
"When you didn't let me get the book I wanted at the book fair, I felt sad, angry and disappointed, because I really wanted that book and when you didn't let me get it, you broke my heart".
He didn't want to talk to me anymore about it. And I wasn't going to change my mind. But I could still acknowledge his feelings, and hopefully keep the channels of communication open so that he knows it is safe to talk to me in the future and that I listen.
So I wrote him a little note to just say that I was so sorry that he felt this way and that I hoped that he would be able to forgive me for breaking his heart.
Try it next time you need a circuit breaker and see what happens.
Hello, I'm Fiona Redding, founder of The Happiness Hunter, co-host of #BusinessAddicts The Podcast and author of The Happiness Hunter’s Guide to Meditation.
I help people navigate life.