Connected Conversations

So, you’ve unpacked your own needs, and made guesses about what theirs might be.

Most often, I find that my needs have very little to do with the other person in the situation after all! So my way to move forward doesn’t necessarily involve speaking with them about the incident.

Sometimes though, we want to have a conversation with the other person, so that we can find a solution together. Having unpacked all the needs, we can go into this conversation as team-mates, not adversaries, and try to find a way to meet ALL needs, not just one person’s (and not just one need of one person!) Having your needs met at another person’s expense is never as satisfying as a solution that works for both of you. What a joy that is!

The most important thing to know here is that it isn’t anyone’s job to meet our needs, nor is it our job to meet theirs. The best way to ensure they DON’T want to help, is to demand that they do. It just does not work. However, “contribution” IS one of our needs, and people are much more likely to want to contribute to your well-being if (a) they truly understand and connect with the underlying need(s) in you, and (b) it’s not a demand. If you’re not willing to hear “no” to your request, then it’s a demand. You can be totally OK with hearing no if you truly get that there are always other ways to meet your needs, other than with THIS person in this situation at this time.

The process for having a connected conversation might look something like this.

  1. Ask them if they’re willing to have a conversation with you about the incident, and if so, when? If they’re not willing, because they think it’s going to be a fight, you might let them know that you’re trying something new, and you’re hoping you can actually connect with them rather than fight with them.
  2. In that conversation, it’s usually best to start by expressing your guesses about what was going on for them, rather than your own (because they won’t be able to hear you if they’re still triggered themselves). For example, “When X happened, were you feeling [name your feelings guesses] and really wanting [name needs guesses]?” (Depending on the person, you may choose to leave out the feelings part; the most important part is the needs.)
  3. Listen until you’re sure you really get them, and that they get that you get them! You might need to use “connection requests”, like …
  4. If they’re using a lot of words, interrupt when you can and ask “Hang on, it’s really important to me that I’m understanding you; are you wanting … ” and make more needs guesses. (Don’t just repeat their story; guessing needs helps bring THEM down to the needs level, too. Story just keeps an argument going – it keeps both people in their heads – genuine solutions are more likely to be found at a heart/gut level.)
  5. When you sense the other person feels heard, you may then want to ask if they’re willing to hear what’s going on for you. If yes …
  6. Express the feelings and needs you unpacked.
  7. If you’re not sure if they’re really getting you, you can ask something like “Its really important to me to express myself clearly, so that you really get what I’m trying to say. Would you be willing to tell me back what you think I’m saying?”. If they’re defensive and say something like “Well, you’re saying I’m an asshole!”, you can answer with something like ‘Oh wow, thanks for telling me that!! I obviously haven’t expressed myself well, because that’s totally not what I was intending at all. Can I try again?”

Ultimately, there’s going to be a lot of back and forth, and a lot of “connection requests” – checking if they’re heard you correctly, and if you’ve heard them correctly. We SO often think we’ve been clear, or that we’ve understood, and we totally haven’t. Learn to ask!

The most important thing to remember is that you’re aiming for connection, not “winning”. Over time, you’ll learn that the solution comes via the connection, not through our old strategies of trying to prove ourselves right.

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