Talking right can go a long way. Even between best friends who “read each others’ minds” and finish each others’ sentences, we don’t inherently get each other all the time. Did you know there are actually strategies to communicating, almost like tricks you can get better and better at? It’s not so much about what we do or say than the heart behind it. Think of conversation as an instrument that connects us—mind, heart and soul—with others. How do we let our true hearts shine through the barriers of language, culture and emotion? The Divine Principle would summarize the answer as, simply, “love.” Let’s take a closer look at what that means with these five steps to having a good conversation:
1) Err on the Side of Love
The goal of any conversation is not to be right or to win, but for each party to understand the other. Think of yourself and the other person as a team working to accomplish combining both your minds into one common, expanded understanding. Prepare yourself to meet this goal by choosing to love and respect unconditionally, no matter what the other person says. Father Moon, founder of the Unification faith, says in his autobiography, “The most powerful force in the world is love. If you quiet yourself and focus your mind, there is a place deep down where the mind is able to settle. You need to let your mind go to that place. When you put your mind in that place you will be extremely sensitive. That is the moment when you should turn away all extraneous thoughts and focus your consciousness. Then you will be able to communicate with everything. Each life form in the world seeks to connect itself with that which gives it the most love.” People will want to approach us, even with difficult conversations, if they know we are such people who can turn the situation into a loving, productive and understanding dynamic.
2) Say What You Mean
If, despite step #1, we do get caught up in an argument, it’s probably because we misspoke. When it starts to get confusing and muddy and the blame game comes up, with “What are you implying?” or “No, that’s not what I meant!” escaping our lips, we then need to retrace our steps and see where the misunderstanding began. To avoid this scenario completely, there is a fail-proof method of speaking in such a way that we aren’t blaming one another. Communication psychology developed the XYZ statement: the X being the scenario that you want to address (“When you left the dirty dishes in the sink…”), the Y being an I-statement (“…I felt…”) and the Z being an emotion (“…overwhelmed.”) It is important that the Z-word, or the feeling word, is an objective emotion that does not imply any negative intentions on the other person’s part. With this power-combo sentence, we take the focus away from accusing the other person or diminishing their character, and shift to how we felt about it, which cannot be argued with because, well, it’s the truth. We did feel that way. As a result, the listener won’t have to feel defensive. It’s no longer about us versus them, but taking an objective look at a particular situation and figuring out a solution.
3) Keep it Productive and Focused
The flip side of not making the other person defensive is to not be defensive ourselves. We can veer the conversation way off-topic by trying to address every “accusation” we perceive. A mental trick we can practice is to examine every sentence we are about to say and ask ourselves: -Is this relevant to the main issue we are trying to solve? -Is this statement for my sake, or forour sake? -Will this help or hurt the other person? The time it takes to carefully consider our replies gives the other person their full and uninterrupted turn to talk, and keeps the conversation on the right path.
4) Keep a 1:1 Talk-Listen Ratio
Listening well is as important as speaking well. If we are too focused on what we are going to say next, we miss what the other person is saying. Listening as much as we talk displays an effort to see from the other person’s point of view.
5) Close on a Positive Note
End on a positive or hopeful note. Say things like: “Now I understand why you felt that way/did what you did.” “Thank you for _____ .” “I love you no matter what.” “I’m glad we could figure that out together.” “Thank you for listening.” “I’ll try to do/be more _____ from now on.” “I’m glad you brought that up. It’s good to talk about these things.” Give it a try, and let us know what happens!