As we come to the close of yet another challenging year, pandemic isolation and uncertainty may put us a little more on edge than usual.
Data show that our bodies perceive change and uncertainty as actual threats to survival. How can we even the odds for enjoying holiday celebrations and connecting more deeply with our family and friends this season?
Here are three tips:
Pause. In our typically hurried lives, we too often are either multi-tasking or rushing between conversations with others. Instead, take a moment to be present. Put your phone away and look directly at the other person. Focus your complete attention and listen to what they are saying.
Repeat back. Nearly every time we listen to others, we are preparing our own response/defense/clarification. Verbal communication is an imperfect transaction. Instead of responding with your own story or defense, reflect back what the speaker shared. This is an opportunity to check your understanding and see if you are really getting the essence of what the other person is saying. You don’t need to repeat it word for word, but honor the other person with the acknowledgment that you are hearing them. This not only assures them you are listening; it gives them a moment to think about whether they were expressing what they really meant. They get to hear themselves and consider their own words.
For example, if your friend tells you with a sigh that they are stressed by their child’s recent behavior at home and school, you can respond, “It sounds like (child’s name) has not only been doing things privately in your house, but also in public places like school, and you are pretty upset.” No fixing, just truly listening to your friend.
Connect. Once you reflect back to the other person what you heard, they will likely tell you more details about the situation. They may even note that in fact, they hadn’t meant exactly that, and will clarify their words, helping you both understand more clearly. Instead of interrupting or inserting a story about your own life, continue to connect by asking questions that request more detail: “What are you thinking about doing next? How are you feeling after all this happened? What resources do you think would be helpful?
Understanding rather than agreement. Even if you don’t agree with the other person, remember it is not about the topic. Save any argument about who is right or wrong for another time. Take this precious opportunity to understand the world of the other person, even for just a few moments. You don’t need to agree with them to understand them.
This holiday season, the most precious gift you can offer is your attention.
Try these three practices (Pause, Repeat, and Connect) and have fun!
In the New Year, if you want continuing support around communication, know that we at the Agricultural Mediation Program are here to help. We wish you and yours a healthy, peaceful, and prosperous 2022!