I’ve recently started reading High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out by Amanda Ripley. It’s a topic that resonates with me right now.
So many of the conversations that I’m noticing are us vs them, and I’m seeking to understand how we get back to exchanging thoughts and ideas with one another. It doesn’t mean, necessarily, that positions will change; however, it does mean that there is a desire to understand what the other person is saying and feeling. It’s an opportunity to flesh out what words really mean … because we all have our own interpretations based on our beliefs, experiences, and the stories we make up about them.
George Bernard Shaw pointed out, “The greatest problem in communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.” Have you ever left a meeting thinking that everyone “understood the plan” only to find later that folks went off in divergent directions? Or, that different departments were using the same word but expecting different outcomes? We make assumptions that everyone understands what we mean the way we mean it … and that is often not the case. At the same time, we take in information and shape it so that it fits what we believe.
How can we break this cycle? My favorite word – curiosity. When we seriously work to understand what words mean to each of us, we create connection. We move away from the us vs them mindset and begin to move toward deeper conversations. Conflict may not disappear but there can be discussion around the issues and movement towards solutions.
This Week’s Challenge: For this next week, be curious. Ask people what a word means to them and then paraphrase back to them what you heard. Notice how often you are correct. It’s a lesson not only in self-awareness but also in creating true connection.
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