Communication Across Differences

Difficult Conversations About Tough Issues

With everything that is going on these days–the elections fast approaching, economic worries, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan having no end in sight–you’re bound to have a lot on your mind. Are there times you’d like to talk to someone, but feel worried about bringing these topics up for fear it will end up as a debate or even an outright argument?

This fear is the result of the Us Against Them mindset that is so prevalent in our culture. Whenever we disagree with someone, this mindset leads us headlong into intense debates or arguments in order to determine who is right and who is wrong about the issue.

Creating a WE Mindset

In order to create relationships from a new perspective–what we call the We mindset–it’s critical that we start by establishing a sense of alignment.

The process of creating alignment begins by getting clear about what’s important to everyone involved–what you each value. To figure this out you can start by asking: “How do we want to treat each other during the conversation about the issue?” and then, “How can we discover what we each value, rather than just debating our opinions?”

So instead of beginning a conversation by arguing the issue–such as whether or not we need more or fewer troops in Iraq–you try to discover what values are represented by these opinions. People with either of these opinions may each value safety, support, or perhaps predictability.

Discovering Alignment in Underlying Values

That’s the interesting thing about creating alignment. When you get under people’s opinions and get to their values, you’ll find that these are often the same. And that makes it much easier to get on the same page.

Creating this initial alignment is how you start co-creating a context for discussions where everyone’s ideas are heard and valued–where the point is to exchange ideas and gain clarity, rather than prove whose opinion is right and whose opinion is wrong.

Beginning any important conversation by creating alignment paves the way for far greater satisfaction for everyone involved, and allows for the possibility of being heard and understood about what’s really important to you.

“I now see that the major shift in human evolution is from behaving like an animal struggling to survive to behaving like an animal choosing to evolve. … And to evolve, we need a new kind of thinking and a new kind of behavior, a new ethic and a new morality. It will be that of the evolution of everyone rather than the survival of the fittest.”
~Jonas Salk Quote

Alignment is crucial if you want to enjoy the benefits of the We mindset in your relationships.

Two Questions that Ease Communication

So, before you have any important conversation, STOP and ask yourself these questions: “How would I like this conversation to go?” and, “How can we get to what we value rather than just debating our opinions?” This internal clarity will help get you focused on the We mindset prior to starting the conversation.

Then, start the conversation by letting the other person know you would like to hear what’s important to them about the topic, and let them know you’d also like to he heard and understood about what’s going on for you. Ask if that kind of conversation would be enjoyable for them as well.

Remember, the shortest path to a happy life is found through conscious choice.

Until next time…
Beth and Neill

To learn more about creating alignment and how to have a life filled with joy and satisfaction, visit:
The Art of Conscious Connection