More Productive Conversations: The Power Is in Your Hands

rams butting headsThe concept that women just want to be listened to and not told how to fix something is legendary in the Mars/Venus counseling world. In my household, I spent years jumping in with at least three or four unwelcome solutions when my spouse came home from a frustrating day and dumped a verbal stream of consciousness. “What?” I’ve been heard to protest. “I’m just trying to help!” I now know that it’s quite easy to change these conversations, simply by changing the part of the mind I’m operating from when having them.

When someone comes to me with an issue, I, possessing a mostly task-oriented Knower/Judger as opposed to an empathetic, people-oriented K/J, feel that finding a solution is the goal! So when my wife complained about her day, I dove into my K/J and quickly came up with a number of solutions. “Do this,” I would tell her. “Or do this.” Problem solved.

But solutions were not what my wife was soliciting. She was looking for a connection. Evidence that she was part of a bigger whole. Validation.

When we are in the K/J telling someone what to do, we are almost certainly putting the other party in their K/J. We are, in essence, suggesting that they are not in possession of our obvious superior knowledge and experience. How do you feel when someone is “telling” you something?

For me, my response to being told something usually depends on my motivation…what I need at the time. Sometimes I need new information and understanding. And in those cases, I will ask someone to tell me their opinion. When I do that, almost by definition, I am doing so from my Learner/Researcher. I want to be told. I am aware of my inadequacies in this area, and I want to learn what the “teller’s” K/J knows.

But if I am not soliciting that K/J opinion (like my bride when she just wants to be heard), you’re dumping your “little professor” solution to my challenges on me and I perceive that as criticism (judgment). I am most likely not going to respond from my L/R. You have just practically guaranteed that you and I are locked in a K/J vs. K/J conversation.

A conversation-changing observation

I have observed that learning does not seem to occur when the listener is in the K/J. When I begin to verbally solve my wife’s problems, my K/J is speaking to someone who is already in her K/J. Energy is used to judge everything being proffered and to compare it against the listener’s knowledge base, most often in order to find it lacking. We don’t seem to learn unless we can let go of our “knowledge” and leave some space for new information. So while I may have the best intentions, the result is usually anything but desirable.

Simply put, you can’t help people who are not looking for help (in the L/R).

And here’s the point: I have a lot of influence on whether the other guy (or gal) is in the K/J or L/R. 

Making the shift that changes everything

In any conversation, if I can’t access the other person’s L/R, there’s not much to be gained by proceeding from my K/J. Listening is the path of least resistance. I can always switch into my K/J if called for. What I do initially, speak or listen, is key to the productivity of what happens next.

If it’s not obvious to me (by body language, tonality, and even the words being used) whether the person is in the K/J or L/R, I can refrain from assuming it’s the L/R and just listen…assume they’re not looking for an answer. Assuming the person is looking for an answer will most likely produce the predictable unproductive interaction.

If I can’t get my task-oriented K/J to withhold its normal response, and I simply must take action, I can ask, “Are you looking for my opinion or are you just wanting to sort it out verbally?”

Unless someone is obviously in their L/R, going into my L/R is the best way to improve my conversations. It isn’t always easy to remember to do it, but once you do, you make space for the other person to step out of the K/J and join you.

There. Unless your K/J has compared all I just said against what it already knows (and discounted this information), you can start improving your conversations with all the important people in your life today.

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3 Responses to “More Productive Conversations: The Power Is in Your Hands”

  1. Carl Fischer January 16, 2014 at 6:52 am #

    Once again, great insight and valuable counsel; I’d like very much to hold onto this guidance in the days ahead, and KNOW my wife would appreciate that change…

    • Kim January 17, 2014 at 7:35 am #

      Carl, I’m continuously challenged to work at NOT responding from my auto-pilot….ALWAYS gets me in trouble….just STOPPING sometimes saves my bacon.

  2. Ted Gambogi January 19, 2014 at 10:25 pm #

    Sage advice but hard to execute

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