Archive for the 'Presence' Category

Dec 10 2017

How to talk to each other when you don’t agree

Published by under Presence

The other night, I was in New York City where we saw a new play on Broadway called The Band’s Visit. It’s the story of an Egyptian band that plays a concert in a small Israeli village and what happens there. Without even a mention of politics, it shows us that being human can transcend our differences.

There are many groups working for peace in the Middle East irrespective of differences. It is heartening to see people who have a right to be angry and upset reaching out, across political, geographical, and ideological borders to find solutions. But we know it is not easy. The other day, a young American woman told me that she does not even speak with part of her family because they support politicians and ideologies that she considers stupid. Yet she is sad because these are people with whom she shares history and a bloodline, people she loves. I challenged her to go to them and start a dialog, without blame or judgment. Why do they feel the way they do? What has happened in their lives to bring them to this viewpoint?

Although she was willing to try, she asked how to get that conversation started. How do we get past the differences that bring on fear and hate and get back to love and understanding? In an earlier post, I discussed three ingredients of a meaningful conversation. These are

  1. Inquiry­– Be genuinely curious.
  2. Implicit communication– Be direct and honest.
  3. Humor– Lighten up when possible.

These are still at the top of my list as components of the best deep conversations, but the place to start when you know you may not agree is with what you have in common rather than what you don’t. To do this, you might share memories with family members with whom you disagree, or find out what is important to your conversation partner by being inquisitive, or you might already know what you share in common and talk about it.

It is easy to get stuck in one story, the story of our differences, but by looking for other stories we can often find shared experiences that demonstrate that our polarized solutions are based in concerns about the same issues; this can open the way for solutions and they might be solutions that are far better than either side alone could find. Besides the wonderful music and excellent acting, this was the beauty of The Band’s Visit; the effect of sharing common ground was not contrived; it unfolded naturally and spoke of possibility rather than futility. Conversation was still tough at times, but the people in the story were able to get through it because they shared common interests and stories. In a powerful TED talk given by writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, she tells us that when we don’t hear more than one story about others “we risk a critical misunderstanding.” Her talk is about misperceptions that Westerners have about people in Africa, but it applies to any story where “one story about others” is all we know and all we use to form our opinions about them.

Invitation to comment or share your story: I do what I do because I believe that if we could all communicate more effectively, the world would be a better place. I would love to hear your story of finding common ground in spite of differences. Please share in the comments or send me your story via my contact form.

Photo credits: ID 42164247 © Leerodney Avison

 

No responses yet

Jun 05 2017

How to, like, stop using “like” kind of all the time

Published by under Presence,Vocal Image

People use speech patterns of popular culture because they are, like, popular.  Part of the fun of life is to copy what we hear said in films and TV because it is a way to share common experience. Common experience is a great way to engage others. However, as my mom used to say, “Everything in moderation.” Today’s speech has become cluttered with “like,” “kind of,” and “sort of,” just as our highways have become cluttered with trash.  Although many argue that these are just words and that they are a normal part of speaking, I argue that too much of this diminishes a person’s impact.

We all know that “kind of” doesn’t mean “absolutely.” Does it matter? To find the answer, ask yourself, “How much influence do I want?”  On the dictionary.com blog post  that addresses the use of “like,” Jim commented that “There probably would not be a marble statue of him if Abraham Lincoln had said: Like four score and seven like years ago our fathers like brought forth on like this continent a new like nation, conceived in like liberty, and like dedicated to the like proposition that all men are created like equal.”

I agree, though he would have been a trendsetter! Instead, the first recorded use of “like” as a filler word appeared 20 years later, in Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novel Kidnapped: “’What’s like wrong with him?’ said she at last.” And thus began our increasing reluctance to take a stand.

Again, the real challenge with “like” is not that it is used, but how it is used. Its overuse seems to apologize for any conviction or strong opinions we have. In the example of Lincoln’s speech, Jim is really saying that when speakers want to inspire change but pepper their speech with words that are not strong, especially when they use a rising terminal (up-speak,) they are less likely to be taken seriously.  Your impact as a speaker depends on the alignment of the purpose/intention of your speech, the words you use and your delivery.  As slam poet Taylor Mali suggests in his wonderful poem “Totally, like whatever, you know,” when you overuse words such as “like,”

(It’s) As if I’m saying,
don’t think I’m a nerd just because I’ve, like, noticed this; ok
I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions,
I’m just, like, inviting you to join me on the band wagon of my own uncertainty

If you notice words such as “like,” “sort of,” and “kind of”, like, creeping into your speech, or that of your children, here are some ideas for sort of kicking the habit (see what I mean? Will this help you kick the habit or not?):

1.     Pick a time for this exercise, and find a partner. Choose who will start talking and an easy topic, such as what you had for lunch or what you plan to do over the weekend.  Set the timer for 1 minute. Take turns making a sound like a buzzer every time you hear the other person say “like,” “kind of” or “sort of.” This will help you become aware of how much you use such words. You may also notice how quickly you make different choices when you are caught in the act.

2.     When you hear yourself use such a word or phrase, stop and correct yourself. Here’s an example: “Wait, I’m not “kind of happy,” I AM happy.” Self-awareness moves you closer to breaking the habit; changing the delivery to one of strength will remind you of how to align your content and delivery with your intention to express a clear thought.

3.     There’s an app for this.  The overuse of most of my favorite junk words can be minimized by purchasing the app, LikeSo, and, like, using it.

It takes anywhere from three weeks to 8 months to break a habit, depending on the complexity of it.  Make a commitment to change the way you speak and keep after it by exercising the new skill for at least a month.  It will kind of make a difference in how others, like, perceive of you, which, in turn, will increase the impact of your communication.

For more on this, please see my post, This is why your communication doesn’t have impact

Or this article on Success Magazine site 

 

4 responses so far

Next »