Education Hour: Saying What You Mean

Much of this content comes from a course on “Mindful Communication” taught by Oren Jay Safer. Much of it will be in his book, Say What You Mean, which will be released in December.Intro:

Don’t try to internalize all this information — you can’t all at once. Take the one piece that really makes sense to you and run with it. Obviously, in the flow of a conversation we’re not able to think through all this. But the purpose of doing this is to train. Just like we do with any other task. 

Quote: “Under duress, we do not rise to our expectations, but fall to our level of training.”  (Bruce Lee)

When we are trying to learn how to play an instrument, we slow things down — we play scales, we learn the fingering.  All this is meant to give you a structure to practice with when you have the time and space. It develops your capacity to do it in real life within the flow of a conversation.

Why Am I Talking? 

  • What’s my intention?
    • Judge & Correct? 
      • There are times when we all just want to judge and correct!
      • Pause / Wait
    • Communicate Feelings
    • Communicate Needs
  • What is my Purpose?
    • To Request something?
      • “I want to connect” (to feel closer)
      • “I want you to listen to me” (another form of connection, closeness)
      • “I want support”
    • To Offer Feedback? (let them know there was an impact of some sort)
    • Other?

Get Agreement to the Conversation

  • State what you want to talk about
    • Share briefly your needs/intentions/hopes/desires: 

“I’d like to explore how much time we spend together.” 

“I’d really like to be at family functions together and not have it devolve into the sort of political argument that always happens. I’d really like to talk about how we can respect each other’s views and still enjoy each other’s company at family functions. Would you be up for having that conversation with me?”  

  • Ask: Is now a good time? 
  • If not be willing to wait. 
    • Schedule a conversation. 

Dig For… (Sheri’s Sermon)

    • Observations vs. Interpretations
    • Feelings vs. Thoughts
    • Needs vs. Conclusions about Right & Wrong
    • Requests vs. Demands

Form as Spiritual Practice

  • When you did / said… (observation)
  • I felt… (feeling)
  • I imagine I felt this way because… (need)
    • The story I told myself was…
  • In the future I’d like… (request)

This all transforms the raw energy of our judgements, and blame and correcting people to what’s really true. 

    1. What happened? 
    2. How do I feel about it? 
    3. Why? 
    4. And what would I like to see happen next?  

This isn’t a script. Lots of times NVC is taught in this kind of formulaic way: “When you said you would do the dishes and I see them on the counter, I feel angry because I need more consistency. Would you be willing to do the dishes tonight?” That can feel unnatural. This is a way of investigating our experience and communicating that.

Events & Feelings

Where do emotions come from?

We think: Event  equals Feelings

We often assume there is a direct cause and effect relationship between these two. But that would only be case if the same event caused the same feelings in everyone present. 

Example: I am 15 minutes late for this class. Where’s Pat? Some of you might get annoyed. Some of you might feel worried. Some of you might be relieved. 

Feelings really come from needs!

We each have different needs:

  • The person who is annoyed might have a need for their time to be used efficiently. 
  • The person who is worried might have seen me in a teary conversation upstairs; they have a need to feel comfortable – to know that I’m ok. 
  • The person who is relieved might have a need to finish a conversation with someone before ed hour.

Needs & Feelings

Emotions come from those needs either being met — in which case, I feel pleasant emotions. Or not being met — in which case, I feel unpleasant emotions. 

My feelings are about my needs; your feelings are about your needs. Not the event. So now I can talk about my emotions without blaming them on you. Because I can talk about them in terms of my needs. And, I can hear your emotions in terms of your needs. 

I don’t need for you to agree with me to feel understood (though this is a practice too!) And vice versa: I don’t have to agree with you to understand you. 

BUT, I do need to practice voicing my concern / request / feedback in terms of my needs and the feelings that go with those needs.  The more we can do this for ourselves, the more we can do this for others. 

Two Guidelines

  • Less Blame, Less Criticism
    • Don’t blast
    • But DO speak
    • Fewer Words – More Impact

We have more clarity and power when we use fewer words and with more sincerity. 

Often when we try to express ourselves, we go on and on. And the more words we use, the less understanding we usually get. 

If you can be more succinct than you usually are, the other person will be able to hear you. 

  • Be Authentic
    • What is true for me? (Be honest, don’t avoid)
    • What do I want the other person to know / understand?

We often don’t do this. We think about what we want to say but don’t think so much about the message we want the other person to hear.

    • Stay connected to your heart

Stay connected to your values, your humanity. 

If you’re hurt or reactive, have some self-compassion for yourself. Practice holding this AND still having some space for the other person.

    • Ground in your intention

Where do I want to come from?

Bring these together: 

  • How can I say my truth in a way they will be able to hear? 
  • The point is for them to understand us!