Sometimes the answer to that question — whether you ask it of another person — or someone asks you — is immediate silence. And the internal sentence might be something like “not bloody likely!” So what’s going on?
Several of my blogs speak to this….it’s hard to say what we really need to say to others, regardless of how much we like or love or care about them. And being on the “receiving end” can cause actual “emotional paralysis” if we’re uncomfortable with feedback. Because? Consider this: where or when did you ever learn to listen carefully to either negative or positive feedback? And where did you learn to give feedback in a constructive manner? Typically you only learn such skills in therapy or in great leadership training or organization team building. That leaves a lot of people out of the mix.
So simply consider how you feel and what you actually do when confronted with a situation, a conversation where you essentially don’t know what to say or do, or fear you don’t have the ability to handle things constructively. Behaviors range from talking aimlessly to changing the subject to saying absolutely nothing. None of those approaches work, so then anxiety builds for the NEXT time you are in a similar situation!
If you google psychologytoday.com you’ll find an article titled DO YOU REALLY WANT TO KNOW WHAT OTHERS THINK ABOUT YOU? by Susan Krauss Whitbourne. The article includes a brief inventory and a rating scale….so you can actually rate yourself on how good you are at handling what others think. You just have to be honest with yourself!
Often our responses to CAN WE TALK are rooted in childhood or adolescence. I remember adults who delivered some version of the question to me as an adolescent. It typically delivered the underlying message of being in trouble — at least a message that something was wrong. Consequently learning to hear and receive the question as a delightful invitation to sit down and enjoy a conversation with a close friend, family member, or colleague, boss, employee is challenging because of early “programming” to be alert, cautious, and perhaps defensive. Regardless, I think that’s exactly what the question COULD be, especially if we each begin to polish our skills on both sides of the dialogue — talking and listening.
Imagine how refreshing it would be if someone you disagree with invited you to have an honest conversation about the current distressing political climate. Could you handle CAN WE TALK if it involved a strong division between you and the other person about any intense value differences? Politics? Religion? LGBT legislation? A woman’s right to choose? Often the answer is no. And it’s typically the “heavy topics” we struggle with that come with an invitation to talk.
I don’t have any answers in this post….just questions. How well do you think you know yourself? What scares you? What do you need to talk about that you are choosing to keep silent about? How motivated are you to learn some new communication techniques? How much conflict in your relationships could perhaps be managed if you were better at sitting down and sharing and listening and moving into dialogue — and healthy conflict management? It’s all possible! You might be amazed by how much better you’d feel if the answer to CAN WE TALK is YES, sit down. Let’s do it!
Listen to Dr. Linda Moore and Mike Manko discuss tech device addiction/denial on the SteveAndMikeRadio.com podcast.