Next door to Open Questions you will find a store called WAIT.
The store name is in capitals. It is also a reminder. “Why am I talking?” is a question you can ask yourself to remember that when you are using the POWER set of tools the conversation is not about you. WAIT is a gift of silence. People process information at different speeds. Give them time to think through what they want to say next. Let THEM fill the silence. They may be working up the courage to really say what they are thinking. There may be a really valuable piece of information on the tip of their tongue and if you speak you may chase that thought away and change the course of the conversation. Give them the opportunity to gather and consider, to search, sort and select what to say next. Especially in difficult circumstance it is important not to fill the gap created by the silence but to leave it open for them. They will surprise you.
In our culture WAIT seems counter intuitive. Sometimes it is the most difficult tool to learn to use. It is so simple and so effective that I am confident you will come to love it and the results it produces. Alone it has the power to transform relationships. Just listening and learn. Listen deeply for what is missing for the others person, for what motivates them. Listen beyond the words to the unspoken thoughts and a perception of the situation that you may not have yet considered. Sit in silence and hold the space for them so that they feel safe and confident enough to share the “good stuff”, the ideas or thoughts that have yet to hit the open air, that have yet to be said out loud, that may change everything. WAITing gives you the gift of deeper understanding that will power they rest of the journey.
The next store is the Empathize store. Here you will find phrases like “You feel strongly about this.” And “This has been difficult for you.” The tools here serve a specific purpose. They are meant to help you get a handle on the level of emotion that is being generated and to harness it. Naming the level of emotion transfers the power of that emotion from them to you for storage and or disposal. It seems like magic when it happens. You sense the wind coming out of their sails. You feel the air going out of their emotional balloon. There is such a sense of relief and release you can almost watch them relax before your eyes. And all you have to do is turn this gentle tool a notch to allow for all of that energy to dissipate. Just notice that there is energy in their language. It is that simple.
In the Empathize store you will not find a shelf called “Stories like yours that happened to me and how I felt about it.” It is not about you. The tools that are sold here are focused on the speaker. Listening for how they feel and being able to express what you’re noticing in a non-judgmental way is key. “I noticed that you use the word ‘extreme’ more than once. This experience had some emotion in it for you.” Just notice. Don’t judge. Providing a space for them to be noticed will allow them to say more. You are now panning for gold, mining for further sources of energy to take with you on the journey.
Next to Empathize, at the other end of the mall is a store called Reframe. It holds some very important tools that will allow you to shift a person’s perspective on the world. The framing tools are fun to work with but they do take practice to master. It would seem like putting a new frame on an old picture would be an easy DIY project but with mitered corners and the use of reflective materials like glass it can become complicated quickly. It is not any easy tool to use effectively. The store offers courses so that you can learn how to take a negative and turn it into a positive in five easy steps. When you watch the experts use the tool you are often amazed at their dexterity. They do make it look easy. That comes with practice and with knowing more about the Nine BEACHs that people come from and how to name those effectively. (More on the BEACHS to come.)
Although Reframe is a power tool that takes energy to learn and to use effectively, it also generates power to sustain itself. The energy released in the chemical switch from negative to positive can be harnessed and it is often substantial. You are giving the gift of seeing things in a new way. A phrase like “You are always coming in late.” Or “You never take my feelings into consideration” can stop a conversation cold. If the reply is a reframe such as “Punctuality is important to you” or “Inclusion and consideration are what you are looking for” can ease the tension and change things from a negative charge to a positive opportunity to learn more about each other in a deeper more meaningful way. There is subtle use of tone and colour here, an artistic side to reframing that cannot always be detected. It requires listening with purpose, a kind of finesse and appreciation for what is being said and what it reveals so that you honour the artist with the frame you choose. That positive frame fuels the journey.