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Ask to Get Th i ngs Rol l i ng

The easiest and most straightforward way to encourage others to

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Ask to Get Th i ngs Rol l i ng The easiest and most straightforward way to encourage others to share their Path to Action is simply to invite them to express them­
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share their Path to Action is simply to invite them to express them­

selves. For example, often all it takes to break an impasse is to seek

 

 

EXPLORE OTHERS’ PATHS 1 49

to understand others’ views. When we show genuine interest, peo­

ple feel less compelled to use silence or violence. For example: “Do

you like my new dress, or are you going to call the modesty

police?” Wendy smirks.

“What do you mean?” you ask. “I’d like to hear your concerns.”

If you’re willing to step out of the fray and simply invite the

other person to talk about what’s really going on, it can go a long

way toward breaking the downward spiral and getting to the

source of the problem.

Common invitations include:

“What’s going on?”

“I’d really like to hear your opinion on this.”

“Please let me know if you see it differently.”

“Don’t worry about hurting my feelings. I really want to

hear your thoughts.”

Mi rror to Confi rm Fee l i ngs

If asking others to share their path doesn’t open things up, mirror­

ing can help build more safety. In mirroring, we take the portion of

the other person’s Path to Action we have access to and make it

safe for him or her to discuss it. All we have so far are actions and

some hints about the other person’s emotions, so we start there.

When we mirror, as the name suggests, we hold a mirror up

to the other person-describing how they look or act. Although

we may not understand others’ stories or facts, we can see their

actions and get clues about their feelings.

This particular tool is most useful when another person’s tone

or voice or gestures (hints about the emotions behind them) are

inconsistent with his or her words. For example: “Don’t worry.

I ‘m fine. ” (But the person in question is saying this with a look

t hat suggests he is actually quite upset. He’s frowning, looking

around , and sort of kicking at the ground. )

 

 

1 50 CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS

“Really? From the way you’re saying that, it doesn’t sound like

you are.”

We explain that while the person may be saying one thing, his

or her tone of voice or body posture suggests something else. In

doing so, we show respect and concern for him or her.

The most important element of mirroring is our tone of voice.

It is not the fact that we are acknowledging others’ emotions that

creates safety. We create safety when our tone of voice says we’re

okay with them feeling the way they’re feeling. If we do this well,

they may conclude that rather than acting out their emotions,

they can confidently talk them out with us instead.

So as we describe what we see, we have to do so calmly. If we

act upset or as if we’re not going to like what others say, we don’t

build safety. We confirm their suspicions that they need to

remain silent.

Examples of mirroring include:

“You say you’re okay, but by the tone of your voice, you

seem upset.”

“You seem angry at me.”

“You look nervous about confronting him. Are you sure

you’re willing to do it?”

�a raph rase to Acknowledge the Story

Asking and mirroring may help you get part of the other person’s

story out into the open. When you get a clue about why the per­

son is feeling as he or she does, you can build additional safety

by paraphrasing what you’ve heard. Be careful not to simply par­

rot back what was said. Instead, put the message in your own

words-usually in an abbreviated form.

“Let’s see if I’ve got this right. You’re upset because I’ve

voiced my concern about some of the clothes you wear. And

this seems controlling or old-fashioned to you.”

 

 

EXPLORE OTHERS’ PATHS 1 51

The key to paraphrasing, as with mirroring, is to remain calm

and collected. Our goal is to make it safe, not to act horrified and

suggest that the conversation is about to tum ugly. Stay focused

on figuring out how a reasonable, rational, and decent person

could have created this Path to Action. This will help you keep

from becoming angry or defensive. Simply rephrase what the per­

son has said, and do it in a way that suggests that it’s okay, you’re

trying to understand, and it’s safe for him or her to talk candidly.

Don ‘t push too hard. Let’s see where we are. We can tell that

another person has more to share than he or she is currently

sharing. He or she is going to silence or violence, and we want

to know why. We want to get back to the source (the facts)

where we can solve the problem. To encourage the person to

share, we’ve tried three listening tools. We’ve asked, mirrored,

and paraphrased. The person is still upset, but isn’t explaining

his or her stories or facts.

Now what? At this point, we may want to back off. After a

while, our attempts to make it safe for others can start feeling as

if we’re pestering or prying. If we push too hard, we violate both

purpose and respect. Others may think our purpose is merely to

extract what we want from them and conclude that we don’t care

about them personally. So instead, we back off. Rather than try­

ing to get to the source of the other person’s emotions, we either

gracefully exit or ask what he or she wants to see happen. Asking

people what they want helps them engage their brains in a way

that moves to problem solving and away from either attacking or

avoiding. It also helps reveal what they think the cause of the

problem is.

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