Some people think that talking is communicating. But talking is not communicating unless it has a goal, a purpose.
Most often in communication, the goal is agreement. But if our goal is agreement, then what happens when we disagree? I must persuade you to agree with me, or vice versa. But unfortunately, persuasion has a way of slipping into pressure, manipulation, and control.
The priority of agreement demands that there really can’t be two different people in the conversation—there can only be one. The longer you refuse to respond to my efforts to convince you to agree with me, the more anxiety grows in the conversation. Before long, the battle lines are drawn and we are allowing our need to be right to overtake our need to protect our connection.
The conversation becomes a fight over which one of us has the right perception, the right answer, or the right decision.
If we are not careful, it will be only a matter of time before one of us introduces some kind of “relationship killer” to the conversation. A relationship killer is a message that invalidates or disqualifies one person’s thoughts, feelings, or needs in some way. It most often happens when someone mentions his or her feelings and the other person responds:
“Well, that’s not logical. You can’t be right because you just have a feeling. We can’t measure your feelings. We have to present things logically. Your ‘feeling’ doesn’t even make sense. My perspective, on the other hand, has all the qualifiers to be valuable.” The underlying message, although unintended, is, “I am valuable and you are not.” When people start devaluing one another’s thoughts, feelings, or needs in some way, they are attacking their connection like a pack of wolves.
If we want to keep two powerful people involved and connected in a conversation, the first goal must be to understand.
If connection is the priority, then the goal of communication cannot be agreement, because then one person has to disappear when there is disagreement. And guess what? People do not always agree.
The person whose goal is to understand says, “I want to understand your unique perspective and experience. I want to understand the truth of what is happening inside you. And I want you to understand the same things about me. If I understand your heart, then I can move toward you in ways that build our connection. I can respond to your thoughts, respect your feelings, and help to meet your needs.”
The results of this conversation are going to be radically different from the one whose goal was agreement alone. Pursuing the goal of understanding will help you progress through increasingly deeper levels of honesty in order to build true intimacy and trust in a relationship.
PS) This is Hack #2 in my latest eBook, Communication Hacks: 3 Ways to Cultivate Healthy Communication at Home or Work. Download it free for a limited time here.
PPS) As always I would love to hear your thoughts below