We come to personal or leadership development workshops to learn new skills, new strategies, and yet often it is the place that we use them from, that needs attention. The place we use them from, is the place from which we view the world and ourselves. If this place that we look from, this way of being, doesn’t have a healthy sense of self-worth, then our attention will be off what is important, and on self-protection. We will see challenges as attacks, which we need to fend off or run from. Our new skills will operate from a place of self-doubt. Learning is very hard here.
That is, how can you be true to yourself and also show a willingness to connect with the other’s perspective?
When you share your opinion, your thoughts and feelings- is your heart big enough to believe in yourself and hold yourself steady, and also to extend to learning from the other?
Done well, this will increase your personal power, your ability to influence, particularly because you will be able to speak your truth in a way that has clarity and authenticity, and yet also makes a space for mutuality- for others to share their perspective, and build relationship. Trust and intimacy can flow.
Advocacy is the part of conversation most utilized in most places. We are most often tellers, not listeners. Our lack of intent to connect, to listen, is very evident in our advocacy. To be effective in building relationships, in resolving issues, advocacy needs to be balanced with inquiry.
How can we weave in both authenticity and mutuality?
Sometimes we do a shortcut and jump to listening to the other’s perspective without saying our own truth. In a workshop I was running recently, one of the participants, when practising her advocacy statement, noticed that she wasn’t telling her own perspective. Instead she was guessing the other’s. … it was a light bulb moment! She and her role-play partner both saw her habit of deflecting her own point of view- her perspective was not there at all, where previously she had thought it was.
Sometimes we find it hard to speak our truth with grace. There is no space for the other to have a perspective- what we think or need takes up all the space.
Brene Brown, the author of Daring Greatly… and a famous ted talk on vulnerability with over 31 million views, tells a story of herself and her husband on a family holiday with the children, getting up early to take a swim alone. It was a beautiful morning and when Brene attempted to connect tenderly with her husband, his response was abrupt.
As her feelings of anger and rejection grew, she chose not to shut down or become aggressive: “I feel like you’re blowing me off,” she said, “and the story I’m making up is either you looked at me while I was swimming and thought, Man, she’s getting old. She can’t even swim freestyle anymore. Or you saw me and thought, She sure as hell doesn’t rock a Speedo like she did twenty-five years ago.”
She then tells of Steve telling of his dream of the night of being on a raft with the children, with a speed boat racing towards them, desperately trying to save them. For him the swim had been a battle against rising panic.
The phrase “the story I’m making up’ created a space for Steve to respond. It also reminded Brene, that she didn’t have the whole story and yet allowed her to say what was true for her. It was truly courageous.
Sharing our perspective is important. It enables us to be known. When done in a way that values the other, it is a building block for trust and intimacy.