How can we improve our lives and our relationships by changing the form of our conversations?
Trust and respect are critical elements of every human encounter, be it friendship, parenting, or business. Yet we often unknowingly undermine the trust and respect in our relationships through our conversations. How good of a communicator are you? How well do you listen for the heart-felt values, beliefs and priorities of others? How well do you authentically share yourself with others? You can take a brief Conversational Assessment to get a move objective look at your strengths and weaknesses in the area of communication. This article presents a useful strategy to eradicate one of the top communication killers: complaining.
Once you are able to realistically observe your current conversational patterns and take the steps necessary to improve the nature of your conversations, you will experience:
* more collaborative and trusting personal and professional relationships
* greater influence in the lives of those around you
* an increase in the respect that others hold for you
* an increase in the amount of people coming to your for guidance and encouragement
* more intimate, open, and authentic relationships
If you desire to attain some or all of the benefits listed above, complaining is an activity that needs to be eradicated from your conversations. I used to think that to stop complaining meant to stop having opinions, stop communicating those opinions, or to stop desiring more out of my life and relationships. All who know me well know that I have LOTS of opinions and that I am very committed to expressing myself, so to stop complaining felt like betraying my nature. I’ve learned a technique that has enabled me to achieve better results than complaining ever got me, without sacrificing my voice. I share this with the hope of helping other “kind-hearted, outspoken, high standards” women like myself find a more productive style of conversation. If this is not a problem you experience yourself, please pass this technique along to the other women in your life who do. It will be a blessing to you both.
The solution to complaining is to actively engage your imagination to move from complaint mode to speculative mode. In complaint mode you focus on what went wrong or did not happen. In speculative mode you focus on your true desires and your ideal outcome. In speculative mode we “play make believe” asking ourselves “If things could be any way I want them to be, how would I LOVE things to be?”
Being in speculative mode forces us to focus on the future rather than the past. When we are in speculative mode, we are focused on what we want to create, focused on the possibility of a future that fulfills our desires, and focused on what what we can do to create that desired outcome. Unfortunately we are often much clearer on what we don’t want than what we do, and those who love us navigate a dangerous minefield while learning how to love us better.
Remember that what we focus on grows. As we focus on our true desires, they will become more clear and we will be better able to communicate them clearly to others. Focusing our our desires also provides us with the positive energy and emotional distance needed to engage in the interaction as a sharing and teaching opportunity. For example, when interacting with my children shifting from complaint to speculative mode allows me to identify the specific quality/ character trait I would like to see them exhibit in similar situations in the future. In this frustrating parenting moments I ask myself:
* what is the character trait I am trying to develop in my child?
* do I model this quality?
* have I have explicitly attempted to teach this quality earlier?
Often times this simple shift from complaint mode to speculative mode drains the negativity out of the situation and enables me to respond with the clarity and intentionality needed to achieve a more successful outcome.
Shifting from a complaint mode to a speculative mode, can improve the quality of our relationships in so many ways. I invite you to practice this skill this week. The next time you feel yourself getting frustrated and about to complain, ask yourself “How would I LOVE this be in a future situation?”. Once you are clear on what you want, think about what you can do to help make that situation happen. Help other people practice this skill as well. The next time someone is complaining to you, guide them through these speculative questions and see what happens.
I’d love to hear from you about how you practiced replacing complaints with speculative questions and what you have achieved through this process. Please post your experiences on below or directly email your comments to me.