Thanks for your feedback

I appreciate all of you who replied to my last post about an audiobook dilemma. Special thanks to Chris Rogers, the best writer I know and a voracious consumer of both fiction and nonfiction. Even after writing an extensive reply, she took the time to engage in a true conversation. The best communication is always a true conversation either in person or by phone.

Another Sneak Peek

Here’s an excerpt from one of the how to sections of Women Can Renew the World If…and So Can You. It presents an enjoyable and rewarding way to practice having real conversations before you get into sensitive topics.

Exercise: Having Real Conversations

Many people now use text messages as their default form of communication. This not only eliminates the facial expressions, body language and tones of voice that would help them connect and understand each other better, it also tempts them to use as few words as possible. It feels like one is saving time, but the time spent sending briefly worded messages back and forth is less efficient in the long run. What’s worse, sometimes we think we get what the other person means, we act on it, and later find out that we misunderstood. That takes a lot more time to straighten out.

Social media is becoming the default means of expressing opinions on touchy topics. It has all the disadvantages of text messages, and in addition, instills a sense of quasi anonymity. On social media, people feel less inhibited by social mores. This results in nastier, more sarcastic language and images. We don’t even have to compose this language ourselves. We can simply share someone else’s snarky meme. Twitter is the worst because it actively limits the number of words, and thus, the potential for clear, civil statements.

During the pandemic, both employers and employees saw the advantages of allowing people to work at home. Lots of them will be continuing at least some of this indefinitely. While there are certainly many advantages to working at home, there are fewer opportunities to have a brief chat by the water cooler or in the break room or to suggest an impromptu lunch out with a coworker.

Before attempting productive discussions about touchy topics, practice having real conversations. Period. Health and safety permitting, schedule at least one meet up per week. You don’t have to meet up with someone from work. It could be a family member with whom you rarely have enough quality one-on-one time. In subsequent exercises, you’ll learn skills to enhance these conversations and extend them into serious topics. For now, just get back into conversational practice. If health and safety preclude meeting in person, make a point of having the best conversations you can by FaceTime or phone.

Notice how much better you understand your companion. I predict you will find that you not only understand what they mean to say, but that you also pick up on how they feel about the matter, even if it’s only what they want to do next weekend. Do they also seem to understand you better?

It helps to plan one or two topics you might introduce. Try something significant but not too touchy. Perhaps you’re planning to sell your house, but wondering if the market is right to list it at present. Maybe your city is considering whether or not to try to host a major sporting event which would involve building a new venue. What is your companion’s opinion?

If it turns out that the topic you plan is touchy for the other person, you might want to simply listen, hear them out empathetically, but wait until you practice additional skills in subsequent chapters to actually get into that issue.

Real Life Advice from an Expert

Professional counselor Hara Estroff Marano writes a regular advice column in Psychology Today. In the May 2021 issue, she addressed a question from a woman whose step sister, living with and caring for their parents, was a hoarder. Concerned that the clutter might endanger the parents’ safety, the woman had tried confronting her sister several times, without success.

Estroff Marano suggested a diametrically opposite approach: To defuse the resistance created by previous confrontations, the woman should begin by engaging her sister in ordinary conversations about anything except the hoarding. After regaining the sister’s trust, she could try things like asking her sister to take pictures of the cluttered areas. “Likely, the pictures will not look like the home she visualizes in her head…. At some point the topic is likely to arise organically. You can then expose your sister to the expertise that currently exists…. There’s no guarantee, but it’s a far wiser approach than confrontation.”

More Feedback Please

I promise you will be happy with the results of practicing the exercise just above. Please send me feedback about your experience either by comments below this blog post, direct contact, or social media.

Thanks in advance!