Talking for Connection



Brad:  Last Friday night, Marie went to a party with some friends and then went clubbing.  When she started to tell me about it the next day, I immediately began to get jealous, as I normally do when she does such things.  Like always, I began to grill her with questions:  “What did you wear?  Who was there?  Did you dance with any guys?”  Regardless of her responses, I was getting more and more angry.  I had an image in my head of what her experience was like, and I didn’t want to hear or believe that it was any different. 


Right as my emotions were bubbling over and my voice started to rise, I stopped.  It sounds incredible, but I actually remembered Rosenberg’s lesson about being responsible for our feelings.  It was not what Marie had done that was making me angry; it was my own insecurities.  I promptly told Marie that I didn’t want to fight, and instead wanted to take a little time to think about some things.  I promised that I would call her later.


After hanging up the phone, I tried to pinpoint the source of my insecurities.  After some soul-searching, I realized that it was because I couldn’t be there with her to share in her experience that was creating my jealousy.  I didn’t like that she was partying with other guys, not because I didn’t trust her, but because she was with them and not me.  After realizing this, I began to feel much better.


That night, I called Marie back.  I explained my insecurities, and she appreciated my honesty.  In fact, she told me that it was for the same reasons that she got jealous when I went out with my friends.  We realized that we were missing each other and that was the source of our anger.  This realization made us both feel a lot better, and best of all, we had saved ourselves a fight.  By recognizing that I was responsible for my feelings, not for her feelings, I grew closer to her instead of alienating her.



I always thought talking was a bit selfish, that listening was more connecting.


They are two sides of a coin.  If I don’t talk, you have nothing to listen to!  Well, not nothing, just a lot less.  Others can often sense or read our feelings, energy, and body language, but without our words, they will have only a blurry picture of who we are and what we are experiencing.  Some people deliberately reach out to others by their willingness to share what is inside them. 


Let’s see if we can find ways that make sense to you to expand your ability to connect with others through talking.  As you might guess, I am going to suggest that when you are talking for connection, it will enhance your relationships if you frequently share your observations, feelings, needs, and requests. 

(and from Part Two Overview)


Tension in the midst of a friendly conversation really throws me off—whether to talk or listen, especially.


I have noticed that when I get tense, I sometimes simplify the situation by quite disregarding either myself or the other person!  Either I focus on the other person and scurry about in my mind looking for ways to make them happy, to make things peaceful again; or I lose any sense of them as a person and talk louder and faster about what I am thinking.  Sometimes I do remember to reach for the third position of staying in connection with both of us.


In most relationships, both people will contribute to the conversation in a somewhat turn-taking manner—talking—listening—talking—listening.  Robert Bolton, in People Skills, his classic book on communication, suggests that this simple exchange of ideas and feelings would benefit from the regular use of reflective listening or paraphrasing. 

As you attend to words of the speaker, you wonder in your mind about their observations, feelings, needs, and requests; and you periodically let the speaker know what you understand them to be saying and you check it out with the speaker.  This gives the speaker the chance to let you know if the message you received is the same as the one they intended to send.  This may seem time-consuming, but in the long run, it will save time and misunderstandings. 


Reflections are important because we bring different interpretations of the meaning of words, and because what we expect to hear from an individual or from the world is often all that we hear.  (He offers to bring her coffee in bed.  She may think, “He loves me and wants to tell me in little ways.”  Or she may think, “He wants me to get up earlier and get the house cleaned more thoroughly.”)  As you talk together, you can identify miscommunication, listen to each other carefully, and get it cleared up before tension between you moves into conflict between you.


When any tension arises, slow way down, breathe, connect with yourself first, and double your effort to listen carefully without any communication barriers.  If you are really distressed, create some space to withdraw a bit.  Go for a ten-minute walk. 


After you have gotten at least somewhat calm, think about whether you want to connect by listening or talking.  Are you able to listen?  Do you guess that the other person is calm enough to listen to you?  When one’s mouth is full of words, one’s ears cannot hear well.  If it appears no one is able to listen at the moment, you have two forwarding options:  to take a few more deep breaths and see if you can find the space to listen first; or to withdraw, refresh yourself, and then return to listening.