Get in the present – don’t live in the past
When it’s your turn to speak, remember that the elephant produces a flood of instant, past-centered judgments for you to speak as if you were talking about what's going on in front of you. Stop. Remember, from the previous post, our rider-focusing question, “What’s really going on here?” In that phrase, here is the operative word. Wake up and use present-centered, Descriptive, I-messages.
Descriptive language. No judgment. You assume as little as possible as you describe the data you see and hear. Present the situation or the “facts” as you understand them - in neutral language - “This is how it looks to me...” by using:
Open acknowledgement: Use descriptive “I-messages” to recognise their story, concerns or feelings – “I hear what you’re saying…” or the situation you both share: “I can see what's going on…” or “This is a difficult one…” or validate their reactions: “If I had been in your situation, I would have felt the same way.” Build bridges by showing understanding.
Genuine support: Affirm the other’s right to disagree and see things differently. Support the other’s efforts to resolve. Affirm the other person’s humanity. Compliment - appreciate - them for good work when appropriate.
Using this mindful dialogue, you make conscious choices about what to do and say next in response to the other, because you have chosen to pay attention to what’s happening right in front of you.
The elements of dialogue talk are often presented as separate techniques to improve communication; however, when people learn them like that, they can’t remember where and when to use them. I’ve found that the dialogue acronym makes them easier to remember and permits the creation of easily understood guidelines to follow in difficult moments.
Behind the techniques of dialogue talk is a larger ethical commitment. You are committing yourself, as well as encouraging the other, to speak in a way that’s safe. Dialogue Talk begins with the elements of descriptive language, because when you begin your sentences with “I” or “This is…,” you choose to put your thoughts out into the safe space between you rather than violate the other’s sense of self.
Speaking to this space allows others to listen to you and stay connected when you talk. It invites them to give you the information you need to help them solve the problem that’s disconnecting you both. They can speak safely and give you “good information” - their relevant, truthful, complete, and clear perceptions, opinions, and understanding about “what’s actually going on.” Put your story out into the safe space between you, and they’ll reciprocate with their story.
The whole truth will emerge.