Your Conversations Will Change Your World
“Oh, beautiful!” Lulu, my parrot exclaimed. He was reading a book lying on my table while taking light bites of a guava. “Four lines capture the feelings so well. And it’s about conversations.”
“What are you reading, Lulu? Let me see… Oh, a poem? Wow!” I glanced at the page he had opened.
“Here, let me read out the lines to you.” Lulu said and continued,
“I feel so sentenced by your words/ I feel so judged and sent away/ Before I go, I’ve got to know/ Is that what you mean to say?”
Lulu glanced at me. “Aren’t these beautiful lines? Don’t they capture what we often feel?”
“Yes, indeed!” I said, keeping aside my mobile. “It’s a sense of rejection which is captured so well.”
“I feel so judged”! Lulu pointed to the line. “Being judged hurts. You never realize when you cross the line from judging to being judgmental.”
“The newspapers are full of such statements. Pick up a speech of any political leader. He passes a judgement on others.”
“Unfortunately, that’s the style people catch up easily.”
“You are telling me? Anybody who has undergone Performance Appraisal will readily agree.”
“Ha, ha! There seem to be some wounds not yet healed. Do you remember the furious verbal duel between Sanjay Raut and Kangana Ranaut? She tweeted, ‘Sanjay Raut Shiv Sena leader has given me an open threat and asked me not to come back to Mumbai, after Aazadi graffities in Mumbai streets and now open threats, why Mumbai is feeling like Pakistan occupied Kashmir?’ Marshall Rosenberg analyses it well…”
“What does he say?”
“He says – ‘When you mix observation and emotion, people hear criticism.’”
“That’s insightful. Let us think of it dispassionately. I can see Kangana made an observation – ‘Sanjay Raut Shiv Sena leader has given me an open threat and asked me not to come back to Mumbai, after Aazadi graffities in Mumbai streets and now open threats.’ And then she loaded it with emotion – ‘why Mumbai is feeling like Pakistan occupied Kashmir?’
“In such a battle of words, the powerful will always win.”
“So true! And he caused her great damage.”
“Generally speaking, a question posed to explore the message – at such a stage – yields good results. For example, when your boss says ‘you messed up that job’, one should repeat the message he heard – ‘I understand that you consider that the performance on that job did not meet your expectations.’ And then explore it further. Ask what were his expectations from you regarding performance of that job.”
“That’s keeping the conversation at the ‘Adult’ level – fact finding level to begin with. It’s tough, I can tell you. When boss says ‘you messed it up’ or a more polite ‘did not meet expectations’, people go emotional – violent – in mentioning that the boss shifted goal posts and challenge him. Or they fall silent – they prefer not to contest but they reject his evaluation.”
“That’s the problem with tough conversations. People respond in two ways. Violently or Silently. And both are wrong – call them unproductive or inappropriate.”
“The last two lines of the poem tell it all – ‘Before I go, I’ve got to know/ Is that what you mean to say?’”
“Beautiful lines. They explore the message. Confirmation is sought to avoid misunderstanding. People, like your boss, are allowed an opportunity to find better words to express themselves. Remember that people do not choose their words carefully. Do you know how the poem ends?”
“Nah, tell me please.”
“If I seem to put you down/ If you felt I didn’t care/ Try to listen through my words/ To the feelings we share”
“Wow! ‘To the feelings we share’. That points to empathy. Empathetic listening takes you beyond words and to the feelings. And feelings drive the world. They are like petrol in a car. Thoughts are like a steering wheel.”
“Try to remember how your mother spoke to you. She might take a knock or two in the conversations but she would persist in communicating her love and concern for you. Empathy. It comes to mothers, more or less, naturally.”
“And what about others?”
“They must speak intentionally. They can take a deep breath, remind themselves to respond with empathy and then speak.”
“That’s tough. Conversations are usually spontaneous.”
“It takes practice to build that skill. It’s like driving.”
“I got it. It will avoid ‘accidents’ involving loss of friendships.”
“And there is no insurance” Lulu said as he fluttered his wings, perched on my shoulder. “That is why they say, ‘What you say next will change your world.’”
Vivek S Patwardhan
Feature Photo Courtesy: Christina Wocintech on Unsplash
“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.
“Aroehan: Creating Dream Villages in Mokhada by 2025: “No Malnutrition Deaths, No Child ‘Out of School’, Reduction in migration by 50%.”
So True sir. I personally believe being judgemental creates a sense of power and contro over the other. When both are judgemental …than its power play. It’s so true whether at home or at corporate setting or amongst friend. Its not about building the relationship but controlling. If we were factual and empathetic in conversation ….pain caused by words would reduce.
Excellent conversation with Lulu as usual! Being judgemental, dismissive, disrespectful, uncomfortable uncaring INTENDED OR NOT,has heightened effect now and will/ is shaping our worlds.
Powerful insights Vivek. ‘When you mix observation and emotion, people hear criticism.’” I love this one. There is a challenge though in being in a state of equanimity and yet making that observation. Easier said than done. True nevertheless
Thanks Sir ,power of conversations !!
Thank you sir for your comments on conversations.Empathy would definitely make conversations more meaningful .However it is an attribute rarely found not only in Boss subordinate dialogue but also but also in general conversation between people. Hence true leaders have empathy and become good communicators.
Awesome….a much desired and required trait. Thanks again Vivek for that lucid, thought provoking piece
Yes language and use of words matter ,As a speaker i have experienced it . Iremember my principal mr jogendra paul,a renowned urdu author, telling me once after I won Deabate competetion . Congrats but remember it is are of conversation and choice of words that matters most than debate
Like Unilarist, Pluralist,Radical, Respect, acceptance, consideration, listening, opennes,Empathy.Violently, silently!
I think the silent response is a great threat to an organisation. We should try and structure such difficult conversations in a way that silence is not given back to us as a response. Having disagreements is still fine because they can turn into something useful however, not having a discussion at all is dangerous! Amazingly written!