Getting Past Stuck

14 Jul

Do you have a “stuck” topic in any of your relationships?  You know, were you try to have objective, calm, practical discussions about a complaint but you don’t seem to make much progress – the challenge, problem, or complaint remains.  Talking about it more isn’t helpful and quite frankly isn’t fun!  It might even seem as though one or the other person is being unreasonable in their expectations?  You are at an impasse.

Back to our brain and what is behind the scenes.  Resting beneath most of our behaviors are emotion that drive those behaviors.  For example, Elli is hyper-vigilant about the house being neat.  There have been many discussions and arguments about how anal she is and how inconsiderate they are.  Ellie was not consciously aware of it but, at the root of her behavior were a fear of being embarrassed and a desire for her family to have freedom. Elli grew up in a house of clutter and chaos. She often felt humiliated – going to school with mismatched clothes and missing schoolwork or books because of the chaos.  She would never invite friends over.  Her world felt out of control.

We all have emotional drivers and many of them are unconscious (90% of what is running around in our brain is at an unconscious level.)  Whether we’re aware of it or not these emotional drivers effect how we behave and make decisions.

Dr. Gottman takes about uncovering dreams. I would reframe that a little and suggest it’s about uncovering values, passions and desires.   All of us have values or principles by which we live life, even if we’re not consciously aware of all of our values, we will typically defend our values tenaciously.  Watch when someone cuts into a line – some people’s value of fair will flair, others value of compassion will be obvious.

Likewise we all have desires, things we long for.  This could include material things, but more often the desires we defend have to do with our sense of purpose, possibilities, or expression of who we are.  And, where we have passion we can be persistent in wanting our way.

In situations where there is an impasse, our focus is usual on the behavior.  What we need to do is stop having the same argument and look below the surface.  What value, desire or passion might be at risk for this person?  Uncovering the driving concern can help bring the deeper issue to the conscious mind, offering a new perspective to discuss.

Once Elli’s family stopped arguing and started listening for values, desires and passions they were able to understand that in her mind, her behavior was out of a desire to serve and help them.  This allowed the family to have a different conversation.

Learning to listen for values, desires and passions is a skill that I teach in leadership training.  It works! It is a skill that is quite easy to build, but it does require practice.  So, the choice I’m offering you today is to “learn to listen for something new.”   Pick a touchy topic in your world.  Stop having the same old conversation and start listening for the driver beneath the behavior!

If you have questions about this – let me know, I’d love to dialog!

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