You can’t make anyone think or feel a certain way, but not everyone you speak to is always aware of that fact. Some people may blame you for their thoughts or feelings. That means that when you encounter someone, they will project their current mindset onto you and your message no matter what you say. Essentially, no matter what direction you point, they will project their current mindset onto it and interpret it through that filter. If the direction you point to or the way you point contains any hint of being upset, it will only provide more fuel for the other person to think in upset ways.
Effective communicators have found that pointing in any outward direction is ineffective. Instead, they perform a type of reflection. They calmly and simply direct the other person back inside their own thoughts.
Simple phrases to help accomplish this reflection include:
“How are you?”
“Give me your thoughts.”
Each of these simple statements has the effect of directing the other person back into his own thoughts. This gives an opportunity to be introspective, and when the focus is internal, possibility opens up.
Why is it that introspection opens up possibility? It’s because being open is very natural and our default setting. We are curious beings and our thoughts are meant to flow. With time, thoughts always flow and change. However, if someone is stuck on the illusion of external control and is actively feeding that illusion, keeping them focused on that illusion will only feed it and keep it alive. It’s better to remove the focus from it through encouraging reflection.
After encouraging reflection – and inevitably finding some type of blame going on – you can then see if you can point to possibility. But try not to point directly. Throw out an invitation for the other person to create their own possibility. Inviting open ended possibility is often received much better than giving specific advice.
Here are some ideas on how to do invite possibility:
“Is there another way to see (the situation described in the person’s own terms)?
“How would ___________ explain the situation?”
“If you ignore it, do you think this problem might look differently tomorrow?”
Opening up to possibility is a relatively simple way to start effective communication, especially if you sense someone is in a very blocked, cluttered mindset. It’s an honorable way to seek to understand before pointing in an uninvited direction, a direction that is likely to be interpreted in an unintended way.