Going through a divorce feels similar to what it feels like in our country right now. There are two opposing sides firmly rooted in their truth, and their stories of what happened and how we got here widely diverge; thus, the ideas of how to move forward look like the Continental Divide. The one truth shared in this experience? We must cross over.
Deep listening helps us to recognize the existence of wrong perceptions in the other person and wrong perceptions in us. The other person has wrong perceptions about himself and about us. And we have wrong perceptions about ourselves and the other person. And that is the foundation for violence and conflict and war. – Thich Nhat Hanh
So often in conversations, I am so focused on proving myself right or innocent that I miss the inkling of truth in the message being delivered. I focus on what I want with certainty of how to get it without opening to the wants of the other person, so we stay in a circular, self-fulfilling loop. If I can make the shift to deep listening, mindfulness on steroids, I may hear what we have in common.
What might we have in common?
Everyone in the conversation may be reacting out of fear.
Everyone in the conversation may be deeply hurt and grieving losses.
Everyone in the conversation may want peace and security.
Time and time again, the connection to what we have in common opens doors. It creates a shift from “how are we going to divide this pie” to “there is more pie here than I ever imagined.”
I know it sounds counter intuitive to listen deeply to what I think is so wrong, and I know it’s not easy, but each time I find the courage to practice, something changes in me. Something shifts, and I am able to see things from a broader perspective. It’s like I connect to something larger than myself and some of the resistance to what is happening falls away.
I shift from being a rock that blocks the flow of water to the sea, to being part of the water itself, and water always finds its way around obstacles.
Deborah Denson is a Mediator and Conflict Coach in Nashville, TN. She shares her personal journey learning to manage conflict and life in general on her blog, where she combines original art and wit into a daily dose of insight and humor for readers.