Friday, June 21, 2019

Some Handy Questions

If you offer some advice, like what I'm doing right at this very moment, it might help first to ask the recipient of your advice if he or she is interested in doing or thinking a little differently.  Are you?  I write with the assumption that you are.  I do like to entertain people with my writing, but that's not my main goal in writing.  My main goal is to offer my experience and thinking so that if there is something valuable in it for others, it's available to them.  If you are not interested in doing or thinking any differently than you already do, please find something better to do than waste your time reading this.  Since you're still reading and you might be a little conflicted about it, consider that you might stop now, change your mind, and then come back to read the rest.  Changing your mind is one of the best things human beings do.  In most cases, changing your mind ends up benefiting you.  Often, I think, the harder it is to change your mind, the more rewarding it is.

Thanks for proceeding to this second paragraph!  Have you ever noticed yourself offering advice to someone which, if you took that advice yourself, might benefit you?  Did you ever get the feeling about something you realized or said, that it might be true in many ways that you didn't intend?  I can answer both of these questions in the affirmative, and I actively seek to notice myself doing that and to explore that feeling.  It's an exercise that involves stepping back a little and doing some analysis. I do love to just sit and think, or just sit and not think.

I am interested in doing and thinking a little differently.  It would be nice if, for example, I started this blog post this morning, before meditating and after my extra exercise like I planned, and also incorporated walking the dogs into my morning walk.  I did walk the dogs this morning, but they wore me out so I didn't do the extra exercise and (accidentally) skipped writing.  I was hungering to meditate after walking those dogs.  Man, those dogs!

Suppose you gave someone some advice: "X," you said.  Then you considered whether or not X applies to you too.  If the someone asks you some good questions, you might find yourself saying things that are true on more levels than you intend. You might have an epiphany.  You might exclaim, "Oh! I just realized that... " (for example) "if the relationship between you and your child is like the relationship between me and my dog, then I need X too!"

Then you could get really excited and explain the connection to the someone.  That's what I find myself doing sometimes.  It has worked for me and I wanted to share. I know, I know, details.  Hmmm...

I had a conversation with my youngest daughter.*  She was complaining that a friend of hers refused to see both sides of an issue.  The friend insisted that abortion is always wrong, and my daughter felt that if a rape victim ends up pregnant and decides to end it, she should have that right.  My advice was to be vulnerable.  My daughter was looking for me to agree with her.  I do agree with her, but I didn't say so.  Instead, I offered solutions to a problem.  She sought agreement, not a solution.  For years, I had been offering my wife solutions when she just wanted me to understand her pain.  My daughter spelled out for me that she didn't want a solution - just to be heard and to know if I see value in her position.

I stepped back and considered being vulnerable myself.  I did agree, after all, and saying so was easy.  To be vulnerable, I took on the role of the rape victim, and argued passionately for a pass to be given to my unborn child, rather than being sentenced to life in "Hell on Earth," which is what my circumstances offered.  I did this to show her what may have been an effective plea to her friend, but also to show her that I did agree, and why I agreed.  I also told her how frustrating it is for me to see someone suffer when they don't have to, simply because they are looking to be heard and understood and will reject any kind of solution offered by their audience. It's frustrating, yes, but when you're there for someone you love, it's worth it too.

Solving problems is one of my greatest passions.  Sometimes the problem is that someone else's problem has what I think is an easy solution, and they aren't interested in my easy solution.  If they keep a firm grip on that problem, it may be for a reason they don't see.  Landmark calls this a "racket."  We get something out of having problems.  What do I get out of having the problem that others reject my easy solutions to their problems?  I get to remain distant and aloof from them, ignoring their suffering.  I don't have to answer difficult questions about my seemingly "simple" solution.  These are the goals of an energy-saving machine, which is what the human body evolved into.  They are not my goals, however, so I have to thank Landmark for showing me what a "racket" is and giving me the tools to recognize it when I'm running one of them.  I'm not perfect at listening, but I'm much better.  I might need to work on continuing to progress in that direction.  Hmm...

Listen.  Listen actively.  Do your best to be the person speaking to you.  Feel their pain.  Ask questions to align your experience with theirs.  At some point, you will be on the same page and they will feel it.  If you still have what you think might solve or reduce their problem, ask them, "Are you interested in doing or thinking a little differently to change that?"  If you've listened well, and did a good job getting on the same page with them, I suspect the answer will open a previously locked door, and I have no idea where it might lead, but at least it won't be locked any more.

* This story is subject to revision after my daughter reads it.  She might have important details that I forgot.

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