Colin Smith is known as the Listener. According to Colin, we can think so much faster than we can speak that we have thoughts lined up – like ballerinas waiting to dance out over our lips. But we rarely get a chance to send more than one or two onto the scene before somebody breaks in, and the conversation goes off in their direction. Then we sit quietly thinking we had such good points to make, but the conversation has moved on to other subjects and we have no way to get them out.
Colin’s superpower is to invite more dancers to join on the scene; to allow us to present the whole ensemble. (And he not only gives us the time but also pays attention to what we say, not to how he might respond.)
I have used Colin’s insight to encourage others to journal. Until they have gotten the first ballerina onto the stage – their initial idea onto paper or into a document – the rest of the thoughts and ideas are waiting out in the wings. They are still ephemeral because somebody, the dominant part of the thought or idea, is already standing in “the door”. Taking up the space. The second and third and all the rest of the ensemble have a hard time getting access to our conscious mind until they get words attached to and describing them, and that happens in “the door”.
This image has helped more than a couple of people change their minds and start writing down thoughts.
In a post by Ali Anani on toxic behaviors on social media, I took Colin’s thought in another direction.
What happens when we are sitting on a piece of “constructive feedback” but haven’t given it to the person who “needs to hear it”? (Well, actually, they don’t need our thought, but we need to get rid of it.)
Something annoys us – and as emotions are the vehicle for forming memories, we have fabulous memories of people who have annoyed us. We may have forgotten why we were annoyed but the sting of annoyance sits on this relationship. Writing that angry letter – and not sending it – is one way to clear “the door”. But politely and privately asking “This is what I heard/read…. – is this what you meant?” can be a way to deliver the feedback – without calling the other person names or saying things we may later regret.
Perhaps what we heard was what the other person meant, and perhaps it was not. If it wasn’t, it was a communication glitch. That happens. If it was what the person meant, we can curiously ask how the person came to that conclusion.
But what if we don’t do anything with our feedback? What happens next time we read something from or have an interaction with this person?
We start with this feeling of annoyance. A feeling that very likely is based on a communication glitch. Because we are annoyed, we get biased against what the person brings forth in this new interaction. Reversely, if we have given the feedback, stated our curiosity, and found common ground, we assume that we once again can find common ground.
True to form, Ali Anani switched this around once more, and saw the interaction with people who previously have given us feedback not coming from good intentions. How open are we to considering their new feedback?
The unsolved conflict from the previous interaction is blocking the door for taking new feedback in – even if, coming from another person, we might have found it insightful and helpful.
Do you journal? Is anything standing in your door, blocking the way in or out?