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Pattern of Disconnection: Getting The Point Across

I have noticed a pattern of disconnection that occurs when I am really exited to communicate something. Often this pattern shows up when I have an insight that I am impassioned about and want to pass along because it has great meaning for me. It generally is an insight that has not been obvious until it suddenly becomes obvious, and I’m so excited about experiencing that shift in clarity that I want to communicate the insight and its meaning in my life.

What happens is that either the person I’m talking to asks a question that I interpret to mean they haven’t quite understood, or I get a sense from their facial expression or body language that they aren’t getting what I want to communicate. This prompts me to say more; I say it in a different way, maybe embellishing, making it longer, or using different words, essentially trying to explain it to them from another angle. I continue based on their body language and facial expression and the absence of cues that I would interpret as them getting what I’m saying or being as interested and excited about it as I would like them to be.

I tend to get very excited and drawn into trying to get my point across. It feels a bit like being on autopilot; I get into the urgency and the back-and-forth between myself and the other person without checking in to see if they want more, if what I’m saying is helpful, or if they’re enjoying it. I just keep giving more information. I’m off in another world, disconnected from myself and from the other person.

I not only want understanding, I want to contribute. The urgency I feel comes from wanting to be heard about how meaningful and important the insight is to me, the value it has contributed to my life. I’m hoping and projecting that this insight will have as much impact on their life as it has had on mine. Since I’m excited about what it has done for me, I’m also excited about the possible benefit that would come from incorporating this insight into their life. I want to give them that gift.

When we get an insight that makes a big difference to us, there’s a way we can go about sharing it with others that can be off-putting. The energy with which we share it can have echoes of demand energy in it; we get so excited about the impact on our lives that we try to shove the insight on others around us out of our desire to contribute. When we’re not connected with ourselves, it can easily come across like pushing a gift at somebody and demanding that they take it.

The danger here is that when we feel demand from someone else, our need for autonomy tends to come up; so if I’m sharing my insight but someone is hearing a demand, their body language or words are likely to convey this, and I am likely to interpret that they are not getting it yet and continue to try to get my point across. It becomes a feedback loop that continues to increase the disconnection.

These kinds of feedback loops are what we want to break; we find a way to step in to the pattern, re-insert connection with ourselves and then try to re-connect with the other person.

The way I’ve found to do that with this pattern is in stopping and asking for reflection. When I realize I’m repeating myself with this urgency, I’m learning to stop and say something like “You know, I’m beginning to repeat myself, and I just would like to know whether you’re understanding what I would like you to understand; will you tell me what you have heard thus far?”

I often feel relieved when I do so; just the act of stopping my rushing torrent of words gives that energy of urgency space to dissipate and I begin to relax inside. I can reconnect with myself, and choose what to say next instead of being on autopilot. I have a moment to wake up and shift my attention to the other person, hearing what they say as well as attending to their body language, intonation, and word choice. All of this information helps me recalibrate; I know from their answer whether I need to say anything more or address specific things, so I know where to go next in the conversation.

I have found that my interpretation of what I’m reading from their expression and body language may not be accurate; I may be continuing to try to explain something that they have actually already understood, and they’re just puzzled about what they would do with it. I don’t know unless I stop and ask.

It’s been a progression (through a number of years) to get myself to the point where I am even aware enough to make the choice of asking for reflection. Conceptually it’s not difficult; what is difficult is to remember when in the heat of the moment. I noticed that this pattern would also come up in trainings—sometimes I would notice after-the-fact or my co-facilitators would let me know that I had again fallen into this urgency to get a point across.

I used the processes we teach in our trainings to become aware sooner. As I would reflect on a particular training or conversation, I would recall a time when I was repeating myself and had not stopped to ask for reflection, and would use the Mourn Celebrate Learn process to mourn the lost opportunity as well as celebrate the things I had enjoyed in the training. Doing this over time has brought me to a point where I much more consistently now notice when I’m feeling urgent and anxious that I’m not getting my point across and beginning to repeat myself. In trainings now, when I notice I’m repeating myself I can ask “is there someone who’d be willing to tell me what they’ve heard thus far so I can get some assurance that I’m getting my thought across?”

We can facilitate our becoming aware of these kinds of patterns through making agreements with other people. For example, I made an agreement with my training partner John Kinyon that if he heard me in this pattern of urgency and repetition during a workshop he would simply interrupt me and say “Excuse me, Ike, I just want to check and see if there’s anybody in the room who is having any trouble understanding what you’re saying.” He would go straight to what I wished I was doing, which helped remind me in the moment that I wanted to be doing that. These kinds of supporting agreements can remind you in the moment to become aware and make a new choice.

In these patterns that result in disconnection, we need that first step to start the process of reconnecting. For me, asking for reflection when I’m feeling urgent and repeating myself does that; it decouples me from the runaway disconnection occurring. I can then reconnect internally and listen to what’s actually going on for the other person (instead of what I think is going on), and the conversation can proceed in a direction we both are more likely to enjoy.

Post by Ike Lasater with Julie Stiles

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Comment from Mary Sitze
Time February 14, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Thank you for this post, Ike. As a former teacher, I can relate to it and have almost certainly fallen into the “pattern of disconnection” on occasion. So the strategy of reflection is very helpful, as is the reminder to ask our colleagues help us to become the communicators we want to be. Finally, Ike, it was touching to hear about this very personal aspect of your experience of the trainings.

Comment from shoshi
Time February 14, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Ike, I really liked starting my day off reading your post, because your insights and the compassion for yourself and others with which you are sharing the insights, makes it easy for me to understand and apply them to my own experience. I take comfort in our common humanity, and find patience, based on your honesty here, for others who are also wanting to bring more awareness to tending connection specifically while communicating when they are excited.

There is a sense that we are all in this together, that it is possible to tend connection during excitement, and that there is help available from our colleagues and friends, and from the tools we teach.

I specifically liked your reference to the Mourn Celebrate Learn tool for its value and effectiveness in supporting your learning, hearing how much you appreciate this tool and apply it in your own life. I also am really enjoying this particular tool and feel encouraged when I use it, not only because I get to connect to a deeper place in myself and the relationships involved, but because I see the integrity of what we are learning and teaching together.

I like the direction we are going, and how we are getting there, and have a deep appreciation for all the internal personal work you continue to do, that you share your progress with the rest of us, so we can benefit from your strong determination and commitment to the kind of world we want.