Monday, September 15, 2008

Criteria Words

Every Sunday at Givers 2 (the third and final weekend portion of Choices) trainees are invited to create their Purpose statement. That over-arching statement that speaks to which we do -- most times every day of our lives without even thinking about it. Writing a purpose statement is an important commitment. It is our opportunity to celebrate our gifts, and our vision for how we share our gifts to create a world of difference.

My purpose statement begins with my contract and includes my intention -- I am a fearless woman sharing my unique gifts to create a world where spirits dance free in love, joy and harmony.

As part of the process of scripting their statement, each trainee is asked to talk about a time when they felt special, important, extraordinary. Using their 'criteria words', we then work together to create the purpose statement.

Yesterday, when asked if anyone wanted to stand in front of the group and lead by example, the trainee who stood up taught us all a valuable communication lesson.

As part of the example process, the facilitator asked the trainee to tell her story about a time she felt important and what it was about that event that was so important to her. An assistant wrote down her 'criteria words' on a flipchart so that he could repeat her story back to her in language that connected with her heart. For example, if the trainee said, "I felt proud. It made me feel special. I was excited about the day. It showed me that I have the power to create a more loving world," the facilitator would use her specific criteria words when he gave her back her story.

In the group example, there's one extra step. The facilitator first repeats back the story not using her criteria words. Rather than saying, proud, special, excited, the power to create a more loving world, he would say, "I hear you saying that when you experienced [event], you felt like you'd done something outstanding. It was important for you and it was a pretty thrilling day. It really helped you embrace your ability to change the world."

Several things happen when we use someone's criteria words. In the example, often when the individual tells their story, be it about the birth of their child, their wedding day, the day they gave their first speech, or sold their first house, they become emotional. It's easy for everyone in the room to see the effect telling their story has upon them.

When the facilitator repeats back their story, NOT using their criteria words, the emotion generally turns very flat. Often, the look on the person's face is -- well, I know you're getting my story, but you're not really getting it. Where's the feeling? Where's what I want to do?

Yesterday, when the facilitator repeated her story back without her criteria words, the trainee said, "Um, it sounds good what you said, but it scares me. That's not really what I want to do."

Fear. Claiming our purpose and living up to it.

When we use words that do not resonate within the other person, we create fear. We are imposing upon them our criteria words. Words that do not bring value, nor have value in their lives.

Recently, C.C. and I were talking about something very important to us. I was angry. I didn't use words I knew would connect with him. In fact, the words I used were words that fueled his fear. Our conversation turned from loving to angry in the flash of a gunshot. Getting it back on track required my stepping back from my need to be right, and to be heard first, to asking myself what do I want to create? How can I create a safe place for us to have this conversation?

It required me to listen -- and then to give him back what I heard him say in his words -- not mine.

The gift of repeating back what I heard in his words is that I don't have as much at risk -- I'm not as likely to use a word that has a different context or meaning to him when I'm using his words. Which means I don't risk inflaming an already heated situation! It also means I'm not adding elements to the conversation that take us off track into dangerous waters where fear awakens.

When I use his words, he feels heard, he feels connected, he feels like I am listening and honouring his story, his place. In that moment, we have a better opportunity of connecting and moving through whatever is disrupting our peace of mind. Rather than being on opposite sides of the fence, we meet on common ground.

I'm not saying it's easy! It can be very challenging to stand in love and not engage in discord! But -- and there's that but! If what I want is a loving, caring relationship, then I am responsible for my 100% in creating it. Because I know the power of criteria words, I am responsible for using them to create the beautiful world I want, to create the beautiful relationship I deserve.

Dale Carnegie says, "Seek first to understand. Then to be understood."

If I want to create harmony, I need first to understand what is creating discord. I must listen to understand, not to judge. And, I need to disengage from trying to fix whatever I perceive to be wrong in the other person! When I use their criteria words, words that have value and importance to them, I honour them with my attention, the gift of my listening. I honour them with my open heart listening in love.

The question is: Where do you impose your words upon someone else because you don't listen to what they're saying ? Where do you listen with your head filled with judgement and close yourself off from hearing what lies heavy on their heart?

No comments: