by Dan Weyerhaeuser, Senior Pastor
During these weeks, we have been unpacking the R.E.A.D. Conversation Strategy. I think one of the biggest challenges related to this topic is helping people believe they can learn to communicate better than they already do. After all, we are all constantly communicating all day long. Why should we think about this and try to get better?
Because being excellent as a listener is not automatic.
To be a truly great listener means we are overcoming our tendency to make our conversations about us. Often when others are speaking, we are thinking about what we are going to say in response, rather than entering into our the world of the person speaking as they are experiencing it. If you R.E.A.D. people well, though, you will not do this. The R.E.A.D. strategy seems simple, so simple that it might not seem effective. But it is.
For weeks, we have talked about Repeat. We want to repeat back to people what they have shared as they talk, not only so we know you have heard them, but so they know you have heard them. Today we start talking about “E” which takes us deeper.
“E” is trying to discern the “experience” people were, or are, having in the story they are telling. One writer calls this, “accurate empathy.” If you can not only repeat what people have said, but also empathize with what it must have felt like to be them, you have more nearly entered into what being them has been like. And you have communicated that back to them.
“E” is actually easy to do, if you think about it. As someone shares with you their story, the question you are asking yourself constantly is just, “What would that have felt like if it were me?” Would I have felt mad, sad, glad, or scared (the 4 main emotions)? If I had been in their shoes, living through the story they are sharing, what would that experience have been like? As an emotion comes to mind or rises up inside of you, it is a simple thing then to just feed that back.
In the last few days, I can recall speaking back to people: “That must have been terrifying,” “I bet that felt lonely,” “I can see why that would have felt frustrating,” and “That must have been wonderful!” To “weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice” is a profound gift of love. You are honoring the person by valuing them enough to enter their world on their terms, and the “E” of R.E.A.D. is a serious step in that direction.
One note: With naming the emotions you think someone has experienced and sharing them back, you should not be overly concerned that you will get it wrong. Every now and then, I get it wrong. I remember once sharing, “That must have been scary!” and had the person reply, “No, not at all. It was exhilarating!” I replied, “Ok, I get it!” I find that people are usually not offended to have to correct me. Rather, they are grateful I am trying to know their experience. Plus, in correcting my guess, they are sharing even more of their story, which I am then hearing better.
And that’s the point.
Give it a try today feed back someone’s experience and see if they don’t say, “Yes!” and keep sharing.