Resting your back
My chiropractor brother (backcareclinic.co.uk) says that resting your back is NOT:
... Even if what you are doing does not cause you pain at the time!
So what does this teach us about holding stressful conversations?
Resting your conversations
I once worked with a team from a customer service centre whose conversations are highly stressed. They deal with applications of a particularly life-changing nature, so many of the callers are distressed, confused or angry before they even start. What's more, however difficult or abusive the call is, the advisers are only allowed thirty seconds between each one to write up the notes and, if necessary, to calm down. (One team member confessed to placing the caller on hold, while she goes off to take deep breaths in the Ladies!)
More than most of us, they need a way to stay relaxed and rested during their conversations ....
Stuck in a groove
For example, one particular customer phoned the service centre for information, but then refused point-blank to be put through to the relevant department.
'I've been mucked about so many times,' he raved. 'I won't be passed from pillar to post. YOU have got to deal with this NOW!'
In vain did the frazzled service advisor tell him she needed to pass him on elsewhere. But however reasonably she repeated the message, he still refused to budge.
To get out of the groove - rather like resting a tired back - we looked for a change of activity. In a conversation, this really means a change of direction.
Most conversations whizz along using the fastest tracks: WHAT and HOW.
CALLER: 'I've been mucked about before!' → Now I want you to deal with it!!
This keeps the service advisor firmly in DOING mode:
'As I've just explained, you need to speak to the team which handles this in Department XYZ - and for you to do that, I need to put you on hold for just a moment!!'
But her 'crazy caller' was getting worse:
'I said, NO! *** !!! *** ... Aren't you **!!** LISTENING?!'
This is a good time to change direction!
TIP: Change direction whenever you notice that somebody is repeating themselves (it might even be you). This is because something is still missing. It's likely that the words have been heard, but not their meaning.
To change direction, start by changing gear. You need to slow things down (don't worry, it usually speeds things up overall).
You burrow down below the surface to discover the deeper WHY? ... Why does this matter? Why are you saying or doing this?
There are two deep WHY's in any dialogue: yours and mine. You need to find them both. This takes you away from DOING, and gives you a moment of pure BEING. The deeper WHY gives meaning to your words and actions. For example:
SERVICE ADVISOR (expressing her own meaning): 'Well, my goal is to make sure you get a clear answer to your query as soon as possible.
And empathising with her caller:
SERVICE ADVISOR (reflecting back her caller's meaning): And I'd like to keep you involved as part of that process ... so you stay connected with us as we look into this ...'
Let the meaning sink in
Relaxing as you talk means giving extra space to what you both really mean. You give your deeper meaning time to sink in. If nothing sinks in, you live on the surface - which is stressful and tiring.
Try it and see. When you express your meaning, it creates a natural pause, rather like a full stop. You are saying that all-important WHY. Rest with that a moment before you launch into the next paragraph full of WHAT will happen and HOW.
Now the conversation is rich in meaning, it is full of understanding. People relax when they know they have been understood. Even an obstinate caller at the customer service centre is prepared to change direction when they finally trust they are being taken seriously.
Finding the meaning is always a relief. Your body relaxes. You probably take a deeper breath, as if you have arrived somewhere in significant ... Because this IS significant! It is what you MEAN! It may just be the tiniest pause, but it is a place you can rest.
What's more, the meaning always feels fresh and alive. It always comes with a good energy which moves you forward. You touch base with all the precious qualities of Being, such as clarity, kindness and understanding.
By Elizabeth English