Letting Go of the Hate

My wife, Linda, and I are addicted to “The Expanse,” which we’re watching on Apple TV. There are five seasons, and I think we just started season 3. At the end of season 2, the Reverend Doctor Ana Volovodov is counseling Amos, a seasoned warrior. We saw this come across our screen and Linda and I both lit up at how this passage was so exactly what UnderstandingOnPurpose is all about.

As it turns out, I’m not the only one who picked up on the prophetic nature of this scene, as it’s featured on the fandom page for this character (played by Elizabeth Mitchell).

On every side of this there are people who have no reason to hate each other. Everyone here thinks they’re doing the right thing. Everyone there thinks they’re doing the right thing. If we get out of this we have to find a way to understand each other, to explain why we made the choices that we did. It is the only way that we can let go of the hate. Hate is a burden. You don’t have to carry it with you.”

– Dr. Ana Volovodov

Letting Go of the Hate

The Dance

I just read a great article, sent to me by my long-time friend, Wayne. Wayne is really smart. I really value what Wayne says. And yet Wayne and I disagree a lot. So much so that, over the years, I don’t even open most of his emails because the subject line seems so biased. 

I’ve been focusing my energy these days on trying to change the way we have conversations (see understandingonpurpose.com), so sometimes I take a deep breath, crack my neck, and remind myself that Wayne’s thoughts can be a rich source of training material (ahem). I mean, if I can’t change the conversation with a long-time friend, what chance do I have with relative strangers?

So. Wayne sent me this article, about the science behind “winning an argument.”

“Winning an argument,” in this context, could probably be defined as “bringing the other person to your point of view.” Long story there, but let’s leave it at that for now.

I’ve been training in a martial art called Aikido for at least 22 years. People outside Aikido circles sometimes interpret the movements of Aikido as “using your opponent’s energy against them.” This is actually quite far off the mark, but for now it’ll do, because it distinguishes this mind set from that of most arts that focus on kicks and punches, in which the (equally off the mark) objective is to “meet the opponent’s attack with greater speed and power, and deliver killing blows.” Want more? Check out another blog of mine, at mikeidomo.

The reason I train in Aikido is because if I took the way I see conflict (ideally) and put it into a dance, it would look like Aikido. Almost everything in the physical “dance” of Aikido is analogous to something in the verbal dance of a conversation — particularly debate, or argument.

So. A line in this article struck me (so to speak): 

I loved this, because I’ve often taught that our relationship to our attacker in Aikido is a “frame” — I usually use this language when working with dancers, because they immediately get it. But it goes even deeper. The scientific study referenced in the article drew a conclusion:

To those of us who study Aikido, this sounds a lot like “blending” with an attack (as opposed to blocking it). 


Thanks, Wayne.

Language

Thought for the day…

If I value a conversation with someone — whether it’s a teenager, a plumber, a co-worker, a doctor, my wife… It behooves me to adjust my language (speaking and listening) to the person I’m speaking with. It can be very difficult and frustrating.

The same is true in reverse. If the person I’m speaking with values the conversation, they will likely try to bend their language to meet mine. But I can’t count on that because I can only control me. Nevertheless, if they are trying, it’s important to be understanding, and try to meet in the middle.

The more sensitive the topic, and the more entrenched each of us are in our positions, the more difficult this becomes. For instance, reflect for a moment on the simplest level — the simple meaning of certain terms and phrases, and the subtext that comes along with them in various contexts:

  • “Progressive” / “Liberal” / “Leftist”
  • “Old”
  • “Fair”
  • “Christian values”
  • “Gun control”
  • “Racial” / “Racist”
  • “Trust”

Context

Most people are probably right about most things most of the time, because most people get through their day-to-day lives reasonably well.

However, “most things” and “most people” still leaves a lot for all of us to be wrong about — even on a regular basis. Moreover, I have a hunch that the kinds of things we’re wrong about lean towards one-offs rather than day-to-day things, and possibly tend to be the bigger, more directional things that set the tone for everything else. If we’re wrong about certain fundamental concepts, facts, or principles, our day-to-day behaviors that align with them may be “right” in context — but it’s the context itself that is “off.”

Of course, I could be wrong.

I was so sure!

We lost our cable connection today. We have a cable service, through which we get our TV service and our internet. It went out.

I did the usual stuff. I rebooted the router. I rebooted the cable box for the one TV in the house that is on a hard coax connection (the others are on WiFi connections). I verified that there were no service interruptions in the area. I checked all the connections… (more on that later)…

For about an hour, I was on the phone to the cable company, rerouted to 5 different people, until they finally told me that they couldn’t get a technician out until Tuesday (it’s Sunday). This is what they call “24/7/365” care. I was getting more and more upset. Clearly, the problem was on their end. Nothing changed on mine — or so I thought. I was so sure.

So here’s where I should have gotten a clue…

It turns out that, few hours ago, I had gone back into the furnace room to get a fan. The furnace room also happens to be where the cable comes into the house. It’s all up in one upper corner of the room, in the ceiling. It’s rat’s nest of cables, but I went nowhere near it when I got the fan.

However, I did have to move some things around to find the fan. In doing so, it seems I knocked a plug loose from the outlet in the wall — on the other side of the room from the rat’s nest. This plug (wait for it…) happens to be the power for the key splitter for all the cabling into the house. Bingo. Problem solved.

My wife found the problem. Why? because she wasn’t focused on the part of the room where the cables were. I knew the cabling couldn’t be the problem, because I hadn’t been anywhere near it. She had an open mind. I didn’t.

The fact that I had to move boxes around to get to the fan because my wife put a bunch of stuff in this room that shouldn’t have been there in the first place… well, that’s another story. 🙂

Communication is…

I’m a fan of Simon Sinek. Here’s a recent post on LinkedIn, from his perspective.

This is an interesting perspective, as obvious as it might seem. I focus a lot on understanding another person’s point of view, by using techniques like echoing back what we’ve heard. If we can do this — to the speaker’s satisfaction — then we can be more sure that we understand.

This post is the flip side of that. I say something, then I ask you to echo it back to me. If you can do that, then I can be sure you understand, and I have communicated well.

So… did you get all that? 🙂

Closing the Loop

I’ve been using an app called “10 Percent Happier” for a couple of years. It’s created by Dan Harris, an ABC news journalist. The app is a collection of short discussions and guided meditations (almost all under 15 minutes). The discussions are with a variety of prominent meditation teachers, all with Dan’s practical, relaxed, and often humorous approach to meditation for everyday people in everyday life.
I was discussing UnderstandingOnPurpose with my wife, Linda. She’s a Licenced Professional Counselor (LPC), and focuses on somatic approaches to the work she does. I was telling her that, in my pursuit of how people communicate (or don’t), I find myself repeatedly following the trail of various experts in the field of relationship therapies; couples therapy and the like.
So today, as I opened my 10 Percent Happier app for my morning session, I drifted toward the “Relationships” collection, and came across a session by Oren Jay Sofer. One of the first things out of his mouth during the opening discussion was about, during a conversation with another human, how it’s important to continually check in to be sure you’re hearing the other person — understanding what they’re saying.
But he went deeper. He emphasized that it’s important to understand “what really matters about” what the other person is saying — to that person. He made it clear that, in asking questions like “let me see if I get what you’re saying,” it’s important to be genuinely curious. It’s much more important to be genuinely curious than to get the words right. Also, it’s helpful, rather than to ask an open-ended question like “what do you mean by that?” to given an example. It matters less if you got the example right than that you made an honest, sincere attempt. This keeps the conversation going.

Closing the Loop

I’ve been using an app called “10 Percent Happier” for a couple of years. It’s created by Dan Harris, an ABC news journalist. The app is a collection of short discussions and guided meditations (almost all under 15 minutes).  The discussions are with a variety of prominent meditation teachers, all with Dan’s practical, relaxed, and often humorous approach to meditation for everyday people in everyday life.  

I was discussing UnderstandingOnPurpose with my wife, Linda Franke. She’s a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), and focuses on somatic approaches to the work she does. I was telling her that, in my pursuit of how people communicate (or don’t), I find myself repeatedly following the trail of various experts in the field of relationship therapies; couples therapy and the like.

So today, as I opened my 10 Percent Happier app for my morning session, I drifted toward the “Relationships” collection, and came across a session by Oren Jay Sofer. One of the first things out of his mouth during the opening discussion was about, during a conversation with another human, how it’s important to continually check in to be sure you’re hearing the other person — understanding what they’re saying. What a great idea! 🙂

But he went deeper. He emphasized that it’s important to understand “what really matters about” what the other person is saying — to that person.  He made it clear that, in asking questions like “let me see if I get what you’re saying,” it’s important to be genuinely curious. It’s much more important to be genuinely curious than to get the words right. Also, it’s helpful, rather than to ask an open-ended question like “what do you mean by that?” to given an example. It matters less if you got the example right than that you made an honest, sincere attempt.  This keeps the conversation going.