Behind every Criticism there is a Request

February 26, 2016 1 comment

Behind every criticism there is a request being made

Really, someone criticizes me and I am supposed to believe they are actually making a request? Give me a break! A criticism is a criticism…. or is it????

In the mediation world we use that saying and we watch for one party to criticize the other – because most of the time if we dig beneath the criticism, that party is actually asking something of the other party, but for whatever reason they are unable to do it in a more productive manner.

Let’s say you have had a crazy busy weekend, it’s Monday and today nothing went the way you had hoped. You just need to go home and sit in front of the TV and veg out. So, you get home and you are sitting in front of the TV – finally starting to relax and BAM – your partner comes into the room and says “I wish I was special enough to get to sit around and do nothing, it must be nice to be that special.” Now, you have a choice, do you spout off what immediately comes to your mind, something like “Really, and that is from the person who spent the entire weekend out shopping and seeing a movie while I was home busting my butt trying to get the basement remodel finished, who do you think you are talking to like that?” You know the rest of this story, someone ends up on the couch tonight, both parties feel like the other is wrong and both parties probably feel badly about something they said.

There is another option, when someone challenges and criticizes you, instead of reacting immediately, ask yourself “What are they wanting from me? What request is being made behind the criticism?” Let’s look at this interaction – What could your partner be requesting from you? Attention, help with dinner, help with the kids, a listening ear, there are many possibilities and the good news is as long as you understand there is some kind of request being made you can respond differently and shift the interaction.

There is actually a format you can use to respond in times like this. The format is “It sounds (seems, appears) like you are “feeling” because “reason” and “their request.”
In this situation it would go something like this “It sounds like you are angry (feeling) because you need help with the kids (reason) and would like me to get up and help (their request).”

Here is the good news about using this format to respond! Even if you guess wrong on the feeling, reason and request, you have changed the conversation and as you respond the other person will check out the validity of your statement within themselves and they will correct you if you are wrong. Either way you have shifted the interaction and you now are clear about what the other is requesting of you and why. They may respond “no, I am feeling frustrated because I had a hard day as well and could use a helping hand and listening ear in the kitchen.” Do not argue with their response, unless you want to start the entire cycle over again. Now you know what they are wanting/needing from you and the criticism has turned into a request and you can decide how to respond.

By using this technique, you can shift a negative, confrontational interaction into a more respectful and understanding interaction.

Let’s try this one more time – this time in the workplace – Your co-workr comes into your office and asks for a file they need to complete their work. You have
a mess on your desk that is falling onto the floor and you fumble around looking for the file. After a few minutes you co-worker says “I can’t stand working on a project with you… It’s like working with PigPen.” We could all think of some great comebacks but lets use the format proposed above …. “Is sounds like you are frustrated because I cannot quickly find the file you need and you would like me to be more organized so I don’t hold you up.” Again, they may respond – No, I am sick and tired because I feel like I am always waiting on you and would like you to be more respectful of my time.” Again, don’t argue… just move from there. You know the request.

Once you understand the request you can decide if you want to act on it, offer something else or just say you can’t give them what they need or want. In any case, the interaction becomes less confrontational, more respectful and honest.

So, next time you are feeling attacked by another, take a deep breath and ask yourself “what is the request they could be making” and use the format above to respond. I promise, it will shift the interaction into something more workable for both of you!

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The Best Seat in the House

February 17, 2016 No comments yet

Do you have the best seat in the house?Cinema Seat

Imagine you are at a concert of your favorite band or singer…. You have priority seating that is raised, about 20 feet from the stage and your seats are right in the center. You can see the performer perfectly and see every move they make. They are dancing and moving around the stage and you can sit back and enjoy it all.

Sounds perfect? What could be better?

So, with this seat, do you have the BEST seat in the house?

Now imagine your friend at the same concert. They bought their tickets late and there was only obstructed view seats available and they are sitting  in back and to the left of the stage. They wanted to see the group so they bought the tickets and now they are looking around a pole that is helping to hold up the stage. Their view, if you can call it a view, is of some bobbing heads that come in and out of sight depending on the way they hold their head and look around the pole.

Are you both at the some concert? The music is clear and loud from your seats and your friend hears the music, but it is a bit muffled as it bounces off of the venue’s walls. Are you both hearing the same thing?

Yes, you are both at the same concert, but your experiences are going to be very different. Tomorrow you are going to talk about the performers moves, facial expressions and the clear quality of the vocals. Your friend will talk about how great it was to be at the concert, to see and hear the group and how much fun they had with their friends.

Same concert, different experience. Neither of you consider the other right or wrong as you describe your experience.

Let’s take this idea a step further.

You and the same friend are at a party. An acquaintance comes over and starts talking and pokes fun at your friend for an interchange they had with your friend last month. You and your acquaintance start laughing and your friend becomes visibly upset and walks away… You think, whats the big deal….?

The deal is your view… Your seat.

So how do we define our seat when it relates to a more personal experience? We can relate our seat as our perspective and our experience.  And therefore your friend relates their seat to their perspective and experience.

You know that the interchange with the third party last month was related to a recent breakup you had that has been painful – and your friend who is with you tonight, knows nothing about the exchange last month and just found the comment your acquaintance made amusing…

You take it as an insult and immediately feel that your friend is being insensitive and making fun of you. You are making the assumption that your friend is in your seat. They are hearing the same words, like the music at the concert, but their view and experience are actually different.

It doesn’t matter if we have the best seat in the house – because our seat is only one of many seats in the house!

We get into trouble when we ASSUME that people in our lives are sitting in our seat.  They usually are not,  our seat is built by our experiences and only we have lived those experiences and others seat’s are built by their experiences.

Next time you are in a situation when you and another person are experiencing an event differently , remember, you don’t have the only seat in the house!

Get up and move backstage to the obstructed view for a few songs and try to understand the interaction from their point of view.  No one can see the whole stage from their seat, everyones view is limited in some way.  So move around and jump seats!

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