UNARGUABLE TRUTH & OPENHEARTED LISTENING
We are raised to think critically, to articulate and defend concepts, explanations, beliefs and ideas. However, this way of thinking and communicating doesn't work in relationships with loved-ones, as it inevitably leads to arguments, defensiveness and disconnection, rather than connection.
"SPEAKING THE UNARGUABLE TRUTH IS THE MOST POWERFUL OF ANY SKILL I HAVE, AND FROM MY OWN EXPERIENCE THE MOST CHALLENGING."
Julia Colwell, PhD
THE COMMUNICATION SHIFT
Shifting into speaking unarguably likely won't feel natural at first. We are trained from a young age to "be right," get good grades, defend and explain ourselves. This way of communicating works great in many aspects of life, like the workplace, however it's going to result in Power-Struggles in relationships, and it's not going to get you the deep level of love and personal connection you crave and need.
INTENT TO LEARN
The major shift is your intention. The key is to move out of the Intent to Defend/Protect/Explain (disconnecting) and into the Intent to Learn (connecting). The first step is to have the Intent to Learn about how YOU are feeling and what you are experiencing in the moment. This provides your UNARGUABLE TRUTH. This shift requires awareness, effort and practice.
"IF SOMEONE IS ARGUING WITH YOU, YOU ARE SAYING SOMETHING ARGUABLE. SPEAKING THE UNARGUABLE TRUTH TAKES US BEYOND OUR PROJECTIONS TO THE ONLY PROVABLE TRUTH THERE IS: OUR OWN EXPERIENCE."
Julia Colwell, PhD
ARGUABLE STATEMENTS VS UNARGUABLE TRUTHS
UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE
UNARGUABLE TRUTH = SENSATION + NEED-or-WANT
Notice the profound difference between an Arguable Statement and Unarguable Truth. Unarguable Truths describe what you are sensing (feeling) and experiencing in the moment. You may want to state what you need in the moment as well. It is especially important to take time away to process if you are triggered, angry or anxious.
"I feel like you're attacking me."
"I feel tightness in my chest. I need to take a day to collect my thoughts."
"You always complain. This is going nowhere."
"I feel light-headed. I need to think about this and talk later."
"I feel ugly because you don't compliment me anymore."
UNARGUABLE TRUTH (sometimes you can simply state a NEED-or-WANT)
"I want more of your compliments. I love them."
"I'm sad you don't understand me."
"My heart feels heavy and I feel misunderstood. I need a moment to find a better way to word this."
"As a child you HAD messages from family AND SCHOOL to keep your mouth shut and remain invisible. You no longer need to be invisible. If people doN'T notice you, they CAN'T SHAME OR criticize YOU, but they also CAN'T love you or attend to your needs. Make yourself and your needs known."
Beverly Engel, PhD
PRESENT MOMENT EXPERIENCE
YOUR BODY IS TRYING TO TELL YOU WHAT YOU NEED
Once you connect with your current bodily experience, sensations and emotions, you will be able to communicate from this place, with authenticity. Thoughts and thinking are based on the past and future. Bodily sensations and emotions are IN THE MOMENT. This is your truest form of 'Self' and reality. If you want to know how you feel about something, how do you feel about it right now?
Feelings and bodily sensations also tell you what you need. For example, when you feel thirsty, you need water. Feeling angry means you feel violated or you've detected an unmet need. It's your job to realize what the violation or unmet need is. Then you can communicate your needs. See Emotional Health Skills to learn more.
"THERE ARE ONLY TWO POSSIBLE INTENTIONS IN ANY GIVEN MOMENT: THE INTENT TO LEARN [CONNECTING] OR THE INTENT TO PROTECT [DISCONNECTING]."
Margaret Paul, PhD
SHIFT YOUR DRIFTS
MALADAPTIVE PROTECTIVE STRATEGIES
FEEL YOUR EXPERIENCE
Learning to feel your experience, with the Intent to Learn, takes practice. Society's emphasis on thinking, analyzing, protecting and detecting for any smidgen of attack or rejection is like living in a state of "survival." This results in a slew of maladaptive protective strategies and DRIFTS (SHIFT YOUR DRIFTS worksheet below).
FOCUS ON SELF vs FOCUS ON OTHERS
Not only does "survival-mode" trigger cortisol and other stress chemicals, it disconnects us! When we're hyper-focused on others (trying to mind-read, please, avoid rejection, etc.) we are closed off from our present experience and feelings. If we are disconnected from ourselves, we are by default, disconnected from others.
"The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen. Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection."
Brene Brown, PhD
CONNECTING WITH CURIOUSITY
INTENT TO LEARN ABOUT OTHERS
We can never be completely sure about what others are thinking and feeling. The rabbit-hole of trying to guess what your loved-ones are thinking and feeling, and then reacting to these guesses is painful, frustrating, and disconnecting. Have the Intent to Learn about your loved-ones' inner-experience. Remember, authentic connection is a human need. It entails feeling seen, heard, valued and understood, which Openhearted Listening can provide.