Recently I was looking to buy an apartment, it took some time to find the perfect place for the best price at the nicest neighborhood. But then I saw a lovely newly renovated garden apartment on a quiet street. My partner Johnny, an engineer, started looking around studying the building, and talked to the neighbor as well. In an informal but purposeful chat he discovered that there were several disagreement between the neighbor and the seller. Still at first those seemed like minor problems common among neighbors.
Yet, hearing about a possible conflict made me more sensitive to what was going on in the building, and when my daughter and I went to see it, we noticed a worker laying tiles in the footpath leading to the house. We remarked to one another that it was a good sign that the conscientious seller was taking care of the yard. But, later that day I was surprised to hear that the neighbor called Johnny to complain. Apparently the seller, who had previously broken the tiles in the footpath, failed to consult with him and unilaterally replaced the expensive tiles with others of inferior quality.
At that point I decided to back away from the transaction, there was much more to the story than I had realized.
As is often the case with miscommunications, each side viewed the other with suspicion: gestures of [supposedly] good-will were interpreted as manipulation, and every action was construed as intending to offend. The opposing sides did not have to look hard in order to find proofs or justifications for their beliefs.
The tiled footpath is another symbol of the impossibility of seeing the whole picture, this is a topic which I explored in another post.
I was lucky to be able to walk away and not get involved in the conflict over the apartment. However, when relationships with loved ones deteriorate there is no where to go. I could easily imagine myself in the role of the tiles layer, or as the one who is furious over their inferior quality. With loss of trust nothing which I do or say is understood in the way I intended it.
I have just completed a year-long course in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming). One of the goals of that approach is to promote self awareness and better communication through various sensory experiences. NLP has a specific technique to deal with frustration, anger or helplessness which stem from miscommunications. The technique: "Expanding the map of reality," utilizes 3 presuppositions, out of the 11 articles of belief, in NLP.
The first is: the map is not the territory, which means that people act upon their own perception of reality-- their internal map of reality. This statement may appear trivial but in times of conflict it is easily forgotten. Thus, it is helpful to remember an instance when we realized that our conclusions about reality were not necessarily the only truth.
The second is: the meaning of communication is the response you get, which means that the success of my part in a dialogue is measured by the reaction of the listener. Here it is useful to remember a time when I was misunderstood by another person, and how, by adjusting the message, I was able to turn it around and make myself clear.
The third is: every behavior has a positive intent in some context, which means that even a negative pattern of behavior serves a purpose. Here we should remember an example when that type of behavior was helpful in some way.
NLP contends that revisiting those instances in the past when I learnt the merit of those presuppositions could assist me in discovering within myself ways to deal with the present conflict.
I find this technique effective, but even if it doesn't always work it is far better than the old-fashioned "count to 10" cool down. Moreover, spending time with different angles of the problem in hand could bring about more creative and satisfying solutions.
PS. NLP's presuppositions: http://nlp-mentor.com/presuppositions/