ADDA 2014 – First Session “But That’s Not What I Meant”

Great first day for the 25th Annual Conference. 

The first item of the day was Linda and Victor Roggli’s “But That’s Not What I Meant!” session on couples communication. They are a treat to watch work together. They are very honest about the bumps they’ve had along the way in their relationship, what they had to work to conquer, and what they are still working on.

They opened with a short performance – Linda put a glass on the podium and Victor moved it. They started arguing about “I need it there” answered with “Well, I need it put away”. The argument escalates, they pull up past problems, and some of the other tricks couples use to “win” an argument.

They kept the audience involved with exercises and questions, regularly coming out to offer the mic to someone to ask a question or make a comment.

One big take-way for me was the special four-words they’ve learned work for them when asking for things. They begin the request with “would you be willing…?” It’s important in a few ways. For one, it shows respect and partnership. Also, it opens up space for the other person to say “no”.

Another was the suggestion that we say “ouch” early and often. When something in the conversation has hurt you, tell the other person. And make sure the focus is on how it made you feel, not that they did something they should not have done.

One of the slides recommended that we “have a beginner’s mind” as we deal with each other’s conversations. I recognized that as a Zen concept then, on reflection, started seeing helpful Buddhist concepts elsewhere. The whole idea of dealing with the relationship – with what is being said – as it actually is, not comparing it to what we think should have been said or how the relationship should be going. Staying grounded in reality – dealing with what you or your partner is actually saying or doing – is key to good communication.

And through it all, Linda made clear that the focus of her work with individuals and couples is not to get to some predetermined definition of “a good relationship” or even “a good life” but to help us be Real, to be Authentic, to be the best “me” we can be,

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