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  • Sharon Borland

#52 Language of the Future

You don’t need to be right and they don’t need to be wrong

In the last two blogs we’ve been looking at how to build and maintain good relationships with people who may have very different viewpoints from ourselves. We also examined the idea that our future self may be more closely aligned to those viewpoints than we might imagine at this stage of our life. The last blog looked at how we might use language with fewer assertions or fixed opinions and leave more space for others to disagree. Making such a change to the way we speak will not be easy, so we’ll consider some of the challenges in achieving this and how we might begin to overcome them.

Our beliefs and thought patterns play a key role in our actions, including how we speak - what we believe about ourselves, what others think of us, what characteristics and actions we value, and much, much more. Many of our beliefs are likely to have been with us for so long that we may not even realise the nature of them. Unexamined, they lurk below the surface until we come into contact with someone or something with which we disagree. Only when we engage in a meaningful enquiry into the way we listen, speak and how we’re being with others, can we gain new insights, understanding and revelation. You didn’t always believe what you believe today. Tomorrow holds the possibility of different beliefs, and with them, new freedoms and possibilities for your life.

A useful starting point might be to consider what it could mean for us personally if we spoke with less certainty. The Benjamin Franklin quote in the previous blog outlines many benefits of doing this, but as he himself pointed out, it was not an easy transition! It’s unlikely that a transition of this nature and scale will be easy to accomplish, but each time we take a small step forward, the world around us will begin to change. Perhaps cultural conditioning has led us to believe that offering and asserting our opinions with certainty is a sign of strength. Or it could be that we find it hard to be at peace with uncertainty or ambiguity as the uncertainty may create anxiety or fear. Maybe our personal insecurity drives us to find ways to ‘win an argument’ or ‘be right’ rather than agree to disagree or change our mind based on new ways of looking at something. Whatever our context, change is unlikely without a personal commitment.

When we find ourselves triggered by someone, considering our language might be the last thing we’re focused on! In previous blogs we discussed what happens when we have a reaction to someone and what we might do in the presence of those reactions. If you’d like to refresh yourself, here are the links: #42 Reactions in Relationships and #43 Relationships Start in the Mirror. When people engaged in discussion use language that leaves space for uncertainty, the likelihood of either or both being triggered can drop dramatically. When we’re not triggered, we can often listen more carefully which in turn creates more space for calmer responses, less temptation to make the other person wrong and a harmony that otherwise might have been extinguished in the opening remarks! It’s amazing what we learn when we listen. When we’re speaking, the chances are we already know what we’re about to say, so going into a discussion with the intent to really listen is likely to open up space for even the most historically challenging relationships to begin to flourish.

Just like the formation of any new habit, it takes practice to change the way we speak, and we’ll only achieve it if it’s important to us. At times we won’t be satisfied with how our conversations go but spending time reflecting on what was going on for us, and whether there are particular people or situations in which we find it more difficult, will bring new insights and accelerate the change. Don’t wait until you’re in a situation of potential conflict, why not have a go in your everyday conversations.


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