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Making Conversations Cool Ones…

My Story About Conversations, Bridges and the Better Way

I grew up in a family where my mom and dad often had very different opinions. All I ever wanted was that we would all get along well and I could not understand why they did not. Sometimes it was this painful silent treatment or the heartbreaking arguments that were building walls between them. I know they actually wanted to connect, but did not know how. It all caused a lot of hurt and distress for them and the whole family even after their divorce.

 

As a child if I said something others disagreed with I was often judged to be foolish or made to feel wrong. The way I expressed my different opinion sometimes offended them. I desperately wanted to avoid all this pain and drama I  felt I was causing to all of us.

I decided it was safer for me and them if I hide my viewpoint and keep it to myself. I started building protective walls around me as I thought this would help us avoid drama and conflicts and keep everybody happy.

Yet within me, there was still this urge to tell my point of view. I craved to be heard, but was filled with fear. I really did not want to hurt other people’s feelings or be rejected myself!

Building Your Own Bridge

Open conversations and deep personal connections was something I learned about in my books. Deep inside I had the dream that this is how I wanted to live my life. I decided I would educate myself how to build bridges of true connection and I searched for information in books.

At first, it was easier for me to have challenging debates with friends and strangers, so I practiced my bridge building muscle with them. I was heartbroken at times when I was still not truly heard or when I unintentionally hurt someone by expressing my opinion. Nevertheless, I kept on learning from my mistakes, reading and practicing, even more, to make my dream come true.

When I turned 15, I thankfully discovered my friend’s family, who were often discussing conflicting topics in a non-confrontational manner. I was amazed that sharing my different opinion was welcomed and nobody was offended or hurt.

This time I was not shut down! My perspective was seen as a valuable contribution that made the discussion lively, juicy and rich. I was wondering if I was expressing myself differently when with them or were they receiving my messages with better understanding, without judgement.

I still vividly remember those conversations and the feeling I got from them. I felt deeply heard, I felt deeply appreciated and I felt deeply seen. I wanted to observe closely how they do it, but each time I was enjoying the conversations so much I could not be a neutral observer.

Understanding People

Personally, taking part in these conversations was a real-life bridge building experience that changed my life forever. I thought to myself: they might be the only family in the world who did it, but if they can do it, so can I!

It was the only proof I needed to turn this dream of mine into reality.

I was fascinated to find out what was the key to a successful and harmonious relationship. Whilst my peers were joking around I became a student of people, studying sociology, psychology and personal development. I was trying to figure out what makes individuals feel fairly treated and appreciated by other members of the group. Why were some thriving together whilst others were hurting each other?

This experience led me to study law because I naively thought as a lawyer I could help people find justice and peace again. I qualified as a lawyer but I soon realised that the courtroom was not a place to bring people together!

The courtroom wasn’t the answer

People (usually only their attorneys) had the chance to present their legal arguments, but they did not have the chance to openly discuss what truly bothered them. The focus was on blaming each other, fighting to win, giving their power away to the judge to make a life-changing decision on behalf of them.

In the legal process bridges are burned and high, protective walls are built between people.

Sure, people got a judgment at the end, but this toxic situation made most of them feel like enemies, not able to communicate at all. They were cut off and isolated although they still needed to live or work together the next day! At this point, they had no clue or desire to get past those negative emotions. They were not able to have a respectful conversation with each other as coworkers, neighbours, ex-spouses, family members etc.

This inability to have powerful conversations only created further tensions, conflicts and hurt which deeply saddened me. I felt like I had reached the top of the wrong mountain and all this left me disappointed, depleted and disheartened.

Then I discovered mediation where people in the conflict were not focused on fighting each other, but rather talking at the table about what was truly important to them and searching for the fair solution together. I loved how mediation allowed them to confront different perspectives without the drama that would burn their bridges.

Now, that was something I had been looking for!

As a mediator I was leading their difficult conversations without shaming, humiliating or hurting the parties involved. When we resolved their issue, they were so grateful for the relief they felt.

Even though I loved mediation so much that I was teaching other people how to do it, I realised it had its limits. In my experience the biggest problem was that often people who came to mediation were already so hurt by their conflict it was difficult for them to envision their collaboration in the future.

 

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