Chris WrightChris Wright is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. He sees clients in the Washington, D.C. area and has telephone clients from all over the world. He also has over 35 years of experience as a trainer and workshop leader in human and organizational development across the U.S. and Canada. Chris was founder and director of the Human Relations Institute in Houston, Texas. He was also the Director of PAIRS International -- training psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists in couple’s skills programs. As an innovator in the field, he has developed a unique blend of tools that increase the effectiveness in relationships -- for couples and in the workplace. He has Masters Degrees from the University of Arizona and Antioch University in Los Angeles.
Host: What about listening so that you feel heard?
Chris Wright: In an argument, there is no listening, when you are in a argument, what should you listen to? I do not have the same pressures, the same needs, the same areas of emptiness inside you. So what you are describing, just does not fit in my world, I can not find it, it s not true what you are saying. So, I won t listen to anymore of this, it s not real and so there is a sense that if you are trying to convince me of something and I am looking here in my world, I do not get it and I what should you listen to? So, the trap is, is that we start having a sense together, when all of this tend to feel this way that there is one reality and that reality explains the situation. So when you are talking and if it does not conform to my reality, then it s just not true. So my reality is so intimate to me, it s so real to me that I can not imagine what you are saying, so I get defensive and there is no listening, there is no getting at, because I can not find it when I look -- innocently, when I look into my world and I start feeling defensive in the whole situation. But the truth is, there is many different points of view, there is many different realities in every situation, many different interpretations, different takes on the situation, there is not just one. What tends to be is that, these realities coexist, your reality is a legitimate operating system, mine is a legitimate operating system, it s important to recognize that right from upstart that you have a reality, I have a reality and so I want to understand yours and you want to understand mine. What is different about them is their tolerances, each have a different set of tolerances about the consequences of this decision here, whether it goes this way or goes that way. I can not tolerate it when it s going that way, you, it s not a big deal. Back to an example, in the kitchen, say my partner again in the example was a one in the Enneagram, a perfectionist and she calls me in about the crumbs on the counter. Well, she does not have a tolerance as a one, for disorder, for crumbs. For me, it s not a big deal, I am completely tolerant about it and I can t give why it s wrong, what the big problem is about it? So that is what creating the tension, it s our inability to understand or inability to see it, if we recognize that you have an operating system and I fully understand yours now and I see the validity of it from your perspective and you understand mine. Then when you are talking, what sort of argue about, why would we argue, I can see why you see it that way, I can see why you are bothered by that. If I had those pressures, if had those needs, I would be just as bothered as you are. I do not, I am at peace in that area, but I get it now.
So there is nothing really to fight about. But people tend not to listen from that point of view of it being a team and understanding their separate operating systems. We tend to listen from our own world, from our own perspective and that is where we get in trouble, that is where we start realizing that no, everything you are saying and you can watch it when I am talking to the person and they are upset, that you can feel that everything I say they are listening from their world, from their frame and every time there is discrepancy, anything I say, they interrupt me and go, no that is not about it, no. There is no way they are ever going to get it, sitting in their world, there is no way they are going to see, what I am trying to say and why it s important because they can not find it in their world. So it s a trap to stay in the world, it s a trap because what the person is upset about, it s talking to me is valid, given their pressures and their needs and I am never going to find that validity, as long as I keep looking in my world. I need some framework, some tool and what we teach couples is tools that enable me to step out of my world, to expand my world, to incorporate what the other person is going through. So I start to experience it from their eyes, start seeing it from their eyes, I start putting on their shoes and I can feel the stone in the shoes and I start getting, oh no wonder they are upset. It leads me to where I can validate, oh, yeah, I can see that now, no wonder, it does not make it right, it does not mean I agree with you that crumbs on the counter is a problem, but I get now why it bothers you and that is important basis for now, as trying to resolve it. There is no fighting because I understand, I get it, I can see what we are really talking about here. So the tools that we teach enable me as you are talking to me and you are upset, enable me to shift over it, put myself in a your world, it s sort of like being in the center of the cyclone, I can start seeing it from your perspective. If I do not or if I stay in my world, I am going to get pummeled here, I am going to get hammered here by what you are saying. But when I step over and I see it from your perspective, it all makes sense now and there s is a sense that the pressure is off as I am listening. Allows me to relax, let s you talk, I know this is a big issue for you and you need to get this off your chest, get some of this pressure out and so it s fine, I do not feel this need to interrupt, I am trying to understand your operating system, what it s like for you and from seeing it from your eyes, allows me to do so without the pressure. So that makes all of the difference in terms of being able to hear what you are saying. Actually, this is what I want you to do for me, when I am sharing, when something is bothering me, I want you not to see it from your point of view, I want you to step over and experience what I am going through from my perspective, so I feel heard, I feel gotten, I do not need you to agree with me, but I need you to get it. So that the solutions we arrive at take in to account my needs as well as yours. So the tools we teach, again, there is another ten or so elements or facets of listening that allow me to step out of my world, put myself in yours and make this interaction fluid and harmonious. Some of the tools when you are emotional are so powerful, some of the relating tools, some of the listening tools, actually not only do they shift me over to where I understand what you are saying, but I get a shift in my own experience where I actually start to feel empathy for you or actually feel this sense of compassion for, oh my God, I can see having the stone and what that feels like and my heart opens up for you.
That is an important shift to have in an interaction around a sensitive subject. The person who is the relater, the person who is listening, they have a lot of power in this situation to determine how harmonious, how fluid, this whole interaction goes. So remember, with these tools, the only reason you are arguing, the only reason this is rocky is somebody is not relating, somebody is resisting what the other person is saying. Some of these arguments can go on till three in the morning, the only reason it s going till three in the morning is somebody again did not put themselves in the other person s shoes. At 10 pm, you could have put yourself in the other person s shoes and discovered the validity of what it s like for them with those pressures and the whole thing would have been done in a matter of few minutes.
So that you will be holding each other in your arms as you go to sleep instead of arguing so late. If somebody is not interacting and ends up getting up and having to leave the room, the only reason they are leaving the room is because you are not validating, you are not able to step into their world and experience what they are experiencing. When somebody is not talking to you for a couple of hours or even a couple of days, it s simply because somebody is not validating the other person. If there is emotional distance in your relationship, the only reason there is emotional distance in the couple who have been married together for a long time, it s because somebody is not relating, somebody is not able to validate, maybe I did something to you and it hurt your feelings, me going being under the pressures of my needs, I did something and it hurts you and I have never allowed myself to step into your world, and validate what you went through. Expand my experience to incorporate what you are experiencing and until I do, you do not trust me. In that one area there is distance, we do not talk about it, but I have lost something in that connection simply because I got stuck in my world. So having these tools, having the ability to relate, having the ability to expand out and feel safe as I do so can make all the difference in terms of the resolution of every issue that comes up, feeling harmonious, feeling healing in it, feeling like we are a team.