This week’s tip came about after doing a meditation on self-expression. The meditation was focused on opening one’s 5th chakra, the throat chakra, which is the avenue of expression. This is about expressing the truth of who we are. But it seems, in current times, that we’ve lost much of our ability to not only express who we are, but to bear witness to whom others are, especially if they differ from us.

What has changed seems to be our willingness to allow others to be who they are, even when who they are isn’t particularly palatable to us. Rather than focusing on how you can get someone else to change his/her mind to match yours, try focusing on expressing your truth, allowing them to express their truth, and agreeing to disagree, if necessary. In other words, it’s not about everyone agreeing; it’s about everyone creating a safe space for all to express their opinions. For, as Oprah said, “When we hold back the full expression of our truth, we limit the richness of what life has in store for us”.

In the interest of fostering this kind of communication again, let me give you some ways to truly hear what others are saying, while not backing away from your truth. Try out a few of these response stems with those who are in disagreement and see what happens:

“That’s an interesting perspective. Here’s how I see it…”
“That’s interesting. Tell me more about why you see it that way…”
“Well, I look at it this way…Interesting how we see it so differently, isn’t it?”
“I guess at this point we agree to disagree”

All of these allow for your true expression of what you believe, yet make room for the other person to believe differently. After all, who are we to sit in the seat of judgment about what’s right or wrong? There’s an awesome scene in the movie, The Shack, where Mac, the protagonist, is invited by Wisdom to sit in the Seat of Judgment where he promptly realizes it’s far more complicated to make judgments of others and self than he had thought.

When we open the space for truly hearing what others believe and why, we make room for ourselves and those others to grow. The more we open that space, the more obvious it becomes when someone is trapped in rhetoric, judgment, and divisiveness. Allowing that to remain uncomfortably obvious greatly increases the possibility for the light of awareness to dawn in the minds of those who are stuck. Again, it’s not our job to get them to change their views; we’re merely opening up space for new awarenesses to come in.

Now this is a whole lot easier said than done, especially when someone else’s opinion pushes our buttons! For example, for me to have a conversation like this with someone who believes it’s perfectly reasonable for women to be paid less than men for the same work, I would need to detach from the outcome of the conversation, speak my truth, openly receive the other person’s truth, and likely agree to disagree. The key to accomplishing this is my willingness to come into the conversation with the focus of seeking to understand, NOT seeking to be understood. In other words, my goal is to listen to hear why that person believes it’s acceptable to pay women less rather than to convince him/her that it is unreasonable. I want the opportunity to state my opinion, which I may or may not be granted by this person, but my main goal is to listen to understand.

Again, understanding does NOT mean accepting! I certainly wouldn’t be likely to walk away from that conversation believing the other person’s opinion, but I would like to walk away understanding why s/he believes as they do even though it’s the opposite of what I believe. Because in that understanding, I elevate myself in terms of couching the whole issue in the bigger picture of life.

So give these ideas a test drive and notice what transpires. I’d love to hear from you about what you notice!