Part Three: Speak your truth without blame or judgment
In parts one and two I described the power of “showing up” and “honoring your heart.” Now we turn our attention to speaking your truth without blame or judgment. It seems like it should be easy, but it can be a little more difficult than it may appear!
Your truth is not THE truth
Step one is acknowledging deep within you, really and truly, that “your truth” is not “THE truth.” No kidding! It’s amazing how many of us lose sight of that simple idea in the heat of the moment. Your truth is important (remember–”honor your heart”!), but it is very different from “The Truth.” Key to any powerful communication is recognizing the other has valuable information to share as well. A sidebar tip: A ground rule I often suggest to client teams doing group work is “Offer your observations as perception rather than fact.” That single ground rule is powerful for improving team communications.
Describe, don’t blame
Once you’ve taken responsibility for your own perceptions, step two is sorting out how to present your truth without also placing blame and judgment on the others involved. Let’s take an example from a real situation I had with a team in strife. One person habitually and dramatically dominated team conversations yet was very tender-hearted and defensive when confronted. We used this tool to help her teammates talk so she could listen
Saying something like “Pat, when you raise your voice in meetings like you did today, I feel really tentative about offering my opinions. I’m concerned the team isn’t making good decisions if we can’t have full conversations without yelling.” is very different and likely to be easier for Pat to hear and respond to constructively than “Pat! I hate it when you yell! Leaders aren’t supposed to yell–why can’t you get it through your head that everyone shuts down when you do that? You’re ruining the team!” In the first example, the person has spoken his own personal truth about the impact of the yelling, owned his reaction as his rather than generalizing to a group, and has done so without blaming or judging Pat, the yeller. The latter example just pours gasoline on the fire. Sure, perhaps Pat can hear the passion and distress in the speaker and step back from that to listen, but it takes a big person to unhook from that kind of blame coming at her.
Another example: “Bill, the last three weekly reports you’ve given me have had errors in them. I use your reports to build the reports I give to our boss. When you give me inaccurate information, it spreads upwards leading to poorly informed business decisions and makes us both look bad to our boss. It may even have implications for how we are treated during the budgeting process. I am not willing to let this continue. What is going on here from your lens?” There are no accusations of carelessness or stupidity, no histrionics or drama. Simple facts, personal reactions and perceptions of the implications form “your truth.” An invitation for the other person to share his view of the situation opens up the space nicely for making significant progress.
Dynamic interaction of techniques
These techniques work in a dynamic way–once Pat and Bill have heard the feedback, they are likely to offer a reaction, calm or otherwise. At that point, you’ll be called upon to “Show Up” and maybe “Honor Your Heart.” It may come back around to speaking your truth without blame or judgment again as well. And, there is a fourth dynamic that I’ll blend in next time.
When we are acting as coach, peer, friend, spouse, partner, adult child or parent, these tools encourage and allow you to listen more clearly to what is happening for the other person and to speak your piece as well, all in service to problem-solving and relationship-building. From that place of broader understanding, without blame or judgment, solutions are much easier to identify.
Give it a try and write me back here to share your stories!