Over the last 6 months, I’ve been diving into Landmark Education.  It’s been an enjoyable ride, and I’ve learned a lot.

Part of the joy of being in this community has been the people I have the privilege of meeting in the community.

One such individual gave me permission to share a story of hers which I found powerful.
Sharon had been taking a Landmark Leadership course where she learned a way of being with someone that she found so impactful, she was telling me it was like she had found magic.  I was intrigued!
She said now any time she feels some tension or dissonance in her relationships, she uses that as a signal to switch to truly reflecting back what she is hearing the other person say.
Her experiment took off in earnest with the results she got with her four year old son.  His chore has been to empty his backpack of his lunch container after school.  This particular day, Sharon noticed his lunch containers were still in his backpack. 
Sharon asked him about it, and he immediately denied it:

“But I did empty it!! I emptied it already!”
Sharon responded as she usually does, which is to try to talk sense (as we say!). 

“No you didn’t.  It’s your job and you have to be responsible…”
The conversation was deteriorating fast and her son was beginning to get so agitated, it looked like a complete melt-down would be coming soon.
Sharon’s husband was standing by, ready to intervene, when Sharon got an idea.  She told her husband:  “Let me try something.”

She immediately turned to her son and said:

“So you already emptied your backpack.  I hear you.”
Her son stopped his sniffles and comments, and looked up at her.  Paused and said:

“Yes, I did.”
She kept on: “I understand you.  You are saying that you emptied it already.”

“That’s right!” he said, now completely engaged.
In fact, he was so engaged, he ran over to his backpack and opened it up to show her.
But what he saw was that his lunch kit was still in there.
He looked at Sharon and looked confused.
She said:  “You thought you unpacked it and it’s still there.”

“Yeah…” he says.
She offers:  “Could it be that you unpacked your backpack a different day and not today?”
His face brightened up, he visibly relaxed, and simply started unpacking his backpack, no questions, comments or demands.
That’s a powerful story!
The next day, it was on my mind when I went for a walk with a friend.  She was telling me how she didn’t think she was a good friend of mine, because the other day, I had asked if I could talk about something with her, but she had talked about something in her life.  That’s not how she shows up for me at all; I really value our friendship and find her always aware, as I am, of balance, however it works out.
So, I was busy reassuring her what a good friend she was when Sharon’s voice came in my head.  I could see my friend was, in a way, resisting what I was saying and Sharon’s voice pointed out: 
“This is a tension point.”
It was small and insignificant moment and seemed counter-intuitive, since I’d be agreeing she wasn’t a good friend.  But I did it.  I told her I got it – I got that she was thinking she wasn’t a good friend.  I got it that she wished she’d behaved differently in that moment. 
Her reaction actually surprised me, since for me, I think I would have felt horrible hearing a friend agree that I was a bad friend.  But I wasn’t agreeing with her. I also wasn’t telling her I thought she was a bad friend.  I was simply being a mirror for her.  Her reaction was that her whole face lit up like a Christmas tree.  In fact, in the whole 8 years I’ve known her, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her face glow as much as it did in those moments as I simply fed back to her what she had said.
It seems like such a simple move.  And in one way it is.  And in another way, our thoughts as listeners want us to go to so many other places than what is simply right in front of us.
My invitation to you is – the next time you feel a bit of tension in your conversation , stop and switch to reflecting back to them, to their satisfaction, what they are trying to say.
And, as we say in my field, understanding does not mean agreeing!