Humble curiosity

"To the extent possible, we wish to re-frame the language of our time." - via Fr. Thomas Keating, in an email from the organization "Contemplative Outreach"

This line hit home in an unexpected way. So much of the misunderstanding, miscommunication, resistance and antipathy in our lives comes from language. Some of the biggest issues I have faced in organizations have been hidden "negotiations of language", rather than a genuine disagreement about things. 

The way we show up under stress has everything to do with our limbic system: it's fight or flight. And to be honest, in most people the stress response is flight. We avoid situations that make us feel powerless. We think of ourselves as a victim. We lead apathetic, lethargic lives "of quiet desperation."

Because when we stand up for ourselves, it tends to make things worse. Conflict breeds conflict, in a never-ending cycle of emotional and physical violence. 

The only way out, I've found, is consistently showing up with humble curiosity. The best book I've read in this context is by Edgar Schein, called Humble Inquiry (Amazon). Its subtitle, which apparently all books need nowadays, is "The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling." Isn't that a wonderful thing. 

I don't manage it every time, but I'm getting better. The next time you're triggered, just... ask, gently.