Thursday, January 24, 2013

Are You a Receiver or a Broadcaster?

Cell Phone Tower by danielfoster437, cc license
I read an interesting article last week about happiness versus meaningfulness. At one point, it described the dichotomization of people being Givers (who seek meaningfulness in life) and Takers (who seek happiness). It's unrelated, but this got my wheels turning about the roles we typically take on during challenging conversations. In recent conversations I've noted how I switch between struggling to be understood and struggling to understand. Further, I've found that I tend to default to, and feel more comfortable, when I'm in the role of understanding the other person. It's an interesting dichotomy, and for the purpose of this post I'll call the types Receivers and Broadcasters. This comes only from my own casual observations and experiences, but this is how I would characterize those two types.

Receivers are most concerned with filling in their own gaps in information by trying to understand the actions, intentions, and thoughts of their conversation partners. They feel most comfortable when the spotlight is on the other person and may even deflect when asked about their own feelings and perceptions.

Broadcasters are most concerned with accurately conveying their feelings, intentions, and thoughts. They feel most comfortable "in the hot seat," telling their story and sharing ideas. They may feel less comfortable just listening and may try to relate to others by sharing more of themselves.

I feel compelled to add another disclaimer, here. I think that dichotomies are not a true reflection of reality, in which our different characterizations fall along a continuum and can change situationally.  However, I think they offer a good thought exercise and may give us better insight into ourselves and others. They can also point to more tailored changes one could try in approaching challenging conversations for more positive outcomes.

Receivers may leave challenging conversations feeling that their point of view was discounted. They may be plagued by replaying the conversation in their heads and thinking of all the things they should have said instead of saying nothing. Positive Change for Receivers: Once you have played the role of listener, speak up to share your own perspective and feelings. Follow this up by getting confirmation that you've been heard. For example, "I'm not sure that I'm expressing myself clearly. Can you please tell me what you heard me say?"

Broadcasters may leave a challenging conversation only to find out later that they were misunderstood or that  a situation they thought was over was still unresolved. Positive Change for Broadcasters: After conveying your message, invite the other person to share their own perspective. For example, "That's how I see it... but that's just my perspective. Could you please tell me how you see it?" Follow up by just listening and paraphrasing what the other person shares.

If you're interested in deeper work around challenging conversations, please check out my upcoming workshop: Writing Your Relationship Resolutions.

Of course, if your'e not in the Pittsburgh area, that may not be of much help - doh! I'm working on that. :) Stay tuned!

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