I have been thinking about the words I say during conversations with others, especially with those close to me. As I embrace the Gestalt way of slowing down to heighten my self-awareness, I realize that sometimes I say things to others with an expectation in mind, or to obtain validation of some sort. In other words my speech, in dialogue with another, is about ME.
EXAMPLE OF SPEECH WITH AN AGENDA:
“Honey, do these jeans make my butt look big?” How many of us have asked our partner/friend/S.O. this question, with the expectation that they reassure us that we “Look awesome in those jeans!”?
Now, having an agenda is perfectly okay. As I explain in counseling, it may be really important to have an expectation behind my words, such as in parenting, or when managing others as part of my profession. I want my partner to assure me that I look good in my clothing. I am focusing here on the awareness that I have an agenda. My speech is a means to an end.
Attaching a hidden expectation to our speech is where we can get into trouble. We put something out there with a little red flag on it that, unbeknownst to the other person, they are supposed to see and react to. When the other person does not react according to expectation, we become angry, hurt, resentful, or disappointed. [Our reaction to another person’s speech or behavior is good material for a future blog].
Hidden agendas are sometimes revealed in jokes or sarcasm, such as “Oh, I’m so (insert negative word i.e., ugly, awkward, etc.), that no one will want to go out with me.” The hidden agenda is the expectation that the other person will reassure us, console us, or in some way make us feel better about ourselves.
It is a lot harder to ask another person directly: “Do you think I’m ugly, awkward, etc?” or “Do you think anyone will want to go out with me?” Asking direct questions sometimes feels scary, because we might not get the validation and support we want or expect. We feel vulnerable. The fear of shame is very real.
Recognizing the motivation or agenda behind our speech is a way to learn more about ourselves. It informs us of our emotional state, and vulnerabilities we may be experiencing. It is a way to tap into what is often just beyond awareness. When we live our lives on “auto pilot,” quickly passing through each day, we miss the subtleties and the rich lessons available through heightened awareness. It takes slowing down and a willingness to examine these sometimes painful parts of ourselves.
Many of us do not want to slow down. We are busy, we have a lot of things on the “to do” list and many responsibilities. Yes, all valid points, dear reader. AND I invite you to slow down a bit, to raise your awareness of the speech you put out into the world, and to take a peek at the self you keep just barely out of awareness.
How can you change the agenda? In therapy sessions, we experiment with new behaviors that will lead to changing ingrained and sometimes unhelpful behaviors. The creative experiment arises from what is happening right now in the session.
A meditation teacher once invited me to consider these three questions before speaking:
1. Is it kind?
2. Is it true?
3. Is it necessary?
I would add another:
4. Do I have an agenda or hidden expectation attached to this?
If you would like some help slowing down, raising awareness and changing your agenda, I am trained to counsel and facilitate change. I am willing to speak to your group on any number of mindfulness, intentional, Gestalt, or counseling topics. Please see my home page for information about how to contact me.
I am always interested to hear how my readers experience these posts. My agenda is to write about counseling and therapeutic topics interesting to me, which will perhaps interest you. I would like to know your reactions to this post, ideas you have, suggestions, or questions.
Peace, my friends.