When interacting with persons who are looking to make a change, we need to be aware of the powerful tool we hold. Effective communication through the skillful use of language is a powerful invisible tool that alters the neurology of those with whom we interact.
Our minds are more than just our brains. As conceptualized by Dr. Danial Siegel, our minds are composed of the energy and information flow within and between us. Our minds literally extend beyond the physical confines of our skulls, shaping and shaped by our interactions with others.
When we engage someone who is struggling, we need to be mindful that beyond just telling us about themselves, they are inviting us into their minds. Since their minds are likely in a fragile state, accepting their invitation to engage deeper comes with a high level of responsibility. This is a responsibility we can’t take lightly.
In order to respect the other person we need to be aware of the subtle invitations they offer and accept them with care. This means we may even have to politely decline the invitation if the context is not suitable for a productive engagement.
When we accept an invitation to enter the mind of another, they are trusting us to productively engage with some of the most fragile parts of themselves. Before entering into this type of conversation we need to be aware of our own limitations, making them explicit so the other person does not have any misconceptions regarding the nature of the interaction.
Also, even when we notice invitations to elicit further, it is still a wise practice to ask permission. By asking permission, we respect their invitation. Just as when we are invited to someone’s home, we don’t simply walk in. Knocking before entry by asking for permission shows the other person we respect their inner mental space.
When we enter, we must also be courteous guests, remembering the skills of collaborative conversations, as described in the post on The Art of Collaboration. Each word is a hue, each line is a brushstroke, each brushstroke is thoughtfully considered, yet intuitive in the hands of a skilled artist.
Although the artist creates the work, it is the work that creates the artist. Communication shapes and alters our perception, as well as the perceptions of those we interact with. Productive interactions make sense of chaotic thoughts, emotions, and actions, providing clarity amidst the fog of lived-experience. Language is powerful and therefore comes with a great deal of responsibility when helping people change.