As you might know, in September David and I moved to the Netherlands to be closer to my parents. To travel lightly, we sold and gave away most of our furniture. Now that our container has arrived with all our boxes, it’s time to replace some of that furniture.
I find a nice wardrobe on Marktplaats and rent a car to pick it up. The car has a manual transmission. The last time I drove a stick shift, I struggled so miserably to drive up a steep slope, that I burned the rubber of the tires. We could smell it weeks later.
Fortunately, there are plenty of YouTube videos that show you how to drive a manual, which I watch zealously. And successfully. I drive away without fail, succeed at shifting to second gear, and stop before the traffic light at the busiest intersection in Bilthoven.
I am first in line and see a slew of cars behind me, eager to finish their Saturday shopping. When the traffic light turns green, I implement what I learned from the videos.
I inch four feet forward, then the engine turns off. I restart the car. Three feet forward, engine off. A third time. After 15 failed attempts to clear the now utterly chaotic intersection, I am about to give up.
That’s when someone knocks at my window. I expect an infuriated car driver yelling at me about how stupid I am. Instead, I see a friendly face: “Can I help you?”.
He’s a professional car instructor. He gets in the car and sees that I am trying to start up in the wrong gear. With some embarrassment, I thank him from the bottom of my heart and succeed in finishing my trip.
This would probably never happen to you. Repeating the same mistake 15 times without getting professional feedback. It seems kind of dumb. And it causes stress and chaos.
But when it comes to conflicts we often do just that. We watch some John Gottman videos. Work through Byron Katie’s Judge-Your-Neighbor worksheet. But as soon as our colleague, partner, or neighbor opens their mouth, we are triggered and fall into the trap of the harsh start-up.
That is one of the biggest communication killers that cause relationships to fall apart. And even though it seems an easy issue to solve, it takes skillful awareness to put the theory into practice.
To resolve that problem, I offer facilitated dialogues. In these dialogues, you learn three simple steps to transform conflict into collaboration. You can practice them till you are a master, and move your relationship forward.
We can work on Zoom or meet in person. Contact me if you want to explore how these dialogues can help you.
And I won’t yell at you, not even if you make the same mistake 15 times. I will just gently show you that you’re trying to start the conversation in the wrong gear.