Talk To The Chair!!!!


Doesn’t it just irritate you when you try to make a point to someone and all your arguments fall on deaf ears? You feel so un-listened to and some, in a humorous way, would even tell you: “Talk to the hand” as you advise, give your point of view, or otherwise. Many relationship problems quickly soar when one or both parties would not listen well enough. It happens all the time between friends, parents and their children, husband and wife, and even colleagues at the workplace. Each would be engaged in mental rehearsals of certain arguments to shoot on when the other person pauses. The end result is grave misunderstandings, anger, resentment, or anguish especially if the issue being discussed is rather serious.

 What we need to pay attention to is that despite differing in opinion, there’s a kernel of truth in both party’s point of view. One that seeps unnoticed or remains invalidated during discussions. The ineffective communication may reach a deadlock and naturally frustration can ensue. Many scenarios may follow: the infamous silent treatment, escalated conflict, or other drastic negative measures undertaken by either party. So how are we to effectively deal with all the negative feelings before things compound to that extent?

 Instead of “talking to the hand”, in therapy, there is a procedure called talk to “the empty chair”. It is used to soften the client’s anger or resentment towards the stressor (i.e. source of stress). Anyone can use it when there is disagreement to gain clarity, alleviate the grudges, and modify off-putting behavior. Try it yourself if you may. Simply, all you need to do is sit in a room and face an empty chair. Imagine that the person you have a disagreement with is sitting on that chair. The baggage you have has to be unloaded; the rage needs to be released. Tell that person your point of view all over again. Let it all out. Don’t leave anything unsaid (even it was harsh). You don’t need to act out your anger. Say things in a calm manner as if trying to persuade that person once more. Experience the feelings you have. Make your conversation as detailed as possible. This process will help you understand yourself and your attitude better.

 When you’re done, switch chairs: sit in that empty chair and face the seat you were sitting in. Now imagine that you are that person and start replying in that person’s logic to your previous conversation. See the situation in that person’s eyes; use the reasoning that person has. Exhaust all the arguments that s/he would want to say in response. Similarly, engage that person’s feelings, and fully express his/her point of view taking all the time necessary to gain clarity. Find if there is any good or bad will, reasons, ignorance, or shortcomings. Acknowledge out loud all these on behalf of the person.

 You, lastly, need to change seats again. This time, choose a new seat; different than the first two. Take on the role of an observer and start recalling the previous two conversations. What would an observer say about those interactions; and how can the two points of view be reconciled? Give advice on how better to handle the disagreement/situation. Do the best you can to be objective. It can be difficult, but doable.

 Finally, go back to your original seat and face that empty chair again. Start arguing about your point of view. You’ll find that it comes with less intense negative emotions. There still is disagreement, but trust that next time you converse with that person for real, the flow of the conversation will be much different, less intense, and more understanding. You were in his/her shoes and will be better prepared, more convincing, and more in control to handle the opposing arguments.

   One more tip on how to crown your point of view with success: persuasion works best when you start off with the other’s point of view (and after that exercise, you know it really well). Say first what they would normally say, and then refute it. This is how you get the other party’s attention. They get to really listen when they hear their own logic to; then slide in your point of view. Eventually you’ll find that instead of being given the “talk to the hand”, your chances to score rise drastically. So next time you disagree with someone, and you really want to win, why not go “talk to the chair” first?

  1. August 4, 2010 at 10:13 am

    very interesting technique, never thought to approaching it this way, loved the final tip also 🙂 I would rather my husband not know about it though (can’t we keep some secrets here Coach Dania :)…

    Like

    • dddania
      August 4, 2010 at 4:56 pm

      hehehehe 🙂 🙂 yeah, let’s keep some secrets…. by the way, that final tip is always used for effective persuaion. It lets your counterpart put down all defences 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Like

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