Chapter XII – Part 13

$ You blushed. With this cold out there?!

$ I fell in love.

$ Who’s the lucky guy?

$ David.

$ I’m jealous.

$ You’re kidding.

$ Of course I am. I’m happy for you.

$ I have the impression the feeling is mutual because he is so advanced in learning languages that he doesn’t need any coaching. He could teach people languages himself.

$ Somebody admires someone very, very much. Does this demigod have any dark sides?

$ He is very fussy.

$ Are we talking about you now?

$ Hahahahaha!

$ Two fussy people on 200 square meters sounds like an invitation to hell. I hope your children will be scruffy bohemian artists so that you could cool down a little. What did you do with David today?

$ We talked about what blocks communication.

$ I can’t believe that! The one and the other look for an opportunity to consume a relationship (a relationship that is still not out there) and they chatter for more than one hour about what blocks communication.

$ Ironically, courtesy is not regarded as a block in communication. Just the opposite, we learn  good manners to make communication more fluent.

$ I see. It’s unthinkable to say: look, I’m pretty sure we’re attracted to each other. Stay the night and we’ll try it out.

$ Unthinkable.

Chapter XII – Part 12

-        Why do you think troubleshooting, or solving problems, is so important in business?

-        Well, these days business is extremely competitive and it’s competitive in terms of time and in terms of money. Whenever a company tries to get a new product out quickly, it tries to do it without spending too much money. Problems, when they arise, cost money and they waste time.

-        And are there any particular areas which are typical trouble spots?

-        Starting at the very beginning of a project, quite often people don’t plan effectively. You can never plan early enough, especially in a large and complex project. Part of that planning involves making sure that everybody on the project understands his or her role; and that the objectives of the project are regularly reviewed, so that everybody understands how the project is going to meet the needs of the market, and whether it is still relevant.

-        Do you think that everyone has a role in troubleshooting and anticipating problems, or do you see it as only a managerial skill?

-        I think it can quite often happen that managers start a project, think it’s going very well, walk away from it and then are very surprised six months later when it’s going wrong. Everybody, at whatever level, should make sure that they as the right questions, and indeed try to, as you say, anticipate problems and raise those problems with their manager and with their colleagues at regular review intervals.

-        Do you have any other tips for solving problems?

-        It’s very important that a project team communicates well within itself and also to people outside the team. You should try to have a democratic spirit in a project, allowing people to speak openly, to ask questions and to feel that they own the project as much as the managers or the clients may do.

$ And now fill in the gaps:

-        Why do you think……………………………………………………………………. is so important in business?

-        Well, these days business is extremely competitive and it’s competitive ……….. …………………………………………………………………………………………… . Whenever a company …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..quickly, it tries to do it without………………………………………………………………………………………… Problems, when they………….., cost money and they…………………………………………………….

-        And are there any particular areas which are typical trouble spots?

-        Starting at the very beginning of a project, quite often people don’t plan effectively. You can never plan early enough, especially in a large and complex project. Part of that planning involves making sure that everybody on the project understands his or her role; and that the objectives of the project are regularly reviewed, so that everybody understands how the project is going to meet the needs of the market, and whether it is still relevant.

-        Do you think that ………………………………………………………………………………………..in troubleshooting and ………………………………….problems, or do you ………………………………..a managerial skill?

-        I think it …………………………………………………………………that managers start a project, think it’s going very well, walk away from it and then are very ………………………………..six months later when it’s going wrong. Everybody, ……………………………………………., should ……………………………………that they as the right questions, and………………………………………, ……………………., anticipate problems and ……………………………………………………..with their manager and with their colleagues at regular review intervals.

-        Do you have any other tips for solving problems?

-        It’s very important that a project team communicates well within itself and also to people outside the team. You should try to have a democratic spirit in a project, allowing people to speak openly, to ask questions and to feel that they own the project as much as the managers or the clients may do.

$ I agree with the author, with what he says about problems, their reason and how to prevent them.

$ For sure, problem cost money, but they never waste time, in my opinion. Every so called problem is a lesson and education costs.

$ I agree with the question of planning effectively. General Eisenhower said: ‘Plans are worthless but planning is everything.’ I live this truth every day.

$ Are you tempted by giving up planning?

$ Not at all. Although I change plans very often, planning sets the direction to my activity.

$ Some time ago, I exchanged planning for listening to my Inner Voice. I ask myself: what do I dream of? What attracts me? I set a priority, I am here and now, things happen or not and I observe, telling apart control from attentiveness and alertness. Time is not linear so the pressure is imaginary. If I need to plan, in fact I lack trust and want to protect myself because I’m scared of what may come in future. Moreover, if I plan, I resist change.

Chapter XII – Part 11

$ There are many things I didn’t catch.

$ So now look at the first script and listen again.

-      I don’t think car manufacturers and car dealers think about female customers at all.

-      I know what you mean. Car dealers don’t seem to listen to what women say they want.

-      Yes, they should take us seriously. After all, women are buying more cars these days.

-      Yes, so they should have more women selling cars.

-      The dealers are nearly always men and they do such a hard sell. I think they ought to use a soft-sell approach.

-      I agree. I really don’t like the hard sell. You know, I also think things like children’s car seats and car phones should be available as standard.

-      Yes, definitely, why don’t they fit car phones in all new cars? Women on their own feel much safer with a phone in the car.

-      And they should change the adverts, too.

-      Yes, I think there should be lots of product information in adverts. They ought to tell us about things like petrol consumption and safety features

-      I hate theses adverts just showing us fast cars in exotic locations.

-      Me too.

$ Now it’s clear.

$ There’s the text with gaps. Listen and complete:

- I don’t think car manufacturers and car dealers ……………………………………………….

- I know what you mean. Car dealers don’t seem to listen to what women say they want.

-        Yes, they should …………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………..more cars these days.

-        Yes, so they should have more women selling cars.

-        The dealers are ………………………………………………………………………….. and they do such a hard sell. I think they ……………………………………………………………………………..

-        I agree. I really don’t like the hard sell. You know, I also think that things like children’s car seats and car phones should be available as standard.

-        Yes, ………………………………………………………………………………………………….. in all new cars? Women …………………………………………………………………………………. with a phone in the car.

-        And they should change the adverts, too.

-        Yes, I think ………………………………………………………………………………………………………. in adverts. They ought to tell us about ……………………………………………………………….

-        I hate theses adverts just showing us fast cars in exotic locations.

-        …………

$ I haven’t completed everything.

$ It’s ok. The more times you listen to the same text, the better you remember it. After you’ve listened a couple of times, check the spelling with the original.

$ You said the text didn’t have to be recorded.

$ Of course not. Take any text from a book, a magazine, a text you were working on, put on the cardboard matrix and reproduce the content: read it, write it, whatever you feel like it, as far as you remember it without the help of the recording in the background. If you write it, you practice writing skills and spelling. If you only read it you put emphasis on the expressions and the structure of the sentences. Either way you build a data base of original, correct utterances. Let’s do the same exercise with one more text.

Chapter XII – Part 10

$ Oh, yes! I find it fascinating! The next is: changing subject. My godmother is always doing this and I thought it was her kind of neurosis.

$ How does she so it?

$ I come to see her. She asks how I am. After I say two sentences she says: taste this soup, I think it needs more salt. As if she hadn’t listened to me at all. Or I’m talking about something and she hands me in some cutlery, a piece of cloth and says: polish it. I’m listening to you. Fat chance!

$ You want to talk, she wants to host you as good as she can and she does her best in the areas that are not so important to you.

$ There’s also a more subtle way of changing subjects, without even touching on a subject that draws people’s attention so much that you can’t possibly omit it.

$ Can you be more specific?

$ I was in hospital waiting for a complicated surgery. My godmother came to see me, she brought beautiful flowers, exquisite chocolate and jabbered about everything. It even took her back to a holiday we spent together with my parents when I was very little and hated going to the hairdresser’s. My unmanageable hair disturbed my swimming so I used my sister’s barrette in order to see better. So my godmother even mentioned that barrette! She didn’t say a word about health, hospital, surgery.

$ She was so afraid of saying one wrong word that she preferred to say none.

$ And I didn’t know how to freak out assertively. Does freaking out block communication?

$ There are different kinds of freaking out. If you judge everybody and talk about their mothers’ professional life, that’s usually the end of communication. If you tactfully tell them about what makes you hit the roof and you stick to the facts, there’s a chance that it will be a turning point, a salvation in this relationship. By the way, joking blocks communication, too.

$ I am not surprised. If somebody is joking at what I said seriously, I shut up. Once, when I was 6-7 years old, I said to my father that my ear was aching. He smiled and said: a bird must have pooped in your ear.

$ So much loneliness in the childhood. Calming down will be probably the last block we are going to discuss today.

$ Calming down makes me aggressive. ‘You will see. Everything’s gonna be all right.’ It inspires me to ask: how the fuck do you know?! Maybe everything’s gonna be all right, maybe not.

$ Unless you are convinced everything is working out for your highest good.

$ With this conviction nothing is able to block communication.

$ Right. So let’s leave 5-minute hints and our giant digression. Today I will describe another approach to self-directed language education. If you like it, it’ll vary your work.

$ What is it about?

$ It’s about filling the gaps. Look, this is an excerpt from a student’s book called “First Insights into Business.” Precisely this text has also been recorded on a CD but a CD is not necessary. First, I make a copy of this text, then I hide or cut out randomly parts of it.

$ It’s very time-consuming.

$ If you think so, there are at least two solutions. Either do it unwittingly, e.g. while watching TV. Or once in your lifetime prepare a cardboard matrix with gaps 3 mm high, 15 mm long scattered on the whole surface. Like this. Listen to the first text.

Chapter XII – Part 9

$ Fair enough. Next one. Complimenting, praising.

$ That’s your favorite one.

$ Unfortunately. Usually, when clients talk about what they did, I reinforce them, reward, encourage.

$ And when they auto-flagellate for what they did, you always find a ray of hope: advantages of every situation. People come here to get this, anyway. If they are upset about their progress in learning languages or about their lives in general. They pay you for this, don’t they? What’s wrong with it?

$ If they tell me about their so called success and I congratulate them or if they complain and I still can find something to congratulate them on, we stay in Parent-Child relation. A child per se has recently come to this world, they have been learning this world and they need reinforcement. When adults come to coaching they are reinforced by their Inner Adult so they aren’t at the mercy of other’s praise. Another thing, what I say from the level of my Inner Adult can reach the level of the Inner Child of the client and be perceived as a parent’s stroke.

$ I’m not sure I get it.

$ For example, there comes a client who is learning a language before getting married and leaving to her future husband’s country. She went there to some job interviews to which we had been preparing so I’m asking how it was. And what she tells me is: I’ll tell you some time later but now I’d like to go through chapter 5 because I’m leaving soon and I have been studying so little. So I explained that in my opinion ‘some time later’ was a nare’s nest because we met seldom, a couple of times a year (which is a coaching principle anyway) so next time the results of her job interviews would probably be irrelevant.

$ Inner Adult would say: today I’m choosing chapter 5 instead of talking about my job interviews.

$ Assuming that it is true and not a way of escaping from a challenging subject into the safe chapter 5.

$ No escapism in the Adult’s life?

$ Inner Adult is pragmatic: if I decide to go through chapter 5 I’ll organize my time so well that I will do it, I don’t need my coach to assist me. I may need my coach when I have questions or doubts. Anyway, after my remark about the nare’s nest my client said: I’m happy you insist so much because that makes me feel important.

$ Frankly, you didn’t insist.

$ That’s what I’m saying. What’s next? One-upping.

$ What does it mean?

$ For example. Talking to my friend, I confess: Recently I have been living a very stressful life. It has been going on like this for months and I feel so exhausted and so helpless that I have came back to one of my childhood strategies: eating at problems, which of course gets me down more than the stress itself because I believed I was over it, I was sure I would never ever come back to that strategy. And what does my friend say? And I lost weight. Compared to Christmas last year it’s 20 pounds less.

$ Two parallel planes and not adjacent. Something similar blocks me, too. When I am talking about myself and my partner regards my confessions as a diving board from which he can jump up to his own stories.

$ Starting with: and I…

$ Or: I remember when….

$ So called story telling. This has always been my weakness. What’s worse, I nurtured it in all good faith: since you have a problem that I solved once I’ll share my experience and you’ll take advantage of it.

$ If the intention is so empathic, how can story telling block the communication?

$ Because it’s only the lid of the real intention which is: to shine, to impress, to show the world that I am a star, that I succeeded.

$ Ego.

$ Exactly. That is why one day I swore to share my experience only if people want me to do so or ask me directly to give advice.

$ Enrolling for language coaching.

$ That’s not so evident. I can enroll for coaching to calm down my bad conscious, because I’m snobbish, because somebody else did.

$ Or hoping that after coaching my life with linguistic ignorance will be more pleasant.

$ Fortunately, it’s a rare motivation.

$ And how did it go? Were you able to get rid of your addiction to story-telling?

$ Not quite. I wanted to toot my own horn so much that I couldn’t put a sock in it so I needed to invent a transition strategy.

$ Namely?

$ When somebody was speaking and I felt an overwhelming desire to tell a story I asked: Would you mind if I told you… or: Do you feel like listening…

$ You gave your partner a choice and you gave yourself time to continue your rehab. Did it work? Did people buy it?

$ Again, nothing changed before I had changed deep inside. It must have been happening gradually. I remember (I remember! You see!) one coaching class. A client of mine was talking about a problem of hers and I was totally convinced that exactly this experience was perfect for her. I was sure you couldn’t compare this experience to any other so it didn’t make sense to refer to anything. What’s more, I knew this experience was unique and it had unique solutions as well as my client was a unique being, different from the person she was at the previous session, nay, a minute ago.

$ That’s when you stopped telling your stories?

$ That’s when it stopped to matter whether I tell them or not. Ego dissolved in this aspect of my person. When my intuition suggests telling a story, I do it. Do you feel like going on with what blocks communication?

Chapter XII – Part 8

$ By the way, I have just blocked our communication. You wanted to find out what you would answer today and I interrupted the flow of your reasoning asking you a question.

$ And I didn’t mind it at all. I have the impression that those blocks are an artificial category. What block is it if it doesn’t block me?

$ There’s something to it. The description of the blocks and pure communication are merely an attempt to describe a part of the Universe. Just like biology that elaborates on insects, mammals etc. and doesn’t say a word about the freedom of the birds. This attempt can be useful when the communication breaks down. If something works, it works. When there’s a conflict, I can ask myself: how have I blocked the communication? What can I do about it?

$ And if communication works in spite of the blocks I leave it the way it is.

$ Right. We are only human. Sometimes we feel like self-pitying, playing a role of a victim, awaking sympathy and getting it.

$ To confirm who I am I behave as if I were somebody else.

$ O! Or sometimes I may need people to “offend” (in inverted commas) me so that I can realize what I am still fighting against.

$ Why in inverted commas?

$ People can only offend me if I agree with them. Tell me what quality you are absolutely sure of.

$ My killing charm.

$ So if somebody says: I find David deeply unattractive…

$… I would think: she’s madly in love with me and thinks I’m quite off her league. Or: he’s just jealous.

$ You see: no offense in an offense. What do you consider your shortcoming?

$ E.g.: the fact that I am very fussy.

$ So what is your reaction when somebody says: oh, David, he is so fussy, you can’t stand him long-term. No wonder he has no stable relationship.

$ Ouch. It hurt.

$ I didn’t mean that. The point is, pure communication is an ideal I can refer to while in life I need …. life: offense in order to know what I don’t accept in me; pity in order to warn me about a potential role of a victim; sermons in order to practice telling apart my opinions from other people’s judgment. What would you tell the library assistant today?

$ How did it go? ‘Solve problems and conflicts from the level of Adult.’ For example: I see. Thank you. I will remember that. Now I’m getting down to work.

Chapter XII – Part 7

$ I was doing my MBA. Among students there were people from various firms, various environments. There was a boy from a giant private company that used to be state-owned. That firm was practically a monopolist in their branch and they acted accordingly to their position in the market.

$ We usually hate them.

$ This guy was very clever and perspicacious; moreover, he was a senior manager. One day, at an accounting class he had so many doubts as far as one part of the calculation was concerned that the discussion with the teacher seemed never to finish. Suddenly, one of the students said: you know, Professor X, he works for the Company-That-Must-Not-Be-Named, there are always problems with them. The whole group laughed their heads off, the boy turned as red as a turkey-cock, I was sorry for him.

$ Policemen, hangmen. The employees of the Company-That-Must-Not-Be-Named are persons, too, aren’t they? Sympathy blocks communication, too, by the way.

$ Why? Doesn’t sympathy open the door to empathy?

$ When you sympathize with somebody, you take pity on them, you confirm their role of victims. Would you feel like chatting with someone who considers you a poor victim? Number 5.

$ That’s probably the most common block in communication.

A: Where is the toilet paper?
B: Run out.
A: You went shopping, didn’t you? Why didn’t you buy any?
B: You could do it yourself as well.
A: Please, tell me if you want me to buy something.
B: But you always forget what I ask you. And above all, you should deduce that house elves don’t change the toilet paper. You’re like your father, a sovereign prince, always ready to be served.

$ In this moment knives start to fly. Number 6.

$ Logical arguments are my favorite blocks.

$ Tell me more about it.

$ I used to live in a very hot country. I noticed very quickly that the meaning of the word ‘punctuality’ there was completely different from mine. Nevertheless, I wasn’t able to change my habits completely: I was very understanding when local people came late; however, I was nearly always on time. At the beginning, I enjoyed the local library: I spent much time there learning the language of that country. In order to use my time best and to hide from the heat I used to show  up in the library as early as possible. It opened at 8.00 am. If I came before that, I waited, contemplating the sea until the church clock belled 8 times and then I enthusiastically entered the library. One day, the assistant upbraided me kind-heartedly saying: if you keep on coming so early, you’ll see one day it’ll be closed.

$ What was your reaction?

$ I’ll tell you in a second what my logical arguments were but first let me think about what I would answer today knowing what I know about pure communication. The assistant started from the level of her Inner Parent, woke up my Inner Parent with her logical argument and I said: But the office hours are from 8.00 am to 2.00 pm.

$ Your Inner Parent was critical, and hers – as you said – kind-hearted. She was addressing your Inner Child…

$ …and it didn’t get him so she got upset because she said: I don’t know where you are from but here we have another concept of punctuality. I felt ashamed. It wasn’t my intention to control the conscientiousness of the charming library assistant. I told her I was still learning this new (new to me) country and asked her not to worry: if I am supposed to wait, I will wait enjoying the sunshine and listening to the sea waves.

Chapter XII – Part 6

$ 1 A Child B Adult; 2 A Parent B Parent; 3 A Child B Child 4 A Adult B Child 5 A Child B Parent 6 A Adult B Adult 7 critical Parent 8 loving Parent.

$ What have you observed?

$ If a Child talks to a Child, a Parent to a Parent and an Adult to an Adult, the communications goes smoothly.

$ That’s it. There is a concept of pure communication, say, a communicational paradise that we want to reach or where we want to get back. Look at how it works:

- recognize the level from which you communicate in a given moment
- realize with what level of your partner you want to communicate
- avoid the level of critical Parent
- solve problems and conflicts from the level of Adult
- let your Adult take time to prepare an answer; meanwhile, do not let either your rebellious Child or your critical Parent start to speak.

$ I need to think about it.

$ One more thing. These are the factors that block communication: 1. Educating; 2. Warning; 3. Giving sermons; 4. Ashaming; 5. Blaming, labelling, correcting; 6. Logical arguments; 7.Complimenting, praising; 8. One-upping. 9. Changing subject; 10. Calming down; 11. Advising, giving solutions; 12. Story-telling, shutting down; 13. Interrogating, explaining. Can you give me some examples from your life?

$ Ok. I talk to people about how tired I feel with the new country, the new language, the new work place. And what I hear is: you shouldn’t have emigrated. Or: you should get more sleep. As soon as I hear something like this I get angry and I finish the dialogue because I come to the conclusion that the other person has no idea neither about my dreams nor about the fact that the dreams that came true always look different from what you imagined.

$ Solution to one problem is the beginning of another problem. Let’s move on. The second way of blocking communication. Imagine the same situation: you talk about how tired you are of the all the new things in your new life.

$ And they say: take good care of yourself, watch out, you are likely to burn out. Or: you’ll see. The real problems haven’t come yet.

$ Has anybody warned you like that?

$ Luckily, no. You know, I had no illusion that changing the geography would change much, because wherever I go, I take myself with me. However, I was ready to do it and courageous enough to do it.

$ No doubt about it. Number 3.

$ There was a time I hadn’t been talking to my older brother for a couple of years. We didn’t have an argument actually. It was rather testing each other: who’s going to turn out to be a pimp first.

$ A pimp? You mean a wimp.

$ Right. That’s what I wanted to say. To be a wimp and hold out an olive branch first. I battled with my conscious over whether I should call him or not and sent him an email eventually. I was relieved when I could see there was no answer. And one day our old teacher, who knew both of us, met me in the street. We started to chat and he also asked me how my brother was. I told him the truth and he scolded me saying that the family was sacred, that I was supposed to call my brother and apologize. He added that it would do good to my humility.

$ A real sermon. Number 4.

$ It doesn’t block me in fact. Just the opposite: it motivates me to strike back, to take revenge, to discourage the other person from laughing at me again.

$ I doesn’t block you but it does block the communication. Can you recall a situation when somebody got blocked when people laughed at them?

Chapter XII – Part 5

- I don’t generalize, I avoid words like: we, people, nobody.
- I avoid sentences with no specific information, e.g.: ‘I don’t like your attitude’ or ‘You don’t get involved enough.’ What does it mean ‘attitude’ or ‘get involved’? What exactly does the other person do or say? What particular behavior inspires me to make this remark?
- I explain the results of a given utterance.
- I stick to the facts. If I decide to talk about my opinions, reactions and perceptions, I am ready to verify them after the feedback I get.
- I keep away from belittling others and I don’t use words that can provoke defensiveness or strong emotional reactions. I avoid sentences like: ‘For God’s sake, how could you do something so stupid?’
- I talk about what my partners do, not about them as persons. Before I say something, I ask myself: What exactly are they doing that I feel so irritated or disappointed? I don’t elaborate on what they are like. I say: ‘It irritated me when …’ instead of ‘You don’t know how to do it’ or ‘You’re helpless.’
- I focus on what I have seen, felt, heard and not on my thoughts, judgments, conclusions, speculations.
- When I describe somebody’s behavior I use words like ‘more’, ‘less’, ‘often’, ‘rarely’. I don’t want to make impression that I observe something always or never because it leads to simplified stereotypes.
- As far as possible I talk about what happened recently and specify the place and the time. That is how what I want to say becomes more communicable. The most constructive information comes from here and now.
- I talk only about things that my partners can influence. There is no use saying: ‘Your skinny legs make me laugh’ or ‘I don’t like your accent.’

$ Communication is fascinating.

$ Isn’t it? Of course, that is not the whole picture. Let me add something about three levels of communication: Adult, Child, Parent. They have nothing to do with the age or parenting. We elaborate on this at the workshops when we talk about proactive and reactive language. In short, the Child expresses emotions: I love this, I can’t stand that, I punch you on the nose without thinking twice, I cry. As in life, your Inner Child can be natural, rebellious or adapted. The Parent means on the one hand warm understanding (a so called loving Parent), on the other hand, criticism and requirements (a so called critical Parent). The Adult stands for responsibility, consciousness, taking matters into your own hands and saying: I understand, I choose, I decide, it pays off.

$ Why do I need to know about these levels?

$ Have a look at these dialogues:

1.
A: I hate Mondays. They are the busiest days of the week.
B: That’s correct. And I hardly ever get my sleep on Monday.

2.
A: The youth nowadays are so arrogant.
B: O, yes. And there’s nothing holy for them. They only worship money.

3.
A: l love chocolate ice cream.
B: And I’m dreaming of tiramisu.

4.
A What film would you like to see?
B: It doesn’t matter, does it? Eventually you always decide, anyway.

5.
A: You are always choosing films that suck.
B: Your choice, on the contrary, is always a gem in the history of the cinema.

6.
A: I probably intruded my opinion on you a couple of times in the past but now I really want both of us to have fun.
B: As you know, I prefer French cinema

7
A: I am very proud of you (dry voice, frown).

8.
A: I am very proud of you (smile, eye contact)

Some of them are potential conflicts, right?

$ Yes, number 4 is the beginning of a row.

$ Can you please tell me from which level: Adult, Parent or Child each person speaks?

Chapter XII – Part 4

I was saying that if in a given moment I had no access to the Internet and I met a person who seemed to be open and have a spark, I just chatted them up.

$ Really? Here, in this city, where everybody is in a hurry, always chasing something, you stop people in the street and talk to them?

$ I’m not that brave. Tough psychological experiments aren’t my strong suit. For example on Sunday, in the coffee shop there was a beautiful woman, sitting on her own. She took her time to skim a color magazine. From time to time she texted. I approached her, down on my knees, introduced myself, explained that I had been learning English and added: it just so happens that I have been reading an article in a newspaper and this very sentence is a total puzzle to me.

$ You were down on your knees in front of her?

$ Well, not exactly. I did this.

$ Ok. You crouched down.

$ I crouched down and I didn’t know how to say that in English so I said: down on my knees.

$ This approach is phenomenal. You are able to transmit the message you want to transmit the way you can even at the expense of the content. This is one of the advantages of learning languages: they teach you humility. I mean, before I am able to express everything the way I want to express it I humbly accept expressing it the way I can. And I keep on working. What about this beautiful girl in the coffee shop?

$ She was very kind. She answered my question, so I was ready to continue my work. I think I know how to tell apart people who are in a hurry from those who are my potential helpers. People on the benches in the park, walking with their children, waiting at subway stations or bus stops, doing nothing particular – that’s my target.

$ Besides, I think you intuitively decide how to talk to people. When students come to our workshops, on the first day, we learn how to provide feedback so that the communication among the participants goes smoothly and everybody is enriched by the results of the training.

$ How do you learn that?

$ We read the rules below and make sure everybody understand them:

- I keep my mind open and clarify instead of conjecturing.
- I stay calm – anger disturbs my listening.
- I talk about myself, e.g. ‘I don’t understand what it means’ instead of: ‘What are you talking about?’
- I talk about what I feel instead of criticizing, e.g. ‘I feel upset after what you said’ instead of ‘You know nothing about this!’
- I don’t give advice (especially the pieces of advice I don’t apply myself); instead, I speak about my own experience in a similar situation or I express my wish (‘I have a fantasy…’ / ‘I wish you…’ instead of ‘You should…’ / ‘You have to…’).
- I sum up and paraphrase what I have heard in order to show that I listen to and to make sure I have got the message.
- I ask questions to get information I need to correctly understand what others say.
- I don’t read other people’s minds. I say e.g.: ‘You raised your voice while talking to her’ instead of ‘You were angry at her.’
- I don’t interrupt.
- I don’t judge. For example, I say ‘Since this question was raised at a meeting I didn’t attend, I wasn’t able to inform about time limits’ instead of ‘It was a mistake to raise this question at a meeting I couldn’t attend.’ If I keep my reactions and my judgment for myself, I leave more space for the feedback.
- I don’t tell others what they do right, what they do wrong. Judgment may provoke the feeling of humiliation or make people reject information.
- I don’t create theories, e.g. I say: ‘It didn’t work in my case’ instead of ‘That’s not the way you do it.’