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.’