I have recently started to pause before responding. This is new for me. I'm starting to think this pause might be the most important moment in the conversation.
It's in this brief moment of quiet that I like to imagine the following...
I like to my imagine my view of the world is always obscured by a tinted box. I can't see clearly because of this box. It is my own self-interest.
Additionally, all of my experiences are like filters that fall into place and further obscure my vision. Everything I view is seen through this very unique set of filters.
The same is true for everyone. Thus in any conversation, I'm dealing with someone who sees the world quite differently merely by virtue of the fact she's had different experiences.
So before I speak, I need to take a second to consider how these filters are affecting my opinion.
And before I interpret what she says, I need to consider how her experiences might be vastly different than mine.
Let's use my home state as an example. I know I can't think objectively about it. I tend to get defensive when people badmouth it. (For you, it may be your favorite musician or book or whatever.)
If I don't pause to consider our respective filters, I often react emotionally when someone shares a negative opinion.
But if I do pause and think about our respective views, I'm less likely to be offended and more likely to respond with grace.
Not only that, but the conversation takes on a much different tone if we relay our respective experiences. I can probably relate to being bored on a highway, and she can relate to great childhood memories.
While not a perfect fix, I have found this little exercise has vastly improved many of the conversations I have! What strategies have you found helpful? Let me know in the comments below.