How to Use Rule One

In your daily life, listening to other people is the most important way to pay attention.

**Pick out someone in your circle that you consider to be a boring person -- someone you would ordinarily try to avoid. Spend some time listening to that person with your full attention, on a regular basis; twenty minutes once a week for ten weeks would be a good trial. Pay attention to what's said -- and pay attention to what happens.
**If you have trouble listening, practice with your television set before you start practicing on human beings. Find a channel where somebody is talking at length -- the Congressional speeches on CSPAN, for example, or a televangelist, or someone giving a lecture on educational television. Set a timer for 3 minutes. Sit down and give the televised speaker your total attention. Every time you realize that your attention has wandered away and you're thinking about something else, re-set the timer for 3 minutes and start over. When you can deliberately listen with your full attention for 5 minutes, you're ready for in-person practice.

[Some Background Information]

When you listen to somebody, you create a set of sequences of language right along with the person who's speaking, based on what you know about your language and about the speaker and about the situation. You don't analyze every word and phrase and sentence for its meaning and then put them all together. The only time you stop and analyze what's being said is when it doesn't match the sequence you were constructing in your head. Suppose you think your friend has just come back from Detroit, and he's telling you about his trip, and he says that what he enjoyed most was the scuba diving. That will stop you in your tracks and start you analyzing; you'll say something like, "Wait a minute! What did you just say?", and you'll negotiate a meaning with the speaker.

Your mind is perfectly capable of doing this task, and it's on automatic as long as you don't interfere with it. What your mind can't do is generate the sequences that match the speaker's, and at the same time construct a completely different set -- that creates interference and makes listening impossible. If, while the other person talks to you, you're thinking about what your kids are up to at home or what you want for dinner, you may be hearing, but you're not listening.

How to Use Rule Two

Preconceptions are ideas that people take for granted in advance; often they are conclusions we leap to with little or no evidence. The preconception most likely to create messes in your life goes like this:

"What people say to you can almost always be explained by their attitude toward you personally or by their personal flaws."

As when you say to yourself....

"He's only saying that because he's a bigot."
"She's only saying that because she knows nothing about business."
"He's only saying that because I can't afford to dress the way he does."
"She's only saying that because she's trying to make me look stupid."
"They're only saying that because they're ignorant."

Preconceptions often become self-fulfilling prophecies. You're sure that some person you're meeting for the first time won't like you, and that makes you cross, which makes it impossible for the person to like you -- and then you say to yourself, "I knew she wouldn't like me, and I was right!"

**Instead of leaping to conclusions, use Miller's Law:

"In order to understand what someone is saying, assume that it's true and try to imagine what it could be true of."

That is, when somebody says, "My toaster has been talking to me?" answer with "What has your toaster been saying?" -- and then listen carefully.

How to Use Rule Three

When somebody talks to you in a foreign language, communication is very difficult; the more foreign the language is, the harder it will be. Communication between two people is always an interactive feedback loop, and it works best when they're speaking the same language.

**When somebody talks to you in the language of one of your senses -- sight, or hearing, or touch -- try answering in that same language. Like this:

When you hear --
"How bad does it look?"
You say --
"The way I see it, it's not serious. It looks pretty trivial."

When you hear --
"Are you listening to me?"
You say --
"I'm all ears. You sound worried."

When you hear --
"Let's try to stay in touch, okay?"
You say --
"I feel like that would be a good idea."

[Some Background Information]

By the time people are five or six years old they've discovered that one of their senses is more useful to them than the others. Any teacher can point out the child in his or her class who learns best with something to look at, the child who doesn't learn well without something to listen to, and the child who has to get right in there and work with things "hands on" if he or she is to learn and understand. Each of the senses has a vocabulary of its own, and when people are trying to communicate in stressful situations they often become locked into the vocabulary of the sense that works best for them. When you switch to that vocabulary too, you're speaking their language; that always helps.

How to Use Rule Four

People who attack you with words are almost always doing that to start a fire in you. They don't want a conversation, they want a fight. When you take their bait, you feed the flames -- and you reward them for attacking you by giving them exactly what they wanted.

**Ignore the bait in the verbal attack; say something appropriate, but don't take the bait.

When you hear --
"If you REALLY loved me, YOU wouldn't waste MONEY the way you do!"
You say --
"Of course I love you."
Or you say --
"When did you start thinking that I don't love you?"

When you hear --
"If you really CARED about your job, you'd get to work on TIME once in a while!"
You say --
"Of course I care about my job."
Or you say --
"When did you start thinking that I don't care about my job?"

When you hear --
"You're not the ONLY person that has PROBlems, you know!"
You say --
"You're absolutely right." (Think about it; what are the chances that you are the only person who has problems?)

When you hear --
"You KNOW I'd never tell you what to DO, dear -- but if you buy that car you'll REGRET IT for the REST OF YOUR life!"
You say --
"I want you to know how much I appreciate your courtesy."
(You are ignoring "if you buy that car..." and responding to "I'd never tell you what to do.")

[Some Background Information]

In English, sequences of hostile spoken language usually include two things: very personal vocabulary; and extra emphasis on words or parts of words (a characteristic that gives the verbal attack a distinctive tune).

Sometimes there's another explanation for language like that. For example, an ER doctor running along beside your gurney shouting "WHAT'S YOUR BLOOD type?? Are you ALLERGIC to anything??" is using personal vocabulary and extra emphasis, but you'll know why and you'll know it's not because the doctor is hostile. When there isn't an explanation like that, the sequence is almost certainly a verbal attack. The difference between the question "Why are you leaving?" and the verbal attack "WHY are YOU LEAVing???" isn't in the words; it's in the tune.

How to Use Rule Five

"Face" is the feeling that others are showing you respect: Even if they disagree with you, even if they disapprove of you, they're willing to show you respect. The less respect someone feels for his or her own self, the more that person will feel threatened by losing face, especially in front of other people. The consequences of making somebody lose face are always -- without exception -- bad.

**When you have a chance to say something to another person -- adult or child -- that would make that person lose face and feel foolish or stupid, just don't say it. Let that chance go by.
**When somebody makes you lose face, don't pass it along by finding another person and making them lose face. (Passing it along makes you the language equivalent of the polluted well in a cholera epidemic, because your victim is likely to go do the same thing, and so on.)
**When you really need to get a lot of vicious hostile language off your chest, write a letter to the person you'd like to say those things to; write down every last one of them. Then tear up the letter. (If you hate writing, make a tape, and then erase it.) By all means, dump the garbage; don't let it pile up in your head.

How to Use Rule Six

Metaphors let us compare two different things in terms of what they share -- what they have in common. We say "Time is money" because time and money are both things that we can save and spend and take and give and lose and budget; we don't say that time is money because we can put time in our pocket or billfold. Metaphors are tools for changing people's attitudes and feelings; nothing works faster or brings about longer-lasting change. Because metaphors have tremendous power to do good and to do harm, we need to use them carefully.

**Find out what metaphors you're using in your own life. Pay attention to the things you say about your life -- like "This job is a killer" and "My mother is a pain in the neck" and "My boss is a snake" When you hear yourself using a metaphor, make a note of it. And spend some time finishing sentences like these:

"My job is a/an....."
"My marriage is a/an....."
"My kid is a/an...."
**Find out whether you and your partner agree on how to end these sentences:

"Being in debt is a/an...."
"Work is a/an...."
"Housework is a/an...."
"Violence is a/an...."
**When you hear yourself using a combat metaphor, translate it into a carpentry metaphor and use that instead. Like this:

You were going to say --
"All my arguments got shot down. I need to get some killer arguments!"
Instead, you say --
"All my arguments fell apart. I need to build a stronger case."
**Good metaphors aren't easy to come by. Set up a Metaphor File for yourself; when you hear or read a good metaphor, put it in the file. A collection of good metaphors is valuable the way a collection of good paintings is valuable.

[Some Background Information]

You can't work against a metaphor by using logic or statistics. The only effective answer to a metaphor is another (preferably better and stronger) metaphor. We filter our perceptions of the world through metaphors; we organize our behavior around metaphors. The more we know about them, the more likely we are to choose them wisely and use them in ways that are positive.

You may have heard that every metaphor has to have the form "X is Y"; that's true when you're cataloguing "figures of speech." But metaphor is also the process of comparing X and Y, and it can appear in a number of different forms. When you say "My brother lets people walk all over him," you're using the metaphor process, working from something like "My brother is a doormat."

How to use Rule Seven

Because of the way it's often taught in school, many people learn to hate grammar, or fear it, or both. You need to know that your inner grammar is completely independent of the grades teachers gave you in the subject; it's not the same thing at all. You are an expert on the grammar of your native language and your native dialect, no matter what your grades in "language" classes were like, and you can rely on that. Fearing or hating your inner grammar is like fearing or hating your lungs, and no more useful.

**Let's explore your inner grammar a little bit. Which of these made-up items could be the name of your dog, in English?

Essa  Zperry  Marrawa  Shchippi  Uwzhl

How do you know that, since all of them are made up? Think: Unless you've been trained as a mechanic, you can't recite the rules by which your car runs. Does that mean that you don't know how to drive the car?
**Suppose there's a thirty-foot flagpole outside your building. You would say, "That pole is thirty feet high" or "thirty feet tall." Now suppose a windstorm knocks the flagpole down and it's stretched out flat on the ground. How would you describe the pole now? Would you still say "That pole is thirty feet high/tall?"

How do you know to do that? Did anybody ever teach you a rule that says something along the lines of "Before choosing an adjective of length, determine the orientation of the object with respect to you and to the horizon?"
**When a conversation you're having is going badly, ask yourself, "What grammar rule am I using? Which drawer in my mind did it come from? Is there a better choice?"

How to Use Rule Eight

The simplest communication goal is "I will feel better after I say this." When that's your only goal, it doesn't make much difference what you say, as long as it works for that purpose. Two other common goals are "The person I'm talking to will listen while I say this and won't say anything back until I'm through saying it" and "After I say this, the person I'm talking to will do what I want." For those two goals, what you say and how you say it do matter. People often stop with these three goals because they haven't considered the question of what other goals might be possible. For example, it may not occur to them that a better choice would be "After I say this, the person I'm talking to will want to do what I want." If you never think about your communication goals, what happens when you talk to others will be largely a matter of luck, because different goals require different ways of shaping messages.

**Before you start any important conversation, write down the communication goal(s) you've chosen for it. "He'll give me this job" is a possible choice; "He'll listen to what I have to say about my qualifications for the job without interrupting me" is a better one. "She'll understand that I won't put up with her disgusting behavior" is a possibility; "She'll understand that she should water the tomatoes every day and will be willing to do that" is a better one.
**After any conversation that doesn't go well, ask yourself what your communica- tion goals for it were and whether you could have made better choices.

How to Use Rule Nine

Two kinds of lies are justified: Santa Claus lies (like "Yes, honey, there is a Santa Claus" to a small child) and Emergency Lies (like "No, I don't know the combination to that safe!" when a thief wants it). They're still lies, because they're false statements,but they're justified and acceptable. Other lies are different. Some come from wickedness; most just come from laziness. They're not justified, and they should be avoided. Almost always, in almost any situation, there is something true that you could say instead of the lie. It's just a matter of paying attention and being willing to bother.

**Pay attention when people lie to you, and try to figure out why that's happening. Did they lie to you because they're afraid of you? Did they lie because telling the truth would have meant getting involved in a conversation they wanted to avoid? Did they lie because they had a specific communication goal in mind, like "After I say this lie, he'll let me go to the party?" Did they lie to you because they wanted to make a good impression on you?

Don't ask them why they told you the lie; talk to them and pay attention, so that you can get enough information to find out for yourself.
**When you hear yourself lie, do the same thing -- figure out why it's happening. What were you trying to accomplish by telling that lie? Then figure out something true that you could have said instead.

[Some Background Information]

Most of us don't lie very well. We may choose the words of our lies with great skill, but our body language doesn't match our words and that makes them unconvincing. We say, "What a beautiful baby!" when we're thinking "Good grief, what an ugly baby that is!" -- and the expression on our face, the tone of our voice, and the way we're holding our shoulders all tell the proud parent that we're lying. This is especially true for English, where so much of the emotional information is carried not by the words but by the body language. When doctors who are thinking "I'll be happy if I never see you again!" tell a patient "I want to see you in six weeks," their body language usually betrays them; if they say "Please ask the receptionist to make an appointment for you in about six weeks," they don't face that risk. If you want to be trusted and believed, say something that won't be contradicted by your body language.

How to Use Rule Ten

All language interactions are feedback loops. When you start talking to Mary you start the loop; what Mary says back to you will be based on what she understood you to say; you'll feed what you understood her to say back into the loop and base your next utterance on the result; then it's her turn to do the same. And so it goes, around and around the loop.

The more hostility you feed into a language loop, the more the hostility grows; the same thing is true for love and respect and good feeling. Language loops, like kids and corn, can't survive if they're not fed; when nobody feeds a hostility loop, it dies.

**Find something good, and feed that.
**When you find yourself in an argument over something you realize that you don't really care anything about, don't feed that loop. Stop arguing; say, "Wait -- this is all wrong! I'm just feeding the flames. Let's start over."

[Some Background Information]

There's one very powerful language loop that involves only one person -- yourself. When you talk to yourself, you set up a mental loop. The more you feed that loop, the more it will thrive and grow. You can make yourself absolutely miserable that way. Try to remember that this part of your language environment is under your control. You don't have to keep replaying scenes of misery over and over in your head; you don't have to keep saying things to yourself like "I'm so stupid, no wonder nobody wants me around!", over and over. You can't generate two sets of internal sentences at the same time; replace the negative ones with something positive.

How to Use Rule Eleven

Anybody can love someone who's always pleasant and kind and considerate and fun to be with. That's not a challenge. Real love is independent of those things; it's there no matter what the person loved is like, no matter what the person loved does. Real love, like the rain that falls on the just and on the unjust, doesn't keep score. When you're given unconditional love you can behave in any way you choose, and still know that the love will always be there. Conditional love is different; to get that kind of love, you have to be lovable.

Many people feel that anybody who gives unconditional love is a sucker, and that nothing good can come from such behavior. In a culture that revolves around an obligation to WIN, it seems obvious that a person who offers unconditional love will never be loved in return, much less respected. The only way to find out whether that's true is to try it and see what happens.

**Once a week, do something that you know another person wants you to do -- without having to be asked first.
**When somebody does you wrong, do something good in return. Something very simple is okay; it doesn't have to be complicated. If you find this hard to do (that is, if you discover that you're human), start slow. Return good for evil every fifth time; when you can handle that, do it every third time. Then try for every time.
**Adopt a boring or "difficult" person as an unconditional love project. Go out of your way to pay attention to that person.
**Listening to another person with your full attention is an act of love; do some real listening every day.
**Pay very close attention to what happens in your life when you do these things.

How to Use Rule Twelve

It's impossible for human beings to be always joyful; that's not voluntary. However, it's almost always possible to REJOICE. Rejoicing is something you can do deliberately and voluntarily. Joy is as contagious as measles; unlike measles, it's good for you and for everyone around you.

**For thirty seconds, no matter how you're feeling inside, SMILE. Pay attention to what happens inside you when you do that.
**Try thinking about something tragic, something terribly sad, and smiling at the same time. Can you do it?
**Make a list of things that you can feel joyful about. Keep your list where you can get to it easily to add new things as you think of them and as they come your way. Feed your list! It's okay to start with "I feel joyful because I'm not on an airplane with two little kids that have stomach flu." The longest journey begins with just one step.
**Remember a time in your life when you were totally joyful. Go back to that time in your mind, and remember it just as vividly as you can, with all of of your senses. Imagine it as vividly as you can, in great detail. Turn it into a mental movie that you can play whenever you like.
Updated by webspinner