The last few posts we have talked about various techniques to increase our self-awareness, or our awareness of our own emotional states. Understanding our own emotions is the first step toward understanding the emotions of those around us. We introduced 6 different techniques to develop our self awareness. The fourth technique is called paired sharing.
Paired sharing is a way of having a conversation with ourselves with the help of another person. It is almost like thinking out loud, except the focus is on our feelings more than our thoughts.
The way it works is to get together with another person. Generally the two of you take turns speaking and listening. The person speaking will simply talk for a set period of time; two or three minutes work very well. There is no script. The person talking should start by talking about what they are feeling in that moment, even if they don’t know what they are feeling. The key is to keep it about the here and now.
The person listening has a critical and somewhat difficult task and that is to simply listen. This involves maintaining eye contact throughout and not providing any feedback to the other person. This means no verbal clues (e.g. uh-huh) and no non-verbal clues such as nodding or smiling. This may require a little practice for both speaker and listener since giving feedback is such an ingrained part of listening for many of us. For the paired sharing, it is important to simply listen and to let the person doing the talking determine where to go next.
When the allotted time is up, the pair will switch roles and the speaker becomes the listener. The same rules apply for speaker and listener. It is OK for the second speaker to comment on what the first speaker said, however, the listener should not respond; their job is to listen with no feedback. It is also OK if there are breaks or silence.
The process continues until the two are able to get down to what they are feeling. Most people will get in touch with their feelings within 2 or 3 rounds.
This technique is quite simple and probably sounds more difficult than it is in practice. Don’t let the simplicity fool you; it is a powerful way to get in touch with what is going on with you. Try it a couple of times and see if it helps you to get in touch with your feelings.
In the next post we will talk about self awareness technique #5: backtracking.