When is the last time you had that talk? You know the one that perhaps you’ve been dreading but you know it needs to be said. To be clear, I am not talking about the kind of talk that stirs up drama and dissension- quite the contrary. This is the talk where you show up courageous and willing to be a bit vulnerable to speak truth that has been on your mind.
I am blessed nearly every day to work with clients on how to have these kind of talks. Sometimes it’s a conflict with a partner or spouse. Other times it is a work related issue where perhaps my client is feeling at ease with setting a boundary, or even showing up using their voice to say “hey, I disagree”, or “ I’m concerned about the way you are handling this- your choice does not seem to have others’ best interest.”
Having meaningful and productive conversations requires one to be able to use their voice. Additionally, learning to speak truth without blame or attack is also its own skill.
This is a skill that is sorely lacking in many people. I often hear the stories (and fall out) of bad, unhealthy, unproductive and distressing communication.
If you are ready to begin to even try to do this differently, here’s a few pro tips.
1. Self Awareness first. You must have awareness of what is truly the real issue, how it makes you feel, and what your desired outcome is. It can be also helpful to have in mind several outcomes that would be acceptable. In other words, what are you aiming for?
2. Learn to Manage your own Emotions. Once you have the awareness of how this issue is making you feel, then managing the emotions that come up for you is essential so that when you are ready to have “the talk”, you won’t be acting from emotion, but rather, you will have the ability to use your emotions intelligently. Learning to manage our own emotions is key.
3. Invite the Other Person into the Conversation. When you are ready to talk, let that person know you have something on your mind you wish to discuss with them. You might ask, “is now a good time”, or would they rather schedule something with you at another time? Be sure to get something on the calendar if it is the latter.
4. Know Your Audience. You will talk with a child perhaps differently than an adult. If you are speaking with a man, remember the male brain often hears and interprets information differently than the female brain. Often men listen just for the problem, and what they can do to leap into action to fix it. If you are trying to just be heard, you might preface, “ I just need you to listen for this conversation please. I won’t need advice or fixing.”
5. Use Language with Ownership. Own your observations, opinions, thoughts, needs and desires. Share your observations if that is relevant with ownership- “ I notice for the last three weeks that …” is far more productive than “You have been doing ( or not doing) …” which will feel much more attacking for the listener in which case you have just invited defensiveness.
6. Be Sure to Ask for the Specific Thing you Want to Change. When we do this we communicate a whole message and we don’t leave our listener hanging wondering what the heck we want to be different.
Communication is the lifeblood of relationships. When it goes well, we can feel a palpable sense of connectedness and understanding with other human beings.
When it goes poorly, it can lead to distress, and long term problems in relationships as well as taking a toll on our physical and emotional health and wellbeing.
Practice communicating in these ways. Remember to also be a good listener when you are on the other end of a conversation, and watch your relationships begin to thrive!
Need more help than what we can fit into our weekly blog? There are many good counselors, and life/ business coaches on the Live Well Kitsap site. www.livewellkitsap.com/mind-your-health.