Don’t waste a good crisis. You can apply that to situations that backfire on you in that they are great opportunities to learn. This week I want to share how conscious communication is only possible when you get out of your head.
The other day a quite innocent exchange of views became very intense very quickly and by the end I felt violated quite simply because I no longer felt respected or heard by the other person. I had a strong reaction probably because I am highly sensitive soul. Yet even at the time I recognised that this was a great gift, an opportunity to explore how the whole exchange could have been more fruitful for both of us. Coupled with the fact that I am doing a lot of work around how to manage conflict in the work place, it just felt that a post on the tenets of good communication was timely.
Words are so powerful. The phrase sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me is stuff and nonsense. You can feel violated by another just by their manner towards you as much as what they say. So let me share with you some tips on how to manage challenging conversations.
When the going gets tough, turn to wonder
If you start feeling irritated and annoyed or sense yourself going onto the defensive, get curious. Ask yourself what is triggering you? Not always easy or the first thought in a conversation and yet it can provide a mine of information. The likelihood is that a need of yours is not being met.
If you discover what that need is then you are in a much more powerful place and can find a way to share that information with the person you are talking to. The likelihood is that they have no idea about what’s going on for you.
Self-respect and respect for others is vital
Be honest. How often do you berate yourself when something goes wrong? Do you start attacking yourself and calling yourself stupid. I expect you do because the way that you were educated to think would have encouraged that. Actually it is very hard to learn when you are giving yourself a hard time and in extreme cases it can lead to depression. As a minimum when the “inner bitch” gets going you have lost your sense of self-respect.
At times it can be very hard to maintain respect for the other person. This happens when you stop listening to understand their point of view and have decided that what they are saying is nonsense. In these moments there is no more curiosity and the danger is that ego can take over and you can think that you are superior and that you are right.
Whatever the truth of the situation, the other person will sense that you have switched to a more adversarial position and there is a strong possibility that they will withdraw from the conversation rather than keep plugging away. Alternatively they may go into an accommodating style and just agree with you in order to end the disharmony or they may move to a competing style and become as vociferous in staking their position, which just leads to a Mexican standoff.
Taking yourself too seriously
If you find yourself in a tense conversation and can maintain a lightness about yourself and even bring in humour that can help to defuse the situation. Just remember there is very little that is of a life and death nature. If you take yourself too seriously then it is likely you will find yourself needing to be right. When you get into that frame of mind then it follows that in order to do that you will need to prove that the other person is wrong.
If you find yourself heading in that direction ask yourself the following three questions:
- Is what I am going to say truthful?
- Is it necessary?
- Is it kind?
Only proceed with what you were going to say if you can answer yes to all three of those questions. Otherwise try and let it go. If you are already feeling emotional, taking a few seconds to centre yourself using something like the breathing pause will help. If you are calm the other person will sense that and it will help them to match what you are showing them.
Silence is sometimes the best answer ~ Dalai Lama
Silent is actually an anagram of listen. We have one mouth and two ears and if you use your mouth in that ratio then you will gain so much more from those around you. It will give you the space to listen for the needs of the other person and then you can voice what you think they are.
You may not be right but that then gives them a chance to articulate their needs. I believe this is so much more powerful than what many tend to do which is to ask “what do you need?” Quite often that puts the other person on the spot and they don’t always know what they need. Giving them something to work with is a great way of discovering their actual needs.
Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love ~ Lao Tzu
I want to end my thoughts with this. It echoes what I stated about when deciding whether to share something or not. When you are kind in thoughts, words and deeds you experience a richness in life. Perhaps not immediately but it will always come back to you. It is why the Dalai Lama has always emphasised the importance of kindness.
When someone continues to share with you what you are doing well then you start to believe that you are good at what you are doing and are more likely to perform at a level of excellence then when someone is highly critical of you. More than that it will start to shape your thinking and you will be more likely to pick out the good in others. In that one moment you have created a virtuous circle. It does wonders for your sense of well being and it puts well being firmly at the centre of all your communication which is why I am such a fan of non-violent communication as a tool.
I will leave you with this quotation from the Dalai Lama which I believe sums up all that I have said. If you feel inspired then do leave a comment below as I love hearing from you:
As long as we observe love for others and respect for their rights and dignity in our daily lives, then whether we are learned or unlearned, whether we believe in the Buddha or God, follow some religion or none at all, as long as we have compassion for others and conduct ourselves with restraint out of a sense of responsibility, there is no doubt we will be happy ~ Dalai Lama
Kate Griffiths works with individuals and business owners to create more ease and flow in their lives. Clients include conscious business owners and leaders who recognise that the old paradigm way of doing things does not work and want support in determining what the new ways of doing business look like. She is passionate about creating conversations that lead to change and has developed her own process to do that called connection through conversation. If you are feeling stressed and want more space or time in your life then check out Kate’s two day retreat at the end of November.