How to communicate better
Only one person needs to change to effect change between two people. Also, you cannot change anyone anyway, however when you make a change, they probably will respond differently!
Feelings matter and cannot be ignored
Feelings are at the heart of a difficult conversation, so you need to take time for the other person to express their hurt, or disappointment or anger or disappointment. Mostly, we don’t. We jump in to defend ourselves, when the other person needs to get their feelings out in the open. When we interrupt and become defensive, there is no listening and communication will stop soon after without any resolution. What a missed opportunity.
How could that have a better outcome?
When the other person speaks – they need to feel heard. They need to feel understood. How could you demonstrate that?
- Make eye contact
- Hit your PAUSE button and focus on really listening
- Try to identify the feeling behind the words and Name the Feeling, ‘Sounds like you are upset with her..?. I’m hearing how hard that was for you’
Acknowledging their Feeling
When we acknowledge a person’s feelings, we literally ‘hold them’ in that feeling and it is very helpful for them in articulating difficult feelings, allowing them to say more and means the feelings all get expressed and there is someone to receive their difficult feelings. A lot of the time, this is not what happens.
‘I’m guessing this has been devestating for you’
Dilute, Dismiss, Ignore, and modify the other person’s feelings
‘Oh, it’s not that bad!’
‘You’re making too much of it!’
‘You’ll feel better tomorrow’
‘Get over it!’
Feelings do not disappear because we are told not to have them
We repress them, suppress them and use ‘Fake friends’ like alcohol, cigarettes, food to keep a lid on them. We bottle it up and hit the bottle. We stuff our feelings and literally stuff ourselves with food, we reach for the cigarette when stressed and we are in danger of speaking up, and use the cigarette to suck these feelings back inside as we inhale deeply. Yet, we know the value in expressing how we feel and finding support around a worry or a concern.
Listen but do not get defensive
What the other person says is about them, how they feel and what is going on with them. Stay separate to what they say as otherwise you may personalise it and become defensive. This may result in conflict escalating.
Seek first to understand, before going in to Be Understood
Once the speaker has had the chance to ‘air’ how they feel and been listened to, conflict reduces and they may be open to hearing from you.
Be Real: If it is safe to do so, tell them how you really feel.
‘I feel sad the way things are between us; it would mean so much to me if we could resolve this’
‘Our relationship is important to me and I really want to hear how you are feeling’
‘If there is anything I can do to improve the situation, I will. I regret that this has happened’
- Stop Talking and Just Listen – that’s what they need
- Listen for the feelings under the words
- Echo back what they have said ‘I’m hearing how difficult this is for you’
- Ensure you fully understand how they feel
- Seek then to be understood