Have you noticed communication with the people in your life seems a little more difficult these days? Maybe there’s more conflict, disagreement, irritability, impatience you’re receiving or putting out there? More bickering or easy-to-anger interactions with your partner? More misunderstandings and confusion with your coworkers? More customers or clients you work with who are overwhelmed and responding with rage, dissatisfaction? More meltdowns with your kids that seem to cycle uncontrollably downward? (In all of these situations, more is not better!) Do you often not know how to talk to someone about a difficult situation without making it worse; or do you get accused of being a bad communicator (even though you’re certain it’s the other party that doesn’t know how to communicate well! 🙂 )? Do your emotional eruptions have negative consequences in your life?
Maybe it’s a sign of the times… Maybe it’s the time of the signs… Meaning maybe there are quite a few things that are being overlooked or neglected by you, that need time and space and attention. So often when we perceive a threat (in someone’s tone of voice or not listening to us; feeling devalued or unseen; having demands put on us; being mis-perceived) we react with anger. As human beings, we are wired to move quickly to fight/flight or freeze reaction in an effort to protect ourselves. When we quickly respond in anger, we are usually at the mercy of some deeper more vulnerable feelings that we have difficulty communicating; and we usually make worse whatever interaction we’re having. Defensive anger almost always escalates the intensity of our conversations and doesn’t move us any closer to resolution.
To begin having more peaceful and clear communications with someone you’re struggling with, try these steps the next time you begin to feel communication starting to go awry. (Or better yet, reflect on the steps and think about someone you would like to have better communication with; before the next time you find yourself in the moment of a potentially escalating interaction.)
First, take a pause. Remember the power of a pause, which can stop things from spiraling out of control. Pause before you hit the send button; before you make some dig at your partner that pushes their button. Use the moment of pause to calm yourself by focusing on your breath; or on your body sensations; or the sounds around you; relaxing the muscles of your face. Consider your intention for the person you are attempting to communicate with (to work collaboratively with; to have more understanding from; to listen more fully to). If you need to, suggest taking a break for a few minutes and then coming back to the conversation.
Secondly, once you’ve paused, get into your own shoes. See what feelings have been stirred up in you. Feel your own agitation and notice where you feel it in your body. Then feel just below your anger (feeling disrespected, scared, hurt, self-doubt, disappointed, etc.). Have some kind awareness of your own feelings. Touch your feelings with your breath. Consider what you might need (time to breathe, consideration, reassurance, etc.). Attend to and befriend your own inner life.
Next, see if you can step into the other person’s shoes. Consider how they’re feeling, especially beneath the anger or frustration they’re presenting. (Maybe they are worried about being rejected, worried about a partner who’s ill, feeling lonely, or having they’re own leg caught in a trap some how).
Finally, sense how you might communicate in a way that is honest and not blaming. Be nonjudgmental, and speak from your own feelings and experiences. Try to do no harm – don’t evoke more defensiveness or hostility. Remind yourself of an intention to communicate with more understanding and connection. (ie: “I realize my voice was getting louder because I was feeling afraid that you weren’t listening to me. I want to be able to work on this together”, etc.).
Try to practice these four steps whenever you are communicating, particularly around some conflict. See if you don’t start to feel more ease in your communications.
Being as conscious and mindful as you can be about your communications can help your personal and work relationships, and help you be more effective and resilient in your day-to-day dealings.
For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.