Isn’t it ironic that the most important conversations we have, are often the ones we totally screw up?!
When the stakes are high, our ability to communicate decreases.
Think about it, our emotions run high when it’s a person, or a topic close to our hearts. Be it a difficult conversation with your best friend, a lover’s quarrel with your partner, workplace tension, or voicing your opinion in a family
dispute. Yet when it’s something we feel neutral about, oh yes – the clearest, easiest, most effective communication yet!
Our bodies are hard-wired to react with the flight or fight response – yet now days we’re not running from wild lions, there is no imminent danger to our lives. We are just trying to communicate clearly, and effectively to other people about something really important to us. That level of emotion, and physical response isn’t really necessary anymore, in fact it completely hinders our ability to succeed.
Hardly fair is it?
Think about the last time you had a difficult conversation with someone. How did you feel? How did the conversation go? Did you feel like you were in control, composed, clearly expressing your view? Or was your heart beating faster, underarms a little damp, face a little hotter – trying hard to communicate candidly, but getting lost in translation? Sometimes I feel like these conversations are a runaway train that I am desperately trying to get back on track.
I often find that the level of success I have with crucial conversations directly correlates to the level of importance I place on them.
When I have no emotional involvement, I am detached from the situation and/or the outcome – and of course, that’s when I communicate the best. But flip that over to something I’m deeply attached to, or invested in, and boom – all effective verbal communication seems to fail me.
We need people in our lives with whom we can be as open as possible. To have real conversations with people may seem like such a simple, obvious suggestion, but it involves courage and risk.”
– Thomas Moore
Thankfully there’s some tools we can utilise to better equip ourselves for these difficult conversations. Because remember, these are the ones that are the most important to us. They are the ones that will affect us the most, so you want to make sure they go well.
5 crucial conversation tools
1. Breathe – sounds simple, but sometimes hitting the pause button, biting your tongue and reconnecting to your breath is the most effective thing you can do. It gives your body a chance for the emotion to subside a little, and for you to gain clarity on how you want to proceed.
2. Listen – listen, listen, listen and then ask strategic questions. We often listen only with the intent to reply, as opposed to actually understanding what the other person is trying to convey. So before you start forming your response, or planning your next sentence, STOP. Clear your mind and listen purely with the intent to understand.
3. Commit – get clear on what you are committed to through the conversation. When emotions boil up to the surface, take a moment to remember why you are having this conversation. What brought you here? What are you committed to achieving? Focus on the outcome, rather than the twists and bends in the process. If you focus on your own commitment, you will worry less about how the other person reacts or responds. Having a commitment will steer you in the right direction.
4. Enrol – share with the other person what it is that you are comitted to. Having the commitment is one thing, but sharing it gains much more strength. Enrol them into what it is that you want to create or achieve together. You have the ability to move, touch or inspire them into the possibility of you both achieving this outcome together, as a team. This removes the ‘you’ Vs ‘me’ mentality, and breaks down the barriers preventing effective communication.
5. Reconvene – If all else fails, know that you can remove yourself from the situation. You are not a tree. Perhaps the best action is to take a step back, reflect, debrief and gather your thoughts. So that you can re-enter the conversation at a later date more effectively. Time is a magical healer. Just don’t wait too long, a day or two max. Don’t let things linger as the conversation will become harder the longer you put it off.
* Remember – YOU ARE NOT RUNNING FROM LIONS! !
You are just TALKING.
So pop these tools in your tool belt the next time you enter a crucial conversation. You might just find that you can nail these little tough guys!
Like anything, these will become easier with practice.
I resolve to make each tough conversation better than the last.
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