Many of us have no idea where to begin when we find ourselves across from someone who we disagree with. The words fight, flight, or freeze come to mind as our ineffective toolkit of responses. How is that working for you? Not so well for me…
Difficult conversations don’t need to be quite so… difficult.
With a little curiosity, effort, care, and courage any of us can learn to lean in to these moments with more skill. One of my favorite resources to guide my way is a book called Fierce Conversations written by Susan Scott. She shares seven principles to communicate more effectively with one of your kiddos, your partner, a colleague, or anyone else you find yourself not seeing eye to eye.
First of all… fierce means real! Seriously real. How many times do we say yes when we mean no, pretend we feel one way when it’s really another, or don’t say anything at all when we are hurting inside? Each conversation we have with others brings us closer together or farther apart. Make a commitment to nurture the relationship by honoring how you feel and relating to what they have to say. Lean in with serious authenticity and a willingness to make the conversation genuine.
Be Courageous and Interrogate Reality
The truth is… reality changes. What was true about our ten year old a few weeks ago can be very different today. Take a long hard look at the reality of the difficult situation in front of you. Is what you are thinking and believing true? As Byron Katie would ask us… “who would you be without your story?”
This chapter in the book is titled, Come Out from Behind Yourself into the Conversation and Make It Real. Who are you, or who do you wish to be authentically? Are you courageous enough to shine a light deep within and speak your truth? What truly matters for you about this difficult conversation? It’s probably not really that your partner left the dishes in the sink, but more connected to cooperation, respect, or dependability. How about having that conversation?
Practice Mindful Listening
During a difficult situation can you pause for a moment to become present, to be in this moment fully and completely? Can you listen to and speak to the person in front you, while putting aside any stories you may have in your mind from the past fogging things up? Everyone longs to be known and seen for who we are and what we are in this moment.
Meet Your Worst Struggles Head on Today
What happens when we put off dealing with the tough stuff? We almost always make matters worse, and the problem seems to grow, almost taking on a life of its own within our psyche. Your toughest challenges stand between you and the peace and happiness you long for. The things hardest to discuss hold our freedom in chains. This includes stuff like speaking openly and honestly to your teen about relationships, intimacy, and sex. Just do it!
Never Underestimate Your Intuition
Pay attention to the wisdom of your body. Messages are coming to you all day, every day if you are willing to slow down and listen. Tap into this intelligence and trust what is coming through. Discuss it with trusted family members, friends, and colleagues. Abide by the voice within.
Take Responsibility for Your Emotional Wake
Nothing you say to your children or anyone else is meaningless. You have no idea how what you might have said has impacted another. Intention does not always match impact. Conversations are a key part of relationships. Own up to all of the words and messages you put out into the world. Be prepared to address how you might have made someone else feel.
Honor The Gifts Silence Gives Us
Most of us say way too many words. Seriously. Way too many. Can you be still and quiet when in an uncomfortable conversation? What is your relationship to silence? Deeper feelings and hurts often emerge within this space. Silence makes most of us nervous, but it also slows everything down. Insight emerges in the spaces between our thoughts.
Meeting challenges with others is never easy. However, these moments can bring us even closer together when we are willing to bring our full authentic selves to the relationship and to the moment. Which fierce conversation is waiting for you?