This week, I want to provide four quick and easy skills for interacting with others. These four simple skills will make a world of difference in the conversations and arguments you will have, and I am excited to share them with you!
There are times in our interactions with others where we get upset, defensive, argumentative, and frustrated. Unfortunately, it’s going to happen to the best of us. However, there are ways to better interact and be aware of how we are communicating to help keep the conversation at a civil, calm level of discussion and reasoning. It’s inevitable that we are going to argue with our family, our spouse, our best friend, our boss….But how can we do it in a way where we will be heard, and more able to hear what others are saying to us? I know for myself I find it difficult to be willing to listen when I am in a defensive state of mind. All I am thinking about is what I want to say next rather than trying to listen to what is being said. This is really counterproductive in any type of relationship.
Try these four skills:
- Use ‘I feel’ statements. ‘I feel’ statements is a skill used to calmly tell someone what we are thinking in a way that includes our feelings, which in turn helps the other person understand where we are at emotionally, and why we may be reacting a certain way.
For example, let’s say in a conversation with your significant other they raise their voice before saying, “Ugh, you’re pissing me off and you’re not listening to a word I am saying!”. How would this make you feel? I can feel my blood boiling just thinking about it! How would this not be helpful, and how would you respond? You may say something impulsive and hurtful which leads to more arguing and hurt feelings on both sides. Also, this does not resolve anything.
Now, how much easier would it be for you to respond if your significant other instead said “I feel hurt and frustrated when you do not appear to be listening to me when you are on your phone.”? A touchy topic can be more calmly discussed and resolved if approached by using “I feel ____ when you _______ ” statements.
Think of a time you were interacting with someone which turned into an argument, and you felt really defensive. Why were you feeling defensive in that moment? What was said to you that upset you? Also think of a time that you really upset someone else during a conversation which turned into an argument. Why were they upset with you? Could using an ‘I feel’ statement have assisted in the situation?
- Do not name call, and do not raise your voice. Sounds easy enough, right? But we all know this is easier said than done sometimes. All I can say here is try really hard to focus on the way we speak to others. So much greatness can be accomplished if we focus on resolving an issue rather than adding fuel to the fire. Some thoughts are better left unsaid, and keeping a calm demeanor is respectful and will be well received. Plus, we really don’t want to hurt the ones we care about which is exactly what we are doing by name calling and getting loud. Remind yourself that you are on the same team as that person, and want the same end goal. You would not be spending time having this conversation or argument if you did not feel value in continuing a relationship with that person.
- Do not use statements with the words ‘always’ and ‘never’. Another situation which will cause us to get really defensive really fast. ‘Always’ and ‘never’ should not be used in conversations or arguments because, simply, it is not true.
It’s okay to get upset at your husband for rarely taking out the trash. But, approaching him with saying “you never take out the trash!” will trigger him to think of all the times he has taken out the trash and think you do not notice. ‘Always’ and ‘never’ are bold words, and hearing them can be really discouraging. Try avoiding ‘always’ and ‘never’, and add in an ‘I feel’ statement to ensure the conversation goes smoothly.
- Agree to disagree. At the end of the day, sometimes it is okay to accept that we are not on the same page, and it may stay that way. We all know that people do not always agree on everything, and everyone’s perspectives are different. It is okay to hear each other out and learn from one another while understanding that you are not going to change each other’s minds. To be able to ‘agree to disagree’ is a skill, and is not always easy to do.
Listening is huge when it comes to ‘agreeing to disagree’. We must listen to and try to understand others’ perspectives even when we disagree. It takes discipline and patience to listen when we do not want to. However, in doing so it helps us to become more open-minded individuals. Being open-minded is helpful in our work and our relationships with people, and helps in our understanding for people and their life choices, beliefs, and circumstances. And who wouldn’t want to be a more understanding and open-minded individual?!
If you just communicate, you can get by. But if you communicate skillfully, you will work miracles.