People often complain that there is not enough communication, but the truth is, there is plenty of it. The real problem is that it is bad communication. Learning to communicate from a sincere, honest place - not from our old hurts - is not an easy task. With these 10 tips, you can say what you need to say without creating more drama.
1. Before the conversation, set an intention and write it down. Truthfully look at what you hope to accomplish. If it is to blame or to get an apology, then wait at least 24 hours.
2. Approach the person in a welcoming tone (not aggressive, defensive, or passive). Start by saying, “I need to have an honest conversation with you.” This gives the person the opportunity to realize that this is not going to be a run-of-the-mill conversation, however, if your tone is welcoming, it will likely create a good opening to proceed.
3. Ask, “Is this a good time?” This allows the person to determine whether it is a good time for them or not. Waiting for a good time to have a difficult conversation can be the difference between a positive outcome and a negative one.
4. Make it about you. If you’re pointing the finger (i.e. you did this, you didn’t do that, you made me feel/do, etc.), it makes you a victim and puts the other person on the defensive. This discharge of anger might make you feel powerful, but in reality it puts you in a position of complete powerlessness. So instead of pointing the finger and blaming, take responsibility for what you contributed to the problem.
5. Allow the person time to respond without interrupting or defending yourself. Give them the benefit of the doubt and stand in the possibility of being wrong so that you can at least hear their side of the “story.” One thing I can almost guarantee is that you’ll find their version of the truth to be a whole lot different than yours.
6. Get out of your perspective and into theirs by trying to imagine how they might be feeling - visualize them as a hurt child as they recount their version of events. This can help you understand why they feel the way they do and behave the way they behave.
7. Do not question the person’s identity, or else there will be no way to resolve the issue. For example, if you start by saying that they are a liar and a cheater, you are attacking their identity. If you talk about an instance where the person lied or cheated, you are questioning their behaviour. The difference may seem subtle at first glance, but the latter questions who you are, whereas the former questions what you did. You can change behavior, but you can’t change who you are.
8. Do not go into the conversation with expectations about what you want to hear from the other person. Expectations are premeditated resentments and they will leave you feeling worse after the conversation than before you went in.
9. If there is a lot at stake, you may want to have a role-play practice conversation with a trusted friend prior to going in for the real conversation. Take a few minutes to play out the worst-case scenario and then the best-case scenario. The purpose is to mentally prepare and also to get feedback on things like tone, approach, etc
10. When the conversation is over, look at the intention you wrote on paper, and on a scale of one to ten, evaluate how well you stuck to your intention.
You may be good at day-to-day communication, but communicating emotions is a whole other skill set, one that takes practice to master!