Welcome back to OnGoingGrowing! Today we are looking at new skills around the theme of Conversation, that I have learnt and practised lately and they brought great benefit to my relationships and I would like to share them with you so you can use them too!
At times where conversations turn south, whether we are or our partner is triggered and hurt. At times where the respect is gone from these conversations: We are hurt. At times where there is no mutual purpose anymore: We fight or flight. We attack or are attacked and each new attempt at communicating ending this way is making us grow apart from our loved ones. It leads us to isolation and makes us feel misunderstood.
These conversations that I just described, don’t have to be the way we do relationship. There are better ways and I wanted to bring to you my recent experiences and the principles I learned. These principles in this article are from the same book I’ve mentioned in my previous post: You’re a Slave or You’re a Master: Your Stories will Decide. The book is called: Crucial Conversations and I highly recommend it. It will offer you many tools to help you handle crucial conversations and give you insights in why we naturally struggle so much with them. This book is also incredible to help with your self-awareness when stakes are high!
Let’s get more specific about what crucial conversation are so I can introduce 3 key principles on how to lead them effectively.
We are talking about times that important conversations of your life, with your spouse or at work with your boss, are getting emotional or heated. In such crucial moments, there is often a lack of capacity in us as emotional beings to maintain a healthy dialogue, often we destroy our shot at dialogue quite quickly and go to the “point of no return”.
This happens partly due to lack of safety in the way we “exchange” important matters with others.
The 3 keys can be used individually or together to bring back safety.
Bringing safety means moving out of the content of the crucial conversation and instead look at what is happening and what just happened. More than often, one of the persons involved (or both) turns to silence or violence and that is a sign that we need to restore safety in that moment.
Here are the key principles that through practice and commitment grant you the power to restore peace in your relationships:
Key 1: Apologise
Often when conversations turn crucial, the respect could easily be gone. Our defensive walls rise, anger likely joins the party and resentment were likely there for a little while already. Even if we feel like the victim in such a situation, someone needs to bring back to the conversation to safety. Even if we are the victim, there is very likely something to genuinely apologise for.
Was your intention good? Were you speaking harshly? Were you rude or even sarcastic?
One important concept in that book is that we need to ask ourselves “what do we want?” when we are in a crucial conversation. If I take in consideration the discussions I had with my wife, I want us to communicate openly, I want us to feel listened to but also having the ability the express one’s opinion, I want us to feel safe and close. So at times, I will have to be the bigger person and apologise first, even in a situation I could feel I am the victim (or be assertive). What it usually create is an apology back from my wife, as she will see that we both crossed some lines and we are both willing admit it.
“I am sorry my Love, I just realized that I was defensive and not really listening”
“I am sorry Sweetie, I raised my voice to control your the situation”
A simple apology like that can bring back your conversation to safety, where both partners feel that it is okay to share, to be vulnerable and it is time to continue that discussion deeper. This will allow the continuation of the discussion making it deeper and flowing, instead of being stuck in arguments, stubbornness.
Key 2: Contrast
This key is the one I need to keep close to my mind at all times. The one I need to use even more than I currently do. When we share with my wife, we had in the past, the habit to only talk about the concern, the worry or the issue at hand.
This makes the issue bigger than intended as it is “big enough” to be shared with the other. As the issue is the only thing being shared the focus makes it grow in significance. That’s how a small issue becomes bigger than it actually is and how things are blown out of proportion. The partner who is on the receiving end of the exchange due to personal nature of the content of the conversation puts the whole conversation at risk of an exaggeration because it is sometimes hurtful to receive. Does such a situation ring a bell to you?
Contrasting became something that my wife and I tend to do a lot and we do it more since we’ve both listened to the “Crucial Conversations” audiobook.
We put context on what we are about to share. Sometimes we say what we don’t mean first, to reduce the chances of misunderstanding.
“My love, I don’t mean to attack you. What I feel is…”
“Sweetheart, I love you very much and I just wanted to share with you something small but that is bothering to me lately. I want to share it with you before small things like this becomes an issue. Would that be okay?”
As well, it’s okay to say what you really want to:
“What I want to share with you is how I feel, it’s not an attack nor I want solutions for it. “
An easy one to use right?
I do that more and more and sometimes I still use it poorly which it isn’t helping that much. But overall I find our conversations clearer, we both understand if it is a huge issue or just a minor one, we both understand the intention of the other and we are improving the way we communicate that way.
Key 3: Create a mutual purpose
That last key is a small process that you can follow with your partner to help go through that crucial conversation you need to have. This is known as CRIB:
- Commit to seek mutual purpose
- Recognise the purpose behind the strategies (the ones you were using so far)
- Invent a Mutual Purpose
- Brainstorm New strategies
Commit to seek mutual purpose
The first step is simple on paper but harder to get in reality at times. One of the partners might believe that there is no point in doing that, particularly if you have a complicated past around communicating openly and finding win/win solution.
Recognise the purpose behind the strategies
The second step is recognizing what games were we playing. This requires you to reflect back and ask yourself a few questions: Was I manipulating? Was I controlling? Was I snappy? Was I victimising?
Once your mind games become exposed as a result of being put “under the microscope”, an opportunity for an apology may open up. This will allow you to move on to the next step with a more honest and open intention for communication.
Invent a Mutual Purpose
The third step is defining what you both want to achieve with that conversation. What outcomes can you agree on? What aspects of the relationship do you want to honour and respect while resolving the conflict?
Brainstorm New strategies
After you successfully went through the first 3 steps it’s time to find new strategies to bring the conversation to the mutually desired resolution! A new strategy doesn’t have to be a complex thing. Sometimes it is just communicating until we both feel understood. Other times it is taking ownership of actions to do for both of you to realise a common goal or project and following it through.
Call to Action
I hope you appreciated this article and that it will bring value to your life and your relationships. These principles apply to any conversations and I suggest to listen or read the book to go further.
Which conversations are you holding on to? Would you want to apply these keys to help you get through these conversations?
If you find conversations difficult, especially in your intimate relationship there is a chance that you are thinking of leaving as a part of the solution.
“If you are asking yourself if you should leave your partner, instead ask yourself which crucial conversations you should have with her/him”
Lastely, if you linked that post, you will love this one: A Solid Way to Strengthen Your Relationship in Times of Struggle