Have you experienced being told to shut up when you were a kid?
Have you been in situations where your ideas have been pushed to the side and criticized?
Have you been in discussions that eventually turned to arguments?
Most of us have experienced being in these situations and based on how we reacted may have contributed to how we handle difficult moments in our present life. The negative feelings these experiences created make people run away from issues and problems rather than facing them head-on. It further prevents us from being open and honest with how we feel. We become evasive, and then it becomes comfortable for us to keep quiet. But in our silence, there’s a raging battle in our minds why we did not take the stand, why we did not voice out our opinions, why we did not dare to have “that” conversation.
Last week, a good friend told me that she had an open and honest conversation with a friend who is also a business competitor. Months before this conversation, my friend has been uneasy about being part of an organization where her close friend (and competitor) is also an active member. She does not want their friendship to suffer, so she took the courage to speak with her competitor friend and clear whatever assumptions they have in their minds. They had a good conversation, and each one was open and honest. They listened, respected each other, and they did not argue. Now, both are willing to stay with the organization, and they carved non-competing positions for both of them. My friend gained peace of mind and a stronger friendship out of bravely facing the issue.
I sometimes struggle to be forthright in conversations, especially those that entail correcting a mistake or giving opinions. I find that it drains so much of my energy. There are several instances where I chose to turn my back on issues that need to be resolved or engage myself in heated arguments, just because I need to get my point across.
Being honest in conversations does not necessarily mean that one must be rude and argumentative. Over time, I found out that the key to having a productive, respectful and honest dialogue or conversation is to listen and be open-minded. Once I started to listen intently and developed a mindset of respecting other people’s opinions and beliefs, I noticed that I become less and less argumentative. Also, solutions to problems quickly come, and ideas flourish because I welcomed them with openness.
Now, when faced with difficult situations, I do the following:
- REFLECT ON THE SITUATION BEFORE ACTING. I gauge the situation or problem first – whether there’s an urgency to resolve it, whether it is worthwhile to fix it, whether the other party is open to having a respectful dialogue. I also check on my emotions before engaging in a conversation. If my feelings are high or if I’m stressed, I’ll wait for me to stabilize before I start “the” conversation. Having a stable emotion also creates a clear mind. My coach also once told me that certain situations are worth turning our backs from, requiring a lot of maturity and wisdom. This advice is especially true when we know that the other party is immature and always engages in heated arguments. Situations like this take time to resolve, and it may require you to take the higher road.
- VISUALIZE THE DESIRED OUTCOME. I usually play in my mind how the conversation will sound like, what words I will use, the possible reactions and where the exchange will occur. It’s similar to role-playing. This practice helps me prepare and be confident, and at the same time, minimizes mistakes and heated conversations because I have chosen the right words to say, words that will convey the message and yet will not disrespect the listener. I am a firm believer in how powerful our minds are, what we conceive in it and believe, we achieve (Napoleon Hill).
- BE PREPARED TO LISTEN, REALLY LISTEN. I’m guilty of sometimes interrupting when someone is speaking and trying to get their points across. This behavior usually happens when I don’t listen intently, and instead, my mind is busy preparing what I will say next. What’s ironic is that I find this behavior offensive when done to me. And I know that when I interrupt, I don’t necessarily listen to the other person’s point. Listening is difficult but essential if our goal is to resolve, create harmony and maintain relations. It is easy to talk than to listen sincerely. Meditation can help beforehand as this helps clear your mind of the traffic. When you feel like you are about to interrupt, take a deep breath and hold your tongue until the person is finished talking. When you notice your mind is drifting when somebody is talking, make a conscious effort to “come back” and focus on the other person’s message. Validate your understanding by asking questions like “If I hear you correctly, what you mean to say is this…” or “My understanding of what you just said is…, am I right?” Validation also sends a message of respect to the other person. When it’s time for you to speak, do it with a moderate and friendly tone. Speak at a pace that you will be better understood.
Finally, come to a mutually acceptable resolution. When we are not busy thinking who wins in the dialogue, and we start to give importance to respectfully resolving issues, then everybody comes out a winner!
If you like what you just learned and is looking to further your skills – in your career, in leadership, communication, and selling – let’s connect! Please send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Facebook and Instagram at Coached By Joy.
A coach is your strategist. A coach is your ally. A coach is committed to your success.