Face-to-Face Communication for the Conflict Averse
The digital age we live in makes it easy for us to distance ourselves from the emotional impact of our words. Thanks to digital communication, we can be outrageous and downright rude yet remain completely detached from the effect our words have on the recipient’s psyche. Email, text messaging and comment threads in social media posts allow us to be quite venomous if we choose to be. At work, you may hastily send off a scathing email to a colleague and think nothing of it. Email and text messaging have a way of shielding us from uncomfortable conversations. I have a friend whose husband asked for a divorce via text message. That was a definite conflict avoidance technique!
Face to face interaction, however, brings about a whole other set of circumstances. It makes us a bit more sensitive to the feelings of others, and to the combat that may erupt if we say something that annoys the other person. Whether you are afraid to make a woman cry or afraid of making someone angry, or just want everyone to love you, face-to-face communication can be uncomfortable when you’ve got something unpleasant to say.
“Email is for people who don’t want to talk to each other!”
- Someone I once knew
While digital communication may make things quick and easy, sometimes face-to-face communication is required. For those who don’t relish conflict, that can be quite uncomfortable. People who don’t think well on their feet, may also struggle with face to face communication. There’s nothing worse than thinking of all the things you should have said, three hours too late. So how can you ensure that your voice is heard and all of your points are covered in a critical face-to-face discussion? Here are a few tips to try:
Make a list: Before you arrange to have that uncomfortable discussion, write down some key points that you want to cover. Refer to the list if you need to and if, during the course of your conversation, the list becomes unnecessary, then no harm was done.
Let go of your need to be liked: If you’ve got something important to say, and you want to be understood, then you can’t hold on to your need for love and approval. Quieting that voice inside you may take some effort, depending on what kind of person you are. Your needs are important too and if you genuinely like who you are, then others will like and respect you because of it. People who need others to like them get in their own way. They end up never telling the truth and then losing control of their emotions at the most inopportune time. Tell yourself a different story so that you can remove your emotion and insecurity from the conversation.
Don’t try to be a mind reader: We humans spend entirely too much time trying to figure out what people are thinking. Since when were somebody else’s thoughts anybody’s business? Hey, our thoughts are private and your interpretation of another person’s thought or intentions is based on your personal emotional baggage. Step back and remove yourself from the emotion. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Your life will suddenly get much simpler.
Get to the point: If you’ve got something uncomfortable to say, then take a deep breath and open up the conversation. Try opening with a line like, “Something’s really been bugging me and I was hoping you could bring a little clarity to the situation for me.” This line lets the other person know there is a problem without making them feel defensive. Since you are not a mind reader, there is no point in accusing people of things based on your feelings. Am I right?
Don’t speak in anger: I’ve never been easily able to speak up when I am angry. Some see that as a flaw, but I see it as a benefit. I need time to synthesize information and determine how important an issue really is to me. Some people blow up immediately and want to fight on the spot. I frustrate those people, but in the end, I think it is better, because once I settle down, I can think clearly and speak without being overcome by emotion. If the issue is still a big deal a day or two later, then I will broach the subject. Anything really important will still be important a day or two later. If you are being pushed into a fight, explain that you need some time to think about things. Most people can respect that.
Be open to resolution: Never fight for the sake of fighting. That is annoying behaviour. Besides, it is hard to respect the opinions of combative people. Therefore, if you want to be able to be heard, you must respect the other person’s position and look for a reasonable solution. Both parties should be able to live with the end result. If your mindset is to have your way, no matter what, then you will be fighting for a long time. Decide in advance what you are willing to live with and open yourself up to other ideas.
Conflict may be the start of a discussion, but it doesn’t have to become an argument. Be mature, detach yourself from the need to win or the need to be loved, and you will walk away feeling pretty darn good. Trust me. I know.
Here are a few of my other blog posts on communication. If you find this or any of my posts helpful, please feel free to share.
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