5 Steps To Tackling Sensitive Issues
You ever pouring out your heart to your mate and they're nodding their head, making eye contact and generally letting you know they're listening, but when they respond, it's like they didn't hear anything that came out of your mouth? Or have you ever been listening to your mate explain why something bothers them and they're dragging the conversation on so long you're falling asleep just trying to pay attention?
Or how about realizing that you've argued about the same thing about 12 times in the past 3 months and still can't get on the same page?
Yea, I feel you.
We often don't realize how our communication styles affect the outcome of our conversations and wind up just walking away feeling even more frustrated.
The thing is, there's a lot more to listening than just hearing someone. And there's a lot more to speaking than spewing whatever comes to mind [or heart]. Many of us communicate passively, doing just enough to move onto something else we'd rather be doing. Like sleeping. Or watching the latest episode of Shark Tank.
Now considering this topic was quite the popular one at last week's A New Approach To Us: Couples Workshop, I wanted to share with you some of the tips I gave to the attendees on having an effective conversation about touchy issues:
For The Speaker:
Most of us have poor timing when it comes to communication. "It's on my mind, so we should talk about it now, right?" Not really.
Approach the conversation with respect for your partner's time and interest in having the conversation. The moment they walk through the door or when they're in the middle of focusing on something else isn't the best time to discuss your financial struggles.
Just ask. "Hey, do you have a few minutes to chat? If now's not good, when can you give me a few minutes of your time?
Think about what you need to say before you say it. It's so easy to get caught up in our feelings and continue to ramble on and on.
If it helps at all, write down your thoughts on a post it [a small post-it, not one of those huge pads, lol] and break them down into the main points you need to get across.
It's okay to not explain every detail and to leave space for your partner to ask questions so you can elaborate on the parts they don't understand.
For The Listener:
It's easy to justify cutting your mate off mid-sentence when you think what they're saying is wrong/stupid/non-sensical/dumb.
The same way they respected your time and interest in the conversation, do the same by giving them the space to speak their mind.
Bite your tongue. Check your ego at the door. Open up your ears. Open up your heart. Be curious. Listen deeply and with the intent to truly understand what they're saying.
Let Them Know You're Listening
If there's one thing most people in relationships complain about, it's not feeling heard/understood. It's not only frustrating for the person who doesn't feel heard, it's also tiring for the person trying to [unsuccessfully] understand their partner.
BEFORE you give feedback or offer your own response to what they said, let them know you heard by paraphrasing their statements.
"So what you mean is..."
"If I'm hearing you correctly, you feel _____ because of _____?"
If you didn't get it correct, let them have the floor again to help you understand. Don't move on to anything else until you understand completely what it is they're putting on the table.
Now switch roles and do it again! This gives you the opportunity to BOTH feel heard and be understood, so you don't have to deal with the frustrations of having to revisit the conversation over and over again in the future.