Fact: When someone feels offended, they hear 10 seconds of what you say. (That is about three sentences.) Then they start planing their response and stop listening.
Some of us erupt when when we feel upset. (Read more about fighting smarter here.) It can be hard to think about speaking carefully. Other people implode and say nothing, which also makes communication difficult. Which one are you?
The big problem is often we think someone has “DONE” something to us. We say “You made me feel this way!!!”, and we legitimately believe that person is responsible for our experience.
Some people are inconsiderate. But most people are not intentionally walking around trying to hurt anyone.
Fighting can be extremely stressful. Communication gets broken and people disconnect. The question is: do you want to constantly be in a power struggle with someone? Or do you just want to have a positive experience with your wishes being communicated (and hopefully met)?
Here is a way to communicate what you need without turning it into a fight.
Let’s say someone is LATE, again…
Make an observation. “I usually seem to be the first one to arrive.” (Instead of, “You are always late!!!!”)
Express how you feel about the observation. “I feel frustrated, as we agreed to meet at 5pm.”
Make a specific behaviour request. “I would appreciate if you can be on time in the future. This tardiness affects the rest of my day.”
The most important thing when communicating is to share the experience from your end. Do not tell someone else how they should see it.
It is also important to suggest a solution. This also is known as a boundary. This allows another person to understand how you would like to be treated.
Let’s play out a scenario.
Say your partner sends you a text message at 9am. You’ve both gone your separate ways to work.
The text reads, “I am really upset with you. I will talk to you after work about it. I can’t believe you sometimes…”
Obviously this will create concern. It very well may consume your day. You will worry about what is bothering your partner.
How are you going to react? Which sounds better?
“Why are you sending me these cryptic messages that leave me stressed out all day! I can’t get any work done. I hate when you do this to me. You always play mind games with me. Learn to communicate! Stop with your drama, and just tell me what is going on!”
“I see you suggested that we speak about something important at the end of the day. I feel concerned with this request, and that you are upset. In the future, I would appreciate if you can discuss this with me in person, instead of sending a cryptic message. I find myself unable to concentrate on things, knowing something is wrong for you.”
Can you feel the difference in these two approaches? What approach would you be more likely like to receive?
Communication can be difficult. Help yourself by being the bigger person in each situation. Although it can feel easier to erupt with frustration, learning to communicate from a calm mindful place is an excellent skill to have.
Your children will trigger you. Your partner will trigger you. When you practice non-defensive communication, you will have healthier relationships with people.
You are teaching your child how to communicate as well – always keep that in mind with how you react.