How Does Your Message Land?
Are you aware of how your communication lands when speaking with someone? As we strengthen our emotional intelligence, we gain insight into how we impact those around us. It’s not uncommon to speak with good intentions and realize that the receiving party has become uncomfortable, so much so that they are defensive.
Reflecting on how a conversation might have escalated when you felt misunderstood is a great way to break your unhelpful communication pattern. When we take the time to explore contributing factors that escalated into an argument, we can learn about ourselves and make the necessary changes. Is it what we said? Perhaps it’s our tone. Maybe it’s our delivery.
Considering the efforts we make to engage in productive sensitive conversations, having an undesired outcome can be puzzling. The following are 6 helpful strategies when having sensitive conversations:
- Avoid using absolute words such as “always” and “never.” We don’t want to attack and put the receiver in a defensive mode.
- Use “I-statements” and point out the specific behavior that bothers you, such as, “I feel nervous when you don’t come home on time.” If you label or generalize instead of stating a specific behavior, it will not land properly. Which would we prefer to hear: “When you’re lazy,” or, “When you don’t call me”?
- State what you want. For example, “I would like for you to call me if you’re running late.”
- Avoid addressing other issues. Focus on one situation at a time. It’s easy to open the flood gates and try to deal with so many of the issues rather than the one at hand. This will only dilute the importance of what we’re addressing, and the result will be that we won’t be heard.
- Share why the request is important to you. This step makes it easier for the listener to understand our preference and the reasons for it.
- Be sure you come from a caring stance and not an accusatory place. The above mentioned strategies will only work if we are coming from the perspective of, “You are important to me, and I’d like to make this work.”
If you’re unsure how your message lands, check in with the receiving party with, “What did you hear me say?” or “I’m curious how that sounded to you.” They may even share with us which word or phrase we used that triggered them.
The communication chapter can be found within the Anger Management Essentials workbook, 2nd edition. https://amzn.to/3kXHyZy
Anita Avedian is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (License # LMFT 38403) and has been practicing psychotherapy since 1996. Anita is the Executive Director of both Avedian Counseling Center and Anger Management 818, a boutique group practice servicing the Greater Los Angeles area. Her specialties include working with relationships, anger, social anxiety, general anxiety, and addictions. She also has been certified in Thought Field Therapy(TFT) and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), both of which she integrates into her practice. Anita offers a monthly anger management certification program to counselors. Anger Management Essentials is an approved National Anger Management Association (NAMA) model that is used for anger management certification.
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