Have you ever landed in this situation? You’re having a conversation with your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, child, friend… and quicker than you can blink, your good discussion takes a nose dive into bickering. Pinging each other back and forth, jabs, maybe a tear or twenty, ugh. What happened???
Not that anything like that has ever happened to me (audible throat clearing)… but I have been thinking about how two people, who arguable want the same thing – to get along – so easily take the plunge into bickering and hurt feelings. The truth of it is that there are actually four of you in that conversation. You, your spouse (or another innocent bystander), your ego and their ego. Yep. As soon as one of you says something that your ego takes sideways, it’s on and cracking. And in no time at all, the other person’s ego takes over too.
What if you chose a different way? What if you consciously said to yourself before your conversation that you know the other person has your best interest at heart, and what if you believed it? Ok…marinate on that for a minute.
So there are things you say that start the slide, but inevitably, other factors come into play. When we think about how we communicate, most of us know it’s not just our words. Here are a couple that get me into trouble. Tone and facial expressions. I don’t think I have tone, but have been told I do…more than once…this week. I TRY not to have tone but I’m not Siri. It just happens. Now, that’s not an excuse but, man, it’s a tough one. But tone can take the innocent comment and make it criticism, or mocking in a heartbeat. I could wish the other person was “tone deaf” but somehow that never seems to happen, and I bet it doesn’t happen in your situations either.
Now for the facial expressions. Any of you who know me are probably laughing right now. Am I happy? Look at my face. Sad? Again, the face. Mad, irritated confused, sad…face, face, face, face. It seems to involuntarily become a flashing neon sign of how I’m feeling, whether I say anything or not. I’d like to call it one of the things that makes me quirky, and it is. But again, when trying to have a healthy conversation, it can severely mess me up. I’ve tried before to deny the emotion when called on it, but that usually falls pretty flat.
We have a lot of opportunities each day to practice our communication, and some count more than others. Go back to the ego for a minute. If you were successful in doing a gut check on where yours’ is, you may have found that it has a mind of it’s own. Combine that with tone, facial and body expressions and your actual words and you can either foster a great, healthy, relationship building conversation, or you can end up frustrated, mad, sad…you name it.
What if, today, you started checking in with yourself and took inventory of the ways you communicate? The non-verbal ways. Think about what you may want to change, and how committed you are to making that change. If it’s important and you’re committed, stop for a minute and write down three things you will commit to that will change the way you communicate. And then? Start practicing.
My final thought is back to intent. Remember, you and the other person want the same thing, to have a good conversation, do your part to make it happen.