Many of the dilemmas my clients face could have been resolved many months or even years in advance if only proper communication had been exercised. Yet, no one is to blame, even university professionals are not taught the philosophy behind “constructive communication”.
This philosophy uses verbal communication to welcome any uncomfortable, aggressive or negative interaction with another person(s) and seeks not only to resolve the situation but to improve the relationship. This is very important to remember because it will the anchor while things may apparently get heated or worse as communication is engaged.
The process is based on four facets:
#1. Ground Yourself– In my opinion the biggest error in trying to communicate is not having one’s own emotions balanced and the mind rational. Whatever the situation and however insulting it may feel it is infinitely better to allow yourself some time to regroup and get consciously prepared for “constructive communication”. This is very challenging when one has been hurt or is being the innocent victim of a very unfair situation, but there is a foolproof way to ground yourself; you must communicate with yourself first. Tell, assure and promise yourself that you understand your emotions, but to give your emotions and logic a little time window to try to resolve things through communication first. After, make a commitment to yourself that if communication does not work, you will take the necessary actions to make sure this never happens to you again. Mean it too!
#2. Ask– Once you are grounded and inwardly balanced, you can approach the other party and ask if they have a few minutes to discuss something (specify the time needed). Also, ask how they are doing, something may have upset them beforehand and this may be why they acted out. Many times you may just need to listen and understand, that not all of us are conscious of how our emotions control our words or acts, this is a learned process. After, having received approval to talk for a specific amount of time and having wisely listened, now you can express yourself. It is crucial that you politely ask not to be interrupted and that you clarify that this may not have been what was said or what happened, but that this is how you perceived it. Now, you can tell your version, with all the bells and whistles.
#3. Confirm– As you say your version interruptions will probably occur, politely wait, listen and wait some more, this not only deflates the other person’s tension, but it also enforces your communication skills; after the interruption is finished, “confirm” that this is your version and how you feel, not necessarily what really happened. As you talk, confirm the goal of your relationship to this person(s) and that it is your intention that the relationship becomes better as time progresses. Also, ask if they would like this as well. Most of the time people want to get along and improve things. There will be some cases where some will not or may try to get by without committing, this is a time to confirm, confirm and confirm again, to make sure. This is crucial for the next step.
#4. Reaffirm– Remember the commitment you made to yourself when seeking to be grounded? This is the time to do good on that promise to yourself. If the other party has understood your position and you feel comfortable with their responses and body language, then reaffirm one last time the goals of the relationship and the desire to polish it even more as time goes by. If, however you feel that the other party was indifferent, negative, or destructive in its response, reaffirm this as well right there and then verbally. Make sure your reaffirmations are properly heard and well understood.
After the communication is finished, now it is time for you to have a little meeting with yourself and replay the event. If a positive response was given, you created something good and your efforts paid off. If the response was negative, through your own initiative, you uncovered something that needs to be dealt with and you owe it to yourself to start planning immediate actions to avoid further negativity.
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