Hurt, defensiveness, anger, resentment and confusion are some of the unpleasant emotions that many people experience in their daily communication with the people they expect to spend the most enjoyable time with. Quick exchanges or what I call “reactive communication” can turn into longstanding battles that suck the love and life out of enjoyable relationships. To avoid this kind of communication I encourage people to learn to respond instead of react in their communication.
One of the simplest ways to transition from reacting to responding is to pay attention to the pace of your conversations. Most relationships have a rhythm to their communication, largely based on the background of each person. If you come from a culture that speaks rapidly or relishes quick-witted responses it will be particularly valuable for you to slow down the pace of your conversations to make room for six things that contribute to a well-balanced conversation.
After slowing the pace, you will need recognize how you’ve experienced the situation or comment at hand. I encourage people, as much as possible, to hold your initial feelings and thoughts lightly, so that you can gain clarity before totally investing in that particular perception. It’s challenging to feel hurt or offended and not react right away, but that is precisely what we are working towards.
Another element you will need to acquire for this well-balanced conversation is an accurate understanding of the other person’s experience throughout the conversation. Seeing how many hurts can occur and wounds reinjured in a three minute exchange will definitely change your way of conversing. Nevertheless, it will take great restraint to refrain from defending your position, thus the need to slow the pace of the conversation so you can talk yourself through it.
The largest challenge and perhaps the most important part of “responding” is appreciating how the person could have interpreted the experience. THEN, you finally get to voice your experience. The elementary school lesson of taking turns proves to be extremely powerful for adults as well. In fact, the beauty of it is seen particularly when one sincerely attempts to understand (comprehend) and then be understanding (show compassion) toward the other person. After this kind of experience people are reminded that they do care for each other and coming up with a plan to communicate or behave differently is much easier.
So, there you have it, 1) slow the pace, 2) be aware of your perception, 3) get clarity on what you’ve heard or interpreted, 4) gain an understanding of the other person’s experience, 5) share your experience and 6) create a plan to move forward differently. When presented in six steps, one can presume that I believe it to simple, when in fact, I believe it to be the most challenging task one can undertake. Nevertheless, building this kind f skill will benefit you and your family for generations to come. I experienced a twenty minute well-balanced conversation last night. What started as a quick exchange turned into a deep and rewarding conversation. I am so thankful I have learned how to respond and not just react. I am also grateful for a partner who will slow down and respond with me.
If I can experience this, I believe you can too!
Have a great day!!!