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Gillian Sanger

Communicating during difficult conversations

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Communication can be difficult, especially when there are different opinions, outlooks, or needs being expressed. Likewise, when we have something to share that might be painful or difficult for someone to hear, tension, fear, and/or resistance often stand in the way of our ability to communicate clearly and compassionately.

What tips do you have for communicating both confidently and compassionately during tough conversations or circumstances? How do you balance the views and needs of both sides? I'd love to hear any of your personal practices or insights on the matter 🙂 

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It is beneficial for all involved to be a good listener.  Listening for cues as to whether validation is needed or a solution/answer is sought after.  It is best to help lead the other person into answering their own question.  Being able to work through our own situation helps to learn coping mechanisms.  

Repeating what the other said for clarification is very helpful.  Open ended questions are best to get to the core issue.  

Patience and understanding that all opinions are welcome.  And that both can agree to disagree and go on about the day without it changing it. 

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You raise a lot of valid points here @Paige PIlege - agreeing to disagreeing (knowing it's entirely okay to not hold the same viewpoint on things), repeating what has been said (helping us to listen attentively and ensure we're picking up the right overall message), and open ended questions (helping to reduce presumptions we might make).

I think curiosity is an important component too. When someone is sharing something, we can try to stay curious about what is being explored together. I think this helps us to stay open to growth and learning.

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When in a difficult conversation it is good to be prepared to age appropriate information.  True Gillian, having the curiosity to  be willing to accept information from the other person is helpful.  Being honest, authentic and have reliable information is important also when discussing specific topics.  If it is for kids then age appropriate is a must.  

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Thank you for starting this topic! I had an email exchange with a colleague recently that quickly went south.  I am so grateful for my mindful practice so I was able to recognize I was becoming impatient and annoyed and rolling my eyes as I read their response to my information. I had to pause and look back to the initial email and follow it to recognize I had made some assumptions that I should not have made early on. I was able to apologize for my error and ask more open ended questions so I could answer her question appropriately. 

 

That is easier to do in an email situation. But when in a meeting and things get hot it is really challenging for me to even recognize I am reacting emotionally when all I am doing is processing what to say next.  I am working on using open ended questions "Tell me more about that" and "What would that look like to you" To give myself more time to process and to gather more information about where the other party is coming from.  Definitely a work in progress for me!

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@Alshattuck40 - Thank you so much for sharing this! I think it's a work-in-progress for most of us, certainly myself included. That's great you are able to be so mindful of your habitual reactions (like the eye rolling you mentioned). It's easy for those things to go unnoticed or get trapped in our sense of righteousness. Just taking a moment to recognize it I think is so powerful and shows a great deal of wisdom and insightfulness. Apologizing always takes a great deal of courage - that in itself is a powerful practice. Wonderful to hear this!

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Yes I agree, @Gillian SangerWe do not know how powerful we really are until we step back, and contemplate just what we are feeling and responding as.  These response sometimes take practice.  I raised my autistic son who is now 35 years old and I was constantly having to take a second and respond in a specific way.  Once it is missed the value of the response is gone.   Thank you everyone for sharing.  It is beneficial to know we are all in the same boat. 

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