Recently I was having a particularly difficult conversation with a very distraught person. I knew that they were hurt and wanted to make sure I didn’t add to their pain. I also wanted to make sure I was responding correctly and not defensively. It started me to thinking about being intentional about my responses. As we move further into 2015 I would like to share 5 steps to responding correctly. If you are like me, then you have had at least one conversation where you said something you instantly wished you could take back. Unfortunately once we speak the words we cannot get them back. The response can be damaging. So it is imperative that we also understand how not to respond.
How Not to Respond
Responding incorrectly during a conversation can have a very negative, long-term impact. It is necessary to have a plan for how you will respond. Some typical negative responses range from anger to apathy. The body becomes tense. We often feel tight, even clinching our fists. The nonverbal signs can be haunting and yes the words we speak cannot be taken back. So how should you and I prepare ourselves to engage in conversation in order to respond correctly?
5 Steps to Responding Correctly
Here are the 5 steps to responding correctly I use when engaging in conversation; particularly difficult conversations. While they are not sequential each step will help you to respond in a positive manner. This will allow you to make the most of all your conversations.
- Be aware of your countenance. How do you look? Does your facial expressions indicate you are open or possibly closed to the interaction?
Think before responding. While you are thinking ask yourself a series of questions. For instance: Do you know what you should say or do? What will be the likely outcome if you say what you are thinking? Have you considered the other person’s point of view? Is there another way to look at this? Pausing to think will help you to focus on what is really going on. Don’t worry about how quickly you respond. There is much wisdom in giving thoughtful consideration to a matter before speaking.
Ask yourself whether this is the best time, place and circumstances to engage in this conversation. I have found that engaging in a serous conversation with my husband immediately after he arrives home from work usually is not productive. Considering the physical and mental state of others is important. After a long and mentally challenging day the last thing my husband needs is a deep discussion before dinner. So ask yourself do I need to do this now?
Identify your feelings. Maybe you are feeling defensive. If so you must consider whether your response will reflect your defensiveness. Do you know why you are feeling a certain way? Are there other factors that might impact or even impair your ability to respond correctly?
Do you want to subdue the feelings you are experiencing? Sometimes you and I will allow our feelings to control how we respond. In a manner of speaking we are looking for an opportunity to say or do something to release some pent-up feelings we may have. During my conversation with this distraught person I felt a trend. This was that old feeling of emotional buttons being pushed; thereby leading me to consciously acknowledge that fact. I also had to quickly decide that the fleeting emotions I was experiencing needed to be subdued. The person wasn’t upset with me however it felt like they were. Fortunately our conversation progressed until the person acknowledged that there were other ways of looking at the situation. Once again I had a strong sense of the reality that everything is not about me.
Learning to communicate in a way that moves you toward responding correctly is important. We can easily forget to become aware of our countenance, even responding before thinking and of course the timing may very well be off. Getting in touch with our feelings and what we would like to do will help us to gain perspective and continue building healthy relationships.
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“Empowering Your Thinking for Successful Living”