I’ve been spending way too much time lately listening to some political talk shows. Doesn’t matter which party, what ideology is being promoted, the result, for me, is often the same. The host or guest has a point to make. And – they often push ahead with a strongly declared “fact” or point of view, rarely pausing long enough for anyone else to express an opinion.
While it may be entertaining to listen to those on-air “debates,” that same style is unlikely to work out well for you in personal or professional interactions.
It’s not quite so amusing, engaging or satisfying, if your conversational energy is focused only on pushing your own point of view. When we don’t take the time to fully understand and calmly respond to those who doesn’t agree with us, it’s easy to end up with hurt feelings and anger.
If this sounds like a familiar pattern to you, you might want to try a little experiment. The next time you find yourself tensing up for that next passionate argument, stop! Take one long deep breath. And – ask a question. That’s all, just one question. And see what happens next.
Of course that question should be stated calmly and reflect curiosity about the other person’s point of view. If need be, assure your conversational partner that you really do want to hear his/her viewpoint. Then, prove it by listening well and reflecting back what you’ve heard.
Remember, this is only an experiment. An opportunity for you to try out a different way of having a conversation. A chance for you to observe whether or not a slight change in your style will make a difference. And, most important, you now have slowed down the conflict and given yourself the time to decide how you want to handle the rest of the conversation.
Sometimes all it takes is a few tweaks in your conversational style. And sometimes, all you may need is to remind yourself that you can learn and use specific strategies that will help you communicate without conflict and anger getting in the way.