Stop Trying to Change (Insert Name Here)

catsI recently found myself in a stressful situation involving strong personalities. I watched the drama unfold from the sidelines, as the conversation had nothing to do with me… or so I thought. As it turned out, it was learning opportunity for me.

Most of our disagreements are about something someone said which was taken the wrong way, isn’t it? When we feel insulted, we react poorly. We assume the worst about our attacker. We retaliate, trying to inflict the same amount of pain that they’ve caused us. We unravel because of our own actions. And, before we know it, we’ve lost control of the entire situation. Friendships are destroyed. Families are broken. And, our own inner peace is damaged irrevocably.

What if there was a way to end every situation before it gets out of control? What if you could hear and also BE HEARD at the same time?

I read a book called “Crucial Conversations- Tools for Talking When Stakes are High” It has, in many ways, improved the way I communicate, though I’m a work in progress. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking to communicate better or simply develop their people skills.

“A crucial conversation is a discussion between two or more people where stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong. When we face crucial conversations, we can do one of three things: We can avoid them, we can face them and handle them poorly, or we can face them and handle them well. Ironically, the more crucial the conversation, the less likely we are to handle it well. We often hold things inside by going silent until we can take it no longer—and then we drop a bomb. In short, we move between silence and violence—we either don’t handle the conversation, or don’t handle it well. We may not become physically violent, but we do attack others’ ideas and feelings. When we fail a crucial conversation, every aspect of our lives can be affected—from our careers, to our communities, to our relationships, to our personal health.”

How many of us have failed at a crucial conversation? I’m guilty as charged… As I watched my friends argue, I realized a basic thing. Neither of them were speaking from the heart. They were speaking around the issue, but they did not acknowledge to each other, and maybe even to themselves, the root of their hurt. Maybe there are underlying issues; years of miscommunication, culminating into this very argument? I don’t know. But, the pain was very real and neither of them wanted to share in it.

“The key to how we feel lies in the stories we tell. These stories consist of our guess as to why people do what they do. As we become emotional, our story seems to be “What is the worst and most hurtful way I can take this?” This negative spin escalates our emotions and causes us to do the worst when it matters the most. To break away from your volatile emotions, you must rethink the conclusions you drew and the judgments you made. That requires you to tell the rest of the story. New (more accurate and complete) stories create new feelings and support new and healthier actions. Better still, new stories often encourage you to return to dialogue.”

ANY RELATIONSHIP CAN BE FIXED. That may seem like a bold statement, but, if you start from the heart, with a genuine desire to improve the situation, to understand where the other person is coming from, then any relationship can be mended over time. The next time someone says something insulting, instead of reacting, why not say to them calmly “Your words are hurting me, but I know YOU are not trying to hurt me.” Watch their reaction. If they don’t hear you the first time, repeat again. And, if they don’t hear you the second time, just disengage. You cannot change anyone. THE ONLY PERSON YOU CAN CHANGE IS YOURSELF!

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