I don’t jump into a heavy workout until my muscles have been warmed up. The same holds true for those heavy conversations. I don’t jump into the middle of a difficult conversation without preparation and a warm-up to gather as much information as I can about the situation, the other person and my own attitudes and emotions before going into the conversation.
Like in a lot of my newsletters I often write about what I need to know. I wanted to have a conversation with a colleague that I trust and respect about a subject that felt uncomfortable and possibly damaging to our relationship. So I did what I usually do when I’m not sure about something. I Googled information about good communication, talked to wise friends and went back to books and courses I had read on communication skills. Do you do the same?
My friend Ann gave me great advice. Ann is a sponsor at Al-Anon and has had experience with difficult conversations. She said she tells people to HALT and walk away from a conversation if these things are present. The acronym HALT stands for:
- H – Hungry
- A – Angry
- L – Lonely
- T – Tired
When I did a check in with my own emotions and state of mind I recognized that I felt three out of the four points. So I had something to eat, figured out why I was angry, and moved the emotion of anger to one of curiosity. I connected and talked to my wise husband, who also happens to be my best friend, and got a good night’s sleep.
When I’m at the gym I am correcting my posture and position throughout my entire workout. I know I can do serious damage to my back if I lift wrong. The same holds true in communicating. If I don’t position myself correctly I can do damage to my relationship. I didn’t want my colleague to feel criticized and judged. I wanted to feel heard and respected.
On the day of our conversation I was feeling pretty anxious. I did a quick meditation to calm myself, and focused on a positive outcome instead of what I didn’t want to happen.
John Gottman’s research shows that for relationships to work, there must be five positive comments or interactions for every negative comment or interaction. He said, “The reason why so many additional positive comments are needed for each negative one is important: people are conditioned emotionally to absorb the negative more deeply than the positive.”
I’m really glad I read that one before our talk! The conversation had a few rough patches but overall it went really well. I know that we have a deep and trusting relationship, and will continue to grow and develop it.
This is what my communication workout looks like:
- Warm up – I start out by recognizing the emotions in everyone concerned.
- Visualize – I visualize and write down what the best possible outcome looks like.
- Position – I consciously keep the communication moving in the right direction. If I see the conversation and communication going south, I look at how I am positioned.
- Strength – Afterward I look at the relationship and figure out what I learned. Did my communication skills become stronger as a result of the conversation?
Trust is important to me and I don’t always get it right. I expect that I’ll be working on my communication core to keep my relationships strong for the rest of my life.
More trust means more success at work and in our personal relationships. I can help build the trust in your organization. If it’s your time to tackle this difficult issue, I’m here to help – get in touch.