Relationships: Showing Empathy During Tough Conversations Builds Bridges

Today I am talking about having a tough conversation with people and how being empathetic and showing you respect and care about what they are saying goes a long ways to building a bridge that can help you gain some type of agreement.  That agreement may be to agree, disagree or table the topic but using these little techniques will make you a better listener, talker and communicator when having tough conversations.  We face those in life with family, friends, co-workers and at times even strangers.  Knowing how to handle these situations with a calm heart and cool head are the key to getting some results from all that drama.

As a high school teacher and coach, I see this all the time with what I call “teenage drama”.  I work with my kids on social skills, communication, manners and learning peer pressure to avoidance to just walk away.  I tell them did you physically hear it, see it or touch it.  If not then avoid it and walk away.  Most drama gets started by another person and generally is the result of having a bad attitude, bad day or just looking to start trouble.  Work on your social skills, learn to overcome bad situations and stay calm.  

1- Show that you care and are concerned about the situation.  Ever been told by someone they “didn’t give a rats _ _ _” about your feelings, what or how you feel.  Maybe they said they “don’t care” or “could care less” about what you say,  These are a lack of concern and social skills coming out in these people.  That is a defensive technique throwing up a block at you or trying to avoid the conversation.  If you remain calm and stay focused on solving the issue and do not get into the drama statements like that you have a better chance of walking away with some type of resolution.
2- Own your part.  If during the conversation you suddenly realize that you actually did do what they said or own it then claim it.  Be the bigger person and take accountability for your actions, thoughts, behaviors and words.  Telling someone your are sorry and owning a mistake is a good thing.  It shows compassion and that you are a good person that made a mistake.  
3- Seek more information, get back ground.  Remember, many people do not have the skills to properly communicate with people in stressful situations.  They may be hot headed, hard headed and all those other words that could describe them.  Be patient, listen to them, pick up on clues and ask questions.  Many times things can be solved before it gets out of control by simply getting the information, thinking about it and then giving your side of the story.  There are always two sides to a story, so agreement doesn’t always happen but get the information and see if it helps resolve it.
4- Rephrase the question, complaint or comment so they can hear from you what they actually said to you to start with. This can create a pause in the action, forces the other person to think about what they said and may trigger them to see they are exaggerating or taking things way out of order.  By doing this you show the person you heard what they said, but are seeking to make sure that is what they meant. Use it to clarify objections, comments and statements, then react accordingly.
5- Communicate respectfully even when they attack,  This is much easier done than said and I understand that.  Getting mad, upset and going back at someone just makes it worse.  The other person is already stressed, on edge and mad at you, someone or the world already,  Why pour gas on the fire, when you can hit it with some calmness and bring it down a notch.  You be the calm, cool and collected person that seeks resolution and not escalation.  Steady, strong and focused will help you solve the problem.  

Lastly, if you have to just walk away.  Do not let your ego, over confidence or attitude get you into something that can be avoided by simply disagreeing, saying have a nice day and tabling it for another day.  I see people arguing at stores over parking spaces, shopping carts, covid masks and stuff and it it ridiculous, childish and uncalled for.  Stay calm, seek resolution, agree or agree to disagree and move on.


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