DIFFICULT CONVERSATION GUIDELINES

  •  Try to be empathic as much as possible…putting yourself in the other’s shoes.  Remember that you’re allies, not adversaries.  You’ve got each other’s backs.
  • Refrain from using criticism, defensiveness, contempt or stonewalling. 
  • Stonewalling is not only the physical reaction of simply leaving a conversation without compassionate closure, it’s also eye-rolling, snickering, grabbing your head/forehead, staring off into space & not listening.
  • Share as much as you can about your feelings/emotions without using shame or blame.
  • Starting a sentence with “I feel” and then continuing the sentence without an actual emotion word is not a feeling. For example “I feel that you don’t listen to me” is not a feeling. It’s blame.  “I feel frustrated when I say something and it seems like you’re not listening.” is a feeling.  Although it may seem like semantics, it’s crucial in not partaking in the shame/blame game. 
  • Humour is an important part of healthy relationships, but laughing at the other’s expense or laughing at them during a time when they’re upset or feeling triggered is a form of contempt.
  • Check in with your beliefs when you engage in a heated debate.  Do you need to be right?  Are you believing something that may not be true?  Are you willing to agree to disagree? If you’re noticing a feeling (unheard, angry, sad, frustrated, confused) simply state it without having to blame or react.  You’d be amazed how your partner, who truly cares about you, will see that type of vulnerability as connecting.
  • Be accountable. If you’re seeing that your reactive, be open about your emotions as well as what may be causing it externally.  ie  blood sugaring, sick, in pain, tired, stressed, etc.  Take perspective. 
  • When apologizing, take ownership.  Saying “I’m sorry you felt hurt” is NOT an apology.  It’s simply stating a fact.  Saying “I’m sorry that I hurt you when I left the conversation abruptly” or “I’m sorry I criticized your judgement”are heart-felt, accountable apologies.
  • Rather than saying what you think your partner wants you to say, say what’s true for you.  Be courageous.  Stay in your own business and try not to succumb to “LA LA land” (seeking Love and/or Approval from the other)
  • End conversations with compassion & respect. If it’s too much emotionally, say so and if you’re willing, invite setting a date for a future conversation to help get back to resolution.

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