Communication is one of the critical areas in our lives that can be a saving grace or a bullet train to disaster. Regardless of which end of the conversation you were on, I’m willing to guess we’ve all had at least one that blew up and that we’ve regretted later. What a difference it would have made if we had only communicated with our eyes and ears wide open!
To be able to give the most of ourselves, whether speaking or listening, it is essential to be present. This means that you must focus on the conversation at hand and not let your mind wander off to some other place or task. The question to ask yourself – if you have time to assess where you are before an important conversation – is this: Are you so depleted mentally, emotionally, and physically that you won’t be able to ‘hear’ what the other person is saying? If so, pause, let the other person know, and see if it’s possible to reschedule your talk for another time. Make sure they understand that you are not discounting the importance of your conversation, but “…but to be better present, perhaps it’s best to find another time. Would that be okay?”
The other option I have used many times is to excuse myself for a few minutes, take several deep breaths, and then walk back into the conversation. Breathing can help clear your mind and center your being, allowing you to be more present.
Consider these simple additional points:
- What is your posture? Are your hands on your hips or do you have your arms crossed when someone is speaking to you? A darn good sign that you’re either not impressed, angry, or can’t believe what’s coming out of the other person’s mouth.
- Focus with an open mind. Pay attention to what the person is actually saying and not what you think they will say next. The power of assumptions is vast and can quickly get in the way here.
- Use I-Statements. Instead of starting a sentence with “You make me feel like…” try “I feel like I’m not *being heard, understood, etc.……” This takes the pointed arrow out of your words. Stick to the facts you know to be true here, not what you assume to be true. Assumptions are a raceway to conflict.
Especially if the conversation takes a turn and begins to heat up, suggest that you bring it back up later. “You know, this feels like it would be better to continue this conversation a bit later so that we both have time to sort through our thoughts and not let this turn into an argument. I value you and what you have to say, and I want to ensure we are resolving with ease.”
These are small but important steps in the fine art of communication. Find what works best for you.