Written by: Krystalyn Davis, LCSW
Relationship Principle: Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce virtue.
How many times have misunderstandings occur in daily conversations? It starts off with a casual dialogue in which a statement is made. Suddenly, that statement then becomes interpreted in a way which may or may not have been accurately assessed properly. In either case, what started as a conversation escalates into a heated argument. Words are exchanged, feelings are trampled on, relationship walls are built, and personal offenses begins.
You walk away from the argument wondering, how did it get to this point? More importantly, what do I do now? Attempting to reconcile after a heated conversation can be difficult. Below are a few key steps to consider.
Step 1: Listen
Active listening can be one of the hardest skill sets to develop. You can hear the words coming from the other person as they speak, you understand the language, yet there continues to be misunderstandings. It is because when we hear a person speak we are hearing them through our personal filters. Our personal filters can be something that happened earlier in the day that is affecting how we are receiving, whatever our current mood is at the time of discussion, and physical distractions (fatigue, hunger, sickness, or environmental distractions, etc). In addition, our filters can be our personal history (family upbringings or previous relationship challenges) that have the potential to affect the way we process what is being said to us. It may be unintentional, but nevertheless a viable factor to consider.
Step 2: Slow to Speak
Listening also requires staying attentive. You may have heard the first few words of what was said; however, did you continue listening? Sometimes you can be on the defense in which you stop listening because you are thinking about what you want to say. The result, you missed additional information needed to receive a better understanding. Try to refrain from letting your mind wonder on your rebuttal and to stay connected with what the other person is saying. Staying in the moment is not easy, but is necessary in order to engage in meaningful conversations. Perhaps try asking open ended questions for clarity. It will solicit the other person to provide further details. You want to keep the communication channels open versus blocking it with premature opinions. After ascertaining the fullness of what is being said, then only then, will your response be appropriate because you are speaking with understanding.
Step 3: Manage your emotions
Some topics are hard to not become emotional about at times. It is in these scenarios that you have to implement the next step; managing your emotions. If you know a person well (family member or friend) you can gauge their intent, because you know them. You may not agree with the delivery of the message, but you can try to tap into the heart of the person. This is where responding with understanding is key. You begin to speak to the heart of the issue, not the delivery or vocabulary used. You are attempting to connect with the intent and underlining issue of the message. The person then speaking feels that you are actively listening and it helps to diffuse potential arguments.
This article was produced by The Family Life Education Committee a department of The Family Life Project . Visit our website for more articles and free email subscription. Our website is http://www.familylifeproject.us