“Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.”
Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?
- Your significant other doesn’t understand you.
- Your mom keeps prying into your business.
- The neighbor keeps parking in front of your mailbox.
Every man and woman on Earth has wanted to talk to some one at some time about something uncomfortable. If they don’t feel safe, they may react with either a fight or flight response. In conversation language this may look like silence (avoidance, appeasing others, pretending) or verbal violence (blaming, judgment, criticism, etc). Those who are uncomfortable with conflict will probably avoid unsafe conversations, and then feel unheard. Those who jump into conflict without the best self-control may speak abruptly or harshly and set in motion a defensive conversation. Some people feel easily threatened and go to strike first.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
What sets up a “safe” conversation can vary from person to person but it begins by having good intentions from the get-go. Don’t go into a conversation with a full agenda and only one acceptable outcome. “I’m right, you’re wrong” doesn’t get you anywhere. That is called “not being open to influence.”
According to Kerry Patterson, et al in the book, “Crucial Conversations,” in order to have safe conversations, you need mutual respect and mutual purpose. What are you both getting out of this? How can you come together for a reason that appeals to both of you? Having mutual purpose allows both parties to be enrolled in the conversation and to look for what you have in common rather than just how you differ.
The book offers some “Start with the Heart questions.”
- What do I want for me?
- What do I want for others?
- What do I want for our relationship?
If your answers sound something like, “I want my relationships to be stronger, more genuine, more open and honest,” then you are heading in the right direction. Keep in mind, “What is good for the relationship is good for me.” You ARE your relationships. Your life is about relationships. Whether it is with your spouse, children, friends, or co-workers, if these relationships are not in integrity with your values, hopes and dreams, you will be off-kilter.
Keeping the long-term goals of the relationship in mind will allow you to find the mutual purpose and respect you need to create safe conversations, AND a lot less drama! So start with the heart and be open to influence. You’ll have safe conversations and see a shift in your relationships in no time.
“Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring the problems that divide us.” John F Kennedy, Inaugural Address, Jan, 1961.