Do these questions sound familiar: “what are you trying to say?”, “what are you talking about?”, and “can you help me understand”? Or how about responses such as “I told you what it is”, “I don’t get what you are saying”, and “I can’t talk to you”? These become common phrases when communicating with someone. Many times I have heard individuals come into my office to discuss communication issues with a parent, child, sibling, or spouse in hopes to clear up the muddy water. Sometimes a simple conversation can become a shouting match or a dismissive conversation which will not go well for both parties, especially if goal is a resolution. You will only talk at one another rather than talking with one another.
In therapy we talk about process, how something is said rather than content, what is said. The best example I use is sarcasm. While what you may say (content) may be pleasant, the way it is said (process) is a different story. Remember to discuss and distinguish both because someone may be triggered by the content rather than the process, but the opposite may be the case for someone else. Before stepping into a conversation remember these helpful tips:
- Most importantly remember “this is a conversation not a confrontation”.
- Check your attitude at the door
- Be clear with yourself about what you hope to accomplish before engaging
- Respond honestly and respectfully
- Always ask for clarity
- Listen intently
May your conversations be plentiful and productive.