Conversations can be risky at times. The more sensitive the topic, the more delicately we need to approach it while maintaining a truthful and honest demeanor . The subtle balance between being blunt and abrasive or being effectual is one that many are not equipped to navigate.
In my more than twenty years as a corporate trainer, one of the most consistent concerns I've encountered is regarding people's ability to effectively communicate with one another. It's a skill few are taught as young children but one that is critically essential in all relationships. Our choice of words, intonation, body language, and subliminal messages all contribute to the success or failure of our conversations. The more sensitive the topic the greater the challenge becomes. Informing my boss that I'm leaving the company may be a bit uncomfortable but feasible. However, if the boss is my grandfather who has employed our family for generations in the business, the exchange may be much more complex. Talking to my best friend about her drinking problem or confronting my neighbor about their loud late-night parties can all challenge my conversational capabilities. However, there are things we can do to ease the process of delicate dialogues and ensure greater success:
First, keep in mind that it is imperative to present your position in a non-threatening manner. The moment one's defenses rise the conversation ceases to be productive.
Second, remember that the objective of such dialogue is not to prove the other party wrong or incompetent. It is an opportunity for both sides to share opposing points of view or facts with the intention of learning and growing. This must be done in such a way as to enable the other party to see things from a new perspective or perhaps something they may have inadvertently overlooked even if they continue to hold fast to their position.
Third, remain sensitive and thoughtful to the other person's feelings, needs, opinions, beliefs, etc. Listen carefully for what to say/not say. How the other party reacts and responds to your choice of words, suggestions, and insights will enable you to decide what direction to take. Active listening enables you to better choose whether to reply (and how) or to remain silent.
Fourth, always validate the individual's position and feelings, whether or not you understand or agree with them. Simply acknowledge that theirs are as legitimate as yours. A little sensitivity goes a long way.
Fifth, don't lecture. Instead, ask thought-provoking questions which enable them to find solutions of their own volition.
Sixth, above all, create an environment of safety for the other party, one where acceptance and compassion reign; one in which they feel comfortable enough to speak freely and truthfully without fear of reprisal. In this way, both parties will have the opportunity to freely and honestly express themselves while maintaining the integrity of their relationship with one another as well as their own dignity.
While both parties may continue to hold fast to their beliefs, a prolific dialogue enables each to grow with new awareness and expanded their limited way of thinking to embrace new ideas and concepts.
And in doing so, are given the opportunity to develop a new found respect for one another. And that alone is worth the effort.
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Janet Pfeiffer, international inspirational speaker and award-winning author has appeared on CNN, Lifetime, ABC News, The 700 Club, NBC News, Fox News, The Harvest Show, Celebration, TruTV and many others. She’s been a guest on over 100 top radio shows (including Fox News Radio), is a contributor to Ebru Today TV and hosts her own radio show, Anger 911, on www.Anger911.net.
Janet's spoken at the United Nations, Notre Dame University, was a keynote speaker for the YWCA National Week Without Violence Campaign, and is a past board member for the World Addiction Foundation.
She's a former columnist for the Daily Record and contributing writer to Woman’s World Magazine, Living Solo, Prime Woman Magazine, and N.J. Family. Her name has appeared in print more than 100 million times, including The Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Alaska Business Monthly and more than 50 other publications.
A consultant to corporations including AT&T, U.S. Army, U.S. Postal Service, and Hoffman-LaRoche, Janet is N.J. State certified in domestic violence, an instructor at a battered women's shelter, and founder of The Antidote to Anger Group. She specializes in healing anger and conflict and creating inner peace and writes a weekly blog and bi-monthly newsletter.
Janet has authored 8 books, including the highly acclaimed The Secret Side of Anger (endorsed by NY Times bestselling author, Dr. Bernie Siegel).
Read what Marci Shimoff, New York Times bestselling author, says of Janet's latest book, The Great Truth; Shattering Life's Most Insidious Lies That Sabotage Your Happiness Along With the Revelation of Life's Sole Purpose:
"Janet dispels the lies and misconceptions many people have lived by and outlines a practical path to an extraordinary life beyond suffering. Written with honesty, clarity, sincerity, and humor, this book serves as a wonderful guide for anyone seeking a more enriching and fulfilling life.”
Dr. Bernie Siegel says, "All books of wisdom are meant to be read more than once. The Great Truth is one such book."