We have all been there. Someone says something during a business meeting, or social gathering that conflicts with our ideas, possibly offending us. Our heart begins to pound, our body fills with emotion, but we can barely talk. Our stress system is alerted and adrenalin is released.
Should we remain silent or speak-up? We know that, if we speak now, our words may sound like an attack. When this happens, how do we confront the situation, deliver a true message, and create a dialogue to communicate ideas, thoughts and feelings effectively?
I’m Carol Edelson Chervin and my company, Speakstyles offers “Coaching for Authentic Communication.” When opinions vary and emotions run strong, we’re often at our worst.
To be authentic with our communication and create a dialogue, we can turn to this four-step process.
First, No matter what happens, ask yourself, “What do I really want the outcome of this communication to look like? This question helps you sort through short-term emotion and turns your attention toward a desired outcome. If the emotion is overwhelming, breathe slowly and deeply. That will help calm and re-focus you on what you want to say. Understand that an emotion like anger is an automatic response that last only 90 seconds until it runs its course. If it lasts longer, we have chosen to rekindle it.
Second, speak to what you are noticing from your own perspective. For example, you might say, “What I’m hearing is that we have a difference of opinion and I’d like to open this up to a discussion. Would that work for you?” This allows you to become an observer and open up dialogue in a non-threatening way.
Third, remember that communication is not just words. Pay close attention to the tone of your voice and body language. A key to this is understanding your personal style and how you come across.
Finally, once you feel the communication is complete, get closure. In a business meeting, this might be a call-to-action. In a personal dialogue, it might be summarizing what occurred, your feelings or what you would like to happen next.
The good news is that authentic and effective communication skills can be learned.
Following this four-step process can take you out of the emotional state of upset that inhibits effective communication into an arena which facilitates assertive communication and dialogue.