Do you ever find yourself in the run around of arguing with someone you love? I do and it leads me nowhere – in a hurry. For years I’ve been working on building my communication skills such that I can leave arguing behind, but alas, I’m still a work in progress (just ask my husband and kids).
Recently, I’ve been implementing three strategies to problem solving in my family. The first option is having a peaceful solution focused discussion and that means to stop arguing and start collaborating. If it was only that easy, like flipping a switch.
But it’s not – communicating respectfully takes work and practice.
As I continue down the path, I’ve noticed there are a few pieces to this puzzle. Arguing requires the involved parties to hold specific positions (sometimes this just means being stubborn and wanting to be right while other times we really need to be heard and understood). Like two walls caving that hold each other up, once a person chooses to stop arguing, the other falls/crashes and instead of this being a disaster it can actually be the space to rebuild the communication on a more solid, respectful foundation. Let’s see…
Step 1 – Notice. Yep, just notice you’re in the throes of an argument and spend a few moments noticing how you are contributing to the chaos (even if it’s subtle).
Step 2 – Decide. Choose to disengage, no matter how difficult this may feel. Sometimes this means closing our mouths, noticing our breath and stating out loud that we’re choosing to change the communication (check out SAFE – an invitation to feel what you feel fully and safely if you need help with this step).
Step 3 – Expect. Believe you can change the direction of your communication. Expect miracles, if you will – or obstacles turned into opportunities. Expect a change. State your intention to collaborate (i.e. work together to find a solution).
Step 4 – Listen. Open yourself to deep listening, where you are willing to both feel your own feelings and those of the other people involved. This takes practice and awareness exercises (such as simple meditation) can help cut through the stories that overlay our ability to listen deeply.
Step 5 – Reflect. Take a few moments to explore what you are hearing and feeling – then reflect back to the other people what you heard. Check to see if it’s accurate. Allow space for clarification.
Step 6 – Share. Communicate what’s important to you. Speak to feelings, needs and solutions. Allow space – literal space between words, to breathe, listen, look, feel. Share the space of collaboration. Look your partner or child in the eye and notice what you share – right here and now.
Step 7 – Collaborate. Work together to find a solution. You’ve created the container, now fill it with solutions. If you notice yourself backpedaling into blame or hurt or something that distracts you, get space, ask if the person can just listen or postpone the discussion until you can talk more later. Take time to make lists of solutions and then reconvene if necessary, but hold the space to collaborate. Explore the solutions you discover, be willing to try one for a day or week, then discuss how it went and come up with new ones if need be. Shift from the need to argue into the choice to collaborate – as many times as necessary – and notice how it feels to make this choice.
Yes, it can feel tough, but it can also be freeing and connecting – which everyone in the family can appreciate. There are many helpful communication pointers out there and I’d love to hear how you stop arguing and start collaborating in the comments, too!