Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Afraid of Silence

What do you think having the “gift of gab” means?

In searching it out, I’ve found contradictory definitions. But one that seems to be prevalent is: “Having the gift of being able to speak easily and freely.”

I have to admit that I have envied these kinds of people in the past. Conversation, especially in a formal setting, doesn’t exactly come easily for me. But fire up my computer, and the words just flow like Popsicles melting on a 100 degree day! (That’s something we’ve been experiencing all too often around here in the midwest!)

Now I know there are those with this “gift” who clearly know how to include another person within a conversation. But sometimes conversing with someone who has the gift of gab, is like driving the wrong way on a one way street—you just might get run over by your chatty friend!

Please know that I am not just airing a pet-peeve here. I’m sending out a reminder to every one who tends to talk a little too much and not listen enough (and yes, that can be me too)! . . . 

We don’t need to be afraid of the silence.

Remember the old saying, “Silence is golden?” That phrase probably was written by a frustrated friend of a “Chatty Cathy.”

Why do we need silence in a conversation?

  1. It brings calmness to the conversation.
  2. It offers the opportunity to think about what has just been said.
  3. Believe it or not, it allows for connections to form.
  4. Obviously, it offers the other person the opportunity to share his or her thoughts, which gives a sense of mutual enjoyment.

Here’s why I think some people are afraid of silence:

  1. Silence means I’m allowing you to accept or reject me.
  2. Silence means I’m trusting you enough to wait on you.
  3. Silence means I’m trusting that you’ll still find me interesting when I’m quiet.
  4. Silence means I’m willing to give up control.
  5. Silence means I’m willing to open up and let you approach me.

If you want to have intimate, close friendships, remember that silence is not a dead-end street, but a bridge to gap the distance between you and your friend.

For more thoughts on how to be more engaging in conversation, check out my past post: 2 Kinds of Listening.

Today’s post is linked to – No Ordinary Blog Hop

How to Encourage through Validation

You want to talk about f-f-f-feelings?

GASP!

Yes, I live in a household full of males, and that’s often the refrain I hear when I want to have a “deeper conversation.” But the truth is, even women don’t often know how to talk about feelings—or more specifically, how to validate them.

So today I want to talk about one of the best ways to encourage someone—through the validation of feelings.

I have to say that validation is a fine art that should be practiced often and with great precision, because it is like a warm embrace to a frozen heart. But first, we must understand the steps to take in our efforts to meet this important human need.

Step One: Understand the magnitude of someone’s spoken feelings

When people disclose personal feelings, realize there are invisible questions that every person thinks:

  • Are my feelings okay?
  • Do you understand them?
  • Do you care about them?
  • Do you accept them?  (And remember, accepting someone’s feelings is not the same as agreeing with them)

So, be sure to communicate a welcoming attitude to your friend from the outset.

Step Two: Acknowledge their feelings

This can be done by simply reflecting back what you’ve just heard the person say. For example: “It sounds like this is a very frustrating (hurtful, confusing, fearful, etc.) experience for you.”

Third Step: Seek Clarification

Most of the time, we don’t understand all the emotions that are brimming under the surface for our friends. It’s easy to skim over this and try to shift the focus back to ourselves, where we feel more comfortable. Resist this tendency and ask for more details about how the person feels. So the next step connects the words in step two with step three . . .

“It sounds like this is a very frustrating (hurtful, confusing, fearful, etc.) experience for you. Is that what you’re feeling right now?”

Remember, don’t rush this part or move on until you’ve gained an assurance that you’ve clearly heard and understood the other person’s feelings.

Fourth Step: Show Empathy

Hopefully, once you’ve fully explored all that your friend is feeling, you will catch a glimpse into the pain or confusion that is your friend’s feeling(s). So at that point, communicate how your friend’s feeling(s) has emotionally moved you.

For example: “It breaks my heart to see you in this pain. Please know that I want to be a safe place for you as you go through this time.”

If you practice this simple method of validation, I can guarantee that you’ll have given your friend an invaluable gift. Emotional validation is the soft and comforting embrace we all want and need when life gets hard. Try it today!

“Like free radicals, feelings wander around the conversation looking for some acknowledgement to hook onto.  They won’t be happy until they get it, and nothing else will do.” –Henry Cloud and John Townsend

FaithBarista_FreshJamBadgeG

Questioning Conflict?

Do you ever avoid a sticky subject because you know it will erupt either into a heated argument or major meltdown? Oh, haven’t we all been there! Especially with that paranoid Aunt Thelma who finds an insult behind every compliment you’ve ever given her!

So then, are you wondering what you should do? Well, let me begin with . . .

What NOT to do first:

  1. Don’t come at them “guns blazing” (tone down any anger)
  2. Don’t let your anger, pride or fear close your ears (listen non-judgmentally)
  3. Don’t try to convince them of your point
  4. Don’t point out how wrong they are
  5. Don’t bring up examples of all their past failures
  6. Don’t overwhelm them with too many details or demands

Now, the real question . . .

What should you do?

  1. Ask questions

Is it really that simple? Well, yes and no.

Your questions need to:

  1. Focus on understanding more of the other person’s feelings and point of view
  2. Avoid sounding accusatory (For example, avoid questions that start with “why”)
  3. Involve open-ended responses vs. questions that require a simple “yes” or “no”
  4. Simply reflect what you’ve heard the other person say (it’s amazing how often this little tweak can change the course of a conflict)

I can’t promise you that if you use questions, you will avoid a conflict. But I do promise that if you use questions with a respectful attitude in times of conflict, it will deescalate the anger and frustration, as well as, increase the level of understanding. And that’s a benefit that no one can argue with!

How to Find Your Way Out of a Conflict

A while back my husband, Gary, and I were discussing something very important. At one point, Gary said something that made me feel like he disagreed with my viewpoint. Ordinarily this wouldn’t have bothered me very much. But because this issue was such a raw issue—one that carried a lot of “baggage”—our discussion immediately escalated into an argument.  For me, it felt like I was emotionally flooding—drowning in the intensity and alienation of it all.

Since our emotions were so strong and peaked at such a rapid rate, it startled me. Thankfully God used that intensity to grab my attention, and I immediately tried to gain some perspective.

  • I asked myself, Why am I feeling this so strongly?
  • I asked myself, Why is Gary not seeing my point?
  • I asked myself, How does this discrepancy look from his perspective?

As I considered my answers to those questions, I realized almost immediately that seeing things from his perspective was crucial and key to my understanding of where he was coming from. Quickly, my feelings soon followed suit, calming down and transforming into empathy.

So I told him that I could see his perspective, and from his perspective I could understand how he would feel the way he did. Once I said those words, it was like turning a key in a locked door. Immediately, our communication opened up and we were able to discuss the matter with patience and greater understanding.

Very often when any of us are in a moment of conflict with someone, we lose perspective. We get lost in the jumble of emotions and words. I think that all that I did to bring clarity to my situation was play the game of, “Where’s Waldo?” or in my case, “Where’s Gary?” In other words, I needed to inject myself into the issue from Gary’s point of view.

When I’ve played the actual game, “Where’s Waldo,” I’ve often felt a bit overwhelmed by the confusion of it all. It’s really very hard to find that goofy little guy! You have to spend a good amount of time scanning over every tiny image and overlapping detail. But when you finally find him, you feel exhilarated! You feel amazed at your accomplishment. My hope is that you feel that same exhilaration when you find your “Waldo,” whoever that might be!

Share

How Are You Pitching Your Message?

I’m a St. Louis Cardinals fan and have been all my life. And although I don’t sit and watch a game very often, I always, thanks to my husband, keep up on their standings (which are pretty depressing, right now!). And it has occurred to me that communication is a lot like baseball. Allow me to explain . . .

Let’s say that the communicator is like the pitcher. He has a lot of control over how the ball or message is received by the listener or batter. If the pitcher puts just a little spin on the ball, coupled with high velocity speed, the batter might end up striking out!

In the same way, when we send a message, we need to be extremely aware of how we are “pitching it” to our listener or we may end up striking out in our conversations!

Now, imagine someone telling you, “You look great!” Doesn’t that make you feel warm and fuzzy all over? But what if you knew that the message was sent with a sarcastic and angry tone? Would that change the way you received the message? Sure it would! Non-verbal communication puts a powerful spin on the words we say.

Communication studies have shown that words alone account for only 7% of the message we convey. The majority of our message (93%) is through non-verbal cues, (55% is based on body language, and 38% is on our tone of voice).

Generally speaking, if you find that you or someone you know often sends negative non-verbal cues, you might want to consider looking at whether anger is the underlying issue. If you are the angry one, then consider reading the series of posts I did called, “What Forgiveness Is and Isn’t” (Parts 1 – 4) and really give yourself to the forgiveness process.

If the anger is coming from the other person, then try to avoid negative non-verbals whenever you talk with this person. Very often when you positively model the right non-verbals, you can influence the conversation for the better.

Now, normally I would want to offer positive tips on non-verbal communication, but I think that identifying the negative non-verbal cues is more revealing and relevant.

So here’s what to avoid:

  • Crossed arms or legs
  • Clenched hands
  • Sudden hand, head or arm movements
  • Poor eye contact
  • Eye contact that is too intense or threatening
  • Rolling your eyes
  • Laughing at inappropriate times
  • Stepping or leaning away
  • Leaning in too close
  • Frowning or smirking
  • Loud, angry or sarcastic tone

Next time you find yourself feeling misunderstood, frustrated, or in an unintentional argument, check to see if you may be pitching your message with a negative spin! Oh, and as far as my beloved Cardinals are concerned–watch out for us next year!

What Forgiveness Is and Isn’t – Truth #1

What Forgiveness Is and Isn’t – Truth #2

What Forgiveness Is and Isn’t – Truth #3

What forgiveness Is and Isn’t – Truth #4

Today’s post is linked to Tuesdays Unwrapped at Chattingatthesky blog

tuesdays unwrapped at cats

Share

Opposing Perceptions

My husband and I took a two-day trip down to the Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois this past week. On one of those two days, we did some hiking. We wandered deep down into the forest on some trails.

It took probably less than five minutes before we began to feel the heavy weight of thick humidity in the center of that forest, since it had rained earlier that morning. Even though the temperature that day was only in the upper 80’s, in the middle of that forest it felt much, much hotter.

When we emerged from the forest we saw a man who had been biking loading his bike on the back of his car. My husband said, “Sure is humid today!” The man replied back, “Well, it’s better than it could be.”

I thought about that man’s response as we walked back to our car drenched in sweat. He was in the same park, in the same location in that park, at the same time as we were in the park, yet he had a different perspective about the day.

Then I thought about what he had experienced compared to us. He had just been on a bike ride through the park, probably feeling the cool breeze blowing against his face and body (nature’s air conditioning!) the entire time. Yet, we had emerged from the same park as if emerging from a sauna—soaked with sweat and burning hot from the oppressive, sticky heat.

Here’s my point:

So often we think that our perception is the only right opinion, but the truth may be:

  1. We both have valid perceptions and opinions that are vastly different.
  2. We think we are right when, in reality, we are completely wrong.

In our case, we were option number one. But very often I’m fighting for something that is my opinion, but very wrong. I’m not saying all of this to ask you to second-guess yourself, but rather to recognize your limitations. We all need to train ourselves to recognize that our perceptions are not always true or the only reality. The only absolute truth I know of is God and His Word, everyone else has cracks and flaws in their viewpoint.

If you are currently struggling in a relationship, check to see if this may be at least a part of your problem. If it is, remember that you are not alone. We all have limited points of view.

“One of the primary indicators of a character problem is a person’s resistance to questioning his perceptions about his situation or relationships.”  —Cloud and Townsend, It’s Not My Fault

Share

In Times of Conflict – How to Meet in the Middle

It’s not easy to meet in the middle. I’ve observed this from the many couples who’ve met with me in my counseling office. But most of all, I’ve experienced it in my own life as I’ve wrestled with my pride.  That’s just it—pride distorts our thinking. It makes us think we are better and, for lack of a better word, “righter” than we really are.

So here’s my prescription for meeting in the middle . . .

Ingredient #1:

Make your goal: listening to understand –

Not talking to convince your partner of your point!

  • This means you ask your partner what he or she feels is the problem, then refrain from adding your point of view.
  • Next, ask at least two clarification questions to gain greater understanding about the context of your problem, your partner’s feelings, and what your partner perceives is your role. (You might feel that by this point you understand enough to give your partner your perspective, but I would urge you to wait just a bit longer.)
  • Now rephrase what you thought your partner said and ask, “Did I get that right?”
  • If you did, then you can ask to share your thoughts on the problem. But if you didn’t, continue to ask questions and rephrase until you both feel that you understand what your partner is trying to say.

Ingredient #2:

Open yourself to see where you may have failed or not understood.

This is where the external communication turns to the internal dialogue. You need to take that critical eye that you’ve used to zero in on your partner’s flaws, and turn it back on yourself! Prayer is necessary at this point, because God illuminates the inner deceptions that we cannot see on our own (Psalm 139:1-4 and 23-24, Jeremiah 17:9-10).

Ingredient #3:

Admit your misconceptions and mistakes as you apologize.

If you take this leap of faith and expose your mistakes and failures (and we all make mistakes!), then you will feel as if a huge weight has been lifted.  Not only that, but the closeness you’ll achieve with your partner will be greater than you ever imagined. Do it consistently, and a deep respect and love will grow between you and your partner, repairing years of damage. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen—not just in my client’s marriages—but also in my own!

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, . . ” James 1:19 (NIV)

Share