Arguments with loved ones (or anyone else) getting you down? Learn how to communicate compassionately, get your voice heard, and consciously deal with conflict.
“You’re not listening to me…”
This is my #1 complaint during any kind of conflict.
It’s so frustrating when someone just isn’t getting what we’re trying to say.
We all want to be heard.
And we also usually want to be right.
But if you’ve ever argued with someone who’s just as stubborn as you are, you’ll know that this doesn’t get us anywhere.
What can get us somewhere is being more conscious when dealing with conflict.
Here’s exactly how to set the stage for an honest, healing conversation – minus the ugliness.
1. Figure out what you need to say
The first step is to recognise that we’re feeling triggered – then pause, breathe, and reflect.
Effective arguing begins with getting clear on what the problem is.
At this stage, ask what:
- …Emotions am I feeling right now?
- …Thoughts am I having right now?
- …Needs of mine aren’t being met?
- …Event seems to have triggered this?
- …Role am I playing here? Do I want this to change? If so, how?
For example, “I’m feeling pretty angry right now, and I’m thinking that my partner is selfish. My need for recognition isn’t being met, because it seems like he’s ignoring me. I’m playing the role of the victim, but I want to express my frustration.”
The clearer we are on our own thoughts and emotions, the easier it is to communicate them (and for the other person to understand us).
2. Put yourself in their shoes
Naturally, we all see the world through our own lens.
And when we’re all hopped up on emotion during an argument, it can be seriously challenging to empathise with the other person (who we’ve now named our nemesis).
But our ability to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes is absolutely key in healing conflict.
At this stage, ask what:
- …Emotions might they be feeling right now?
- …Thoughts might they be having right now?
- …Needs of theirs aren’t being met?
- …Event seems to have triggered this for them? (This could be different from yours)
- …Role is the other person playing? Do I want this to change? If so, how?
For example, “My partner might be feeling pretty angry too right now, and thinking that I’m unreasonable. His need for peace and harmony might not be being met, which might have been what he wanted by ‘ignoring’ me. He might also be playing the role of the victim, but I’d like him to tell me why he’s ignoring me.”
We don’t know whether we’re right, but that doesn’t matter.
What’s important is that we’re flexing our empathy muscle, and shifting our own perspective.
3. Set a ‘talking date’
Once we’re clear on what the problem is and we’ve tapped into empathy, we can set up a time and space to talk.
Setting up a ‘talking date’ means everyone’s full attention can be given to the conversation.
The ideal scenario would be:
- Only the people involved are present
- We’re relaxed, and in a familiar environment
- Nobody involved has anything planned in the immediate future (e.g. a meeting to get to)
- All of our basic needs are met (i.e. we’re not hungry/thirsty/absolutely shattered)
For example, I’ll usually ask my partner when he’s free to talk, and wait until then before expressing whatever I have to say. I’ll make sure neither of us has anywhere we need to be, or any important tasks we need to do.
Arranging a time to talk (rather than launching in to a rant) demonstrates your respect for the other person’s time and responsibilities – which is a great start to healing conflict.
4. Let go of the outcome
Try to go into the conversation without any fixed idea of what the outcome is going to look like.
The issue may be resolved, or it may not. The person may say what we want to hear, or they may not. You may stop fighting, or you may not.
Ideally we’ll both be working towards a win-win situation, but nothing is guaranteed.
A good way to sit with this uncertainty is to set an intention before our talking date.
For example, our intention could be to:
- Reach a win-win outcome
- Create mutual understanding
- Build a mutual sense of trust
- Approach this situation with curiosity
- Connect with this person
Healing conflict is all about practice, patience, and understanding.
These things take time to develop, so if this is the first time we’ve been truly authentic in our communication, we need to remember to be kind to ourselves – and count each new attempt as a step in the right direction.