Crowning Communications
RSS
May 152017

“Sometimes I think I’m in a conversation with 6 people, when I am talking with my co-worker” a coaching client said to me the other day. There can be and often are many voices that want to be heard in a difficult conversation between 2 people.

We have as much of the conversation in our head with our own critical voice as with the other person’s critical voice, the voice of the boss, the co-worker’s voice and possibly a bunch more voices, such as those of our parents, siblings and friends.

In the previous blogpost we explored the dynamic of the interactions we have with our inner self, our state of being, thoughts, feelings and awareness (or lack thereof) of the relationship with ourselves. We identified that dynamic as “Self with Self.”

Let’s now have a closer look at the dynamic between us and the other in the challenging interaction: “Self with the Other.”

An excellent communicator continually pays attention to what the other says with words and without words. What each of us does or says in that tough situation is impacting the other. Understanding and awareness of that impact is key to working things out together.

Below I share 5 key aspects of effectively managing “yourself with others” in difficult conversations:

The second dynamic: “Self with other” in your toughest conversation

1.The Power of Acknowledgement

When we acknowledge the other person’s experience by stating out loud what we understand their experience to be, thus we make a much-needed connection with the other in the difficult situation. In an acknowledgment of experiences, the other person feels heard by you, which, in turn, opens the channel for you to be heard as well.

2. Stop “Silverlining”; Use Empathy

Acknowledgment is the gateway to empathy. Empathy is not equal to sympathy. Empathy connects people, while sympathy separates us from the other, because sympathy is a reflection about self and not about the other. (” I am so sorry for you”). We show empathy by expressing deep understanding of what the other person is going through, without “silverlining”  (“At least you’re still working there…”) or judging the other’s experience.

3. Know the roller coaster (of emotions)

When strong emotions come up for the other in the conversation, it is important to be alert and aware of how these emotions trigger us and could make us less resourceful in our responses. How constructive are you with expressing emotions between you and the other? When the other withdraws from the conversation, do you withdraw or get angry?

4. Take down the walls

When we feel defensiveness coming up at what the other is saying, we are no longer listening. We are then caught up in our own response. The other is merely expressing their experience of what is going on. When we become defensive we are actually “leaving” the tough interaction and going “somewhere else.” The result is disconnection and often more conflict. When we experience the other attacking us, however, it may be appropriate, in our own defense, to acknowledge that a boundary was crossed. Assertively stating that this is not how we want to be treated may help the other become aware of their destructive behavior.

5. Postpone judgment by asking questions

Last but not least, I encourage you stay open, postpone your judgment and get in the mode of asking questions, based on genuine curiosity. Only when we put our judgment aside, can we be totally present with the other person and with ourselves. That is genuine attention; a true gift. And it’s just one less voice to deal with.

More Resources for You: 
> WEBINAR: In case you’ve missed it here is the recording of a webinar I conducted last Spring: “Key Strategies for Taking the “Difficult” out of Difficult Conversations.”
> CARD SET: Little Upsides assist you to get to know yourself better in difficult situations with others. A colorful card set with 50 quotes and questions to dig a little deeper and set a constructive tone for your interactions.
Feb 182014

Below is part II of the Empathy quiz “How well do you do Empathy? Answer with True or False for you.  Good luck and let me know how it goes!

1. If a friend complains about a boss at work, I’m likely to advise that person to find another job, change departments or speak up. I like to be helpful by offering solutions.

2. I’m always ready to offer a psychological analysis of my friends’ troubles.

3. If a co-worker expresses anxiety about her relationship with her husband, I’m quick to reassure her that all couples have their little problems, and that she shouldn’t worry about it.

4. It seems that I always know better than my friends what’s behind or underneath their problems.

5. When family members are upset about something, I find a way to distract them or change the subject.

6. I’m quick to remind people that plenty of others are a lot worse off than they are.

7. When empathizing with others, I imagine how I would feel in a given situation and assume the same would be true for them. We’re all basically the same, aren’t we?

You’re done!

True empathy can only occur when we have successfully shed all preconceived ideas and judgments about others—and when we’re comfortable with others’ deep feelings. If you answered true more often to the second set than the first, you may benefit from learning more about how to respond with empathy, how to really hear someone. It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give another person.

Jan 132014

Empathy—that quality of recognizing and understanding another person’s desires, beliefs and emotions—is one of the most important skills we can ever acquire. It fosters meaningful relationships, reduces prejudice and negative assumptions, encourages honest communication and can help avert violence. Studies have found that people high in empathy are more confident, sensitive and assertive, and they enjoy better physical and mental health. Often described as standing in another person’s shoes or looking through the other’s eyes, empathy connects us human-to-human. Take this quiz Part I to see how well you practice empathy. Come back next month do take Quiz Part II and compare your scores to find out how well you practice Empathy.

Quiz Part I

1. If I don’t know enough to understand, and empathize with, another’s dilemma, I try to increase my knowledge by asking questions.

2. I recognize and remember that others are different from me and might see and feel things differently from how I might experience the same situation. I try to look at the situation through that person’s eyes, not my own.

3. I don’t need to be right about what I imagine the other person to be feeling. If I’ve misunderstood, I ask the person to help me correct my impressions. Doing so helps me learn more about the other.

4. When I show that I understand the other person’s experience, I notice that the person I’m talking with opens up more.

5. My irritation with another person often dwindles when I understand what’s going on inside him or her.

6. Being a good, active listener helps me “get” what someone else is going through.

7. I try to focus on the other person’s feelings, rather than on actions or circumstances. I know that when people are upset, it’s better to work through and handle their feelings before figuring out how to solve their problems.

How did you do? Count your “True” and “False” Answers and let me know? Come back next month for Part II!