109. The 3 Secrets to Constructive Communication (Part B)
Conflict resolution starts with Constructive Communication.
This Week’s Poll
The answer to last week’s poll (“Do you believe your business will grow over the next 12 months?”) is down yonder at the bottom.
Q. How would you rate yourself as a leader?
This one time Tara and I had a big disagreement.
Tara used to be my wife. You can read our origin story here.
(Note: This is the first time I’ve ever used the term “origin story”. I feel like maybe I’m becoming cool. But probably not.)
The disagreement Tara and I had was so big and meaningful that it sticks with me to this day, a couple of decades down the road. The fight was about... um... uhhh… I don’t remember what it was about.
It was one of those arguments had by two people who are pretty lame at conflict resolution. You know the type of disagreement, sparked from a topic that is so small and meaningless it is completely forgettable even just an hour later. Inevitably, though, the argument escalates so quickly to the point where it feels like it could trigger a global apocalypse.
Needless to say, Tara was angry with me. Why? Who knows. But she was very angry. There were tears. There was yelling. I tried to console her but she wanted none of it. So, naturally, I tried to console some more. That didn’t work. She decided she needed to escape from me so she went into the bathroom, slammed the door and locked it.
She didn’t respond to me when I knocked. She didn’t respond to me when I tried to talk to her. She didn’t respond at all, for a long LONG time.
Eventually I decided to go for a walk to try and clear my mind. Somewhere in there, Tara came out of the bathroom and went to sleep. It was late. I got home and went to sleep too. We woke up the next morning having already forgotten what we were arguing about. The entire event just faded into the ether.
Because you ignore a conflict doesn’t mean it is resolved. It’s like the smell of that uncooked salmon fillet you’ve left in the fridge. You keep neglecting it, until one day the smell permeates the room. And then your life. And then you open the refrigerator door to realize it’s too late; it’s gonna take a lot of hard work to clean that up that mess. Maybe it’s easier to just trash the entire refrigerator and start anew.
Which is exactly what Tara and I did.
We got divorced 4 years into the marriage.
When trying to resolve a conflict, you only have three options:
1. Fight. Go into battle with swords a-swingin’ until one of you ends up too wounded to continue
2. Retreat. Ignore the conflict and hope it magically goes away and everybody forgets.
3. Communicate. Talk calmly and rationally to navigate through the conflict and get to an equitable resolution.
In my marriage to Tara, we tried relying on the first and second options. Bad choice. As it turns out, only productive communication resolves conflict in a healthy way.
The 3 Secrets to Constructive Communication
When it comes to constructive communication, there is little difference between conflict at work and conflict at home. Sure the subjects may be different, and the methods of making-up are usually (hopefully) different, but the tactics to get there are the same. Mostly because we’re all human.
In the words of Tony Robbins:
Communication is crucial to a leader’s success. He/she can accomplish nothing unless they can communicate effectively.
Since I believe everybody is a leader, read that quote again but replace the word “leader” with the word “person”. Here, I’ll help you:
Communication is crucial to a person’s success. You can accomplish nothing unless you can communicate effectively.
Communication is everything. So with that firmly in your mind, here are three secrets to remember about constructive communication:
1. It’s not about them, it’s about you
It’s hard to be vulnerable when you feel judged, blamed or criticized; so don’t treat others that way. Seriously. Post a reminder to yourself if you need to.
We all have our reasons for our reactions, the only ones that matter to you should be yours. So use “I” statements to avoid others feeling like they are being accused.
Don’t try to punish other people with your feelings. That’s just plain mean. Being mean is not constructive.
Honesty, humility and vulnerability are the keys to unlock the door of constructive communication.
2. Focus on the problem, not the person
I guarantee you, if you come across as defensive and judgmental, you’re going to have a bad conversation and still have unresolved issues.
Don’t be defensive
Don’t bring up any previous problems you’ve had
Define a common goal and work amicably towards achieving it. You can scream into a pillow later, when you’re alone.
3. Your body language is as important as your mouth language
If you’re trying to bridge a communication gap while sitting with arms crossed and legs crossed, the communication will be crossed. As they say (whomever “they” is):
Feelings are 55% body language, 38% tone and 7% words
Having open body language is hugely important in being humble, honest and vulnerable.
make eye contact
don’t cross your arms or legs
have your body facing the other person, not primed to run away at the first opportunity
for goodness sakes, don’t clench your fists or do that jaw clenching thing that Tom Cruise does in every movie
What have you found that works (or doesn’t) for you in conflict resolution? Let me know in the comments.
“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
It’s Dark In Here. A lot of people are without power. Those that have power can now go to a website and see who doesn’t have power. It’s oddly satisfying. (check it out)
Shhhh. We have a secret weapon in space that you’re not allowed to know about. So definitely don’t read this article.
Useless Like. Cause I know you love useless sites as much as I do, you’ll like this