"Let's Talk" ... how many times has a simple conversation gone awry, making you wonder what happened? Take heart. It is possible to examine a conversational segment to discover what works and what doesn't. The roots of many successful and unsuccessful human interactions can be found by examining conversational segments. Look at the following dynamic:
John and Mary:
John asks Mary a question but, in reality, he is making an emotional statement. Mary responds naturally to the question but fails to pick up John's underlying statement ... which he fails to communicate correctly and directly to Mary. She gives an answer that he does not wish to hear and he verbally attacks her. She is deeply hurt and extremely upset by his behavior. She defends herself and, in the process chastises and rejects John. She follows this with much rule setting and he rebels as if he is reacting like a child to its mother. The battle escalates and the relationship goes into the hopper and both people are alienated.
Avoiding the Escalation of Conversational Warfare:
If either John or Mary had activated their "Objective Observer", they could have stood apart and above their conversation in order to examine what was happening. An excellent tool that Mary could have used in this situation would have been to ask for further elaboration of the initial question. For instance, Mary could have said, “Tell me more about what you need so that I can fully understand what you’re asking”. John could then have elaborated and revealed more of what he wanted, providing an opportunity for Mary to listen and “respond” with more understanding.
Thus, they would have been able to further determine a more successful conversational interaction, instead of opting for a dysfunctional one. The "Objective Observer" provides a breathing space ... just long enough to allow you to think and prevent an emotional train crash from happening. It truly gives new meaning to the phrase "Think First, Speak Later" ...
Sometimes there is no easy way to navigate conversations that are potentially loaded with tension and unexpressed feeling. If you find yourself in these situations more often than you like, contact us to schedule an appointment. I have the tools and strategies that will help you recognize those types of conversations and navigate them with confidence and ease. Teletherapy sessions are available as well as our library of life enhancing ebooks and media programs to use daily to reduce stress, maximize options, strengthen relationships, and create joy in your life.
Paul J. Hannig, Ph.D. LMFT