When feelings are hurt, it can be challenging to speak up. Here’s how to communicate compassionately, especially when the stakes are high.
Trish Everett is an inner story coach who specializes in helping individuals and couples communicate compassionately and untangle the dynamics that are draining them. She helps them connect more deeply with themselves and others in their lives.
Trish has worked for 18 years helping people to build their personal power. She is now a lecturer of wellness at RMIT university in Melbourne, Australia, and runs her own coaching and education business. She is passionate about exploring the magical space where freedom and connection both live.
I loved interviewing Trish for an episode of Last First Date Radio. We talked about the importance of learning how to communicate compassionately through conflict. Highlights of our conversation below.
Why is talking through conflict important?
It comes down to the feeling of being connected, as communication is the bridge between conflict. Conflict creates a wall, and the bigger the wall, the harder it is to talk about it. People tend to suppress and it festers aon the inside.
Or they rage, and they’re not meeting their partner, but going off on tangents.
You want to connect with your partner.
Imagine a relationship is like a triangle: on one side you have one person, on the other side you have the other person, and on the third side, you have the relationship. When you argue using defensiveness and stonewalling, you are only attending to yourself [and ignoring the other two important parts of the triangle].
When is the best time to talk about the hard things?
The best time is when emotions are not high, and you’re centered and grounded. [When you’re calm,] you won’t be in the fight or flight response.
What are some strategies for being in the right mindset for the conversation?
Anger is all about action and can be helpful to get you to say something, especially if you tend to swallow your words.
It’s important to be aware within yourself to step up and speak honestly with care and respect.
To get into the right mindset, get connected with yourself and get present. Find a way that works for you that you can have on tap. I’m a deep breather, and I need to take a few deep breaths and give it a bit of space.
After the breath, I have the quality of wanting the boundary and the protection, but I’ve lost my sharp tongue for it!
Another way is to get into your body and feel grounded, feeling into your hands.
You can also [calm] yourself down by saying, “I’ve got this.”
Practice getting calm before you get to that crazy place, because you won’t have these techniques on tap when you are triggered.
You want to take the edge off, but still have the impetus to connect.
You want to own your stuff and not take on their stuff. This makes conflict a whole different game. They are your feelings and no one else can make you feel anything.
What are some tips for communicating when there is conflict?
Before you say anything, go in with the mindset that ‘I want to listen and I want to be listened to’. That builds trust in the relationship. In that listening space, listen with the energy of curiosity. You want to be able to hear what they say without the inner critic. Listen like a sponge. “Wow, so that’s what’s going on for you!”
Use “I” statements, and own how you feel. [Then, tell your partner] what it is that you’re hearing. If you heard it wrong, you’re opening up the conversation to make sure you’ve got it right.
Until someone feels heard, they will be less willing to hear you.
When you’re talking, do it with the energy of wanting to be honest and compassionate and caring. Speak about what’s alive for you and share a bit of your inner world. That is a gift.
The third part is that these conversations are sacred. Many times, after the conversation, it’s forgotten. Or it’s used as ammunition. These conversations must be honored. Make an effort to remember the conversation and keep the love and respect.
To hear the entire interview, click here.
To listen on iTunes click here.
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Photo: Flickr/Dave McKeague