On most occasions, when someone says something to us that annoys us or makes us angry, it is imperative that you do not confront that person immediately. (Refer to my previous posts). When we confront people when emotions are running high, it seldom ends well.
In challenging communications where we may be afraid to talk about a particular subject, we often tiptoe around what we should actually talk about out of fear of saying the wrong thing.
It is a very common concern, particularly in emotional conversations such as when talking with people who may be under stress, depressed, or suicidal. Most often, we are unsure of how the other person will react if we say the wrong thing.
When we are uncertain of what to say, it is reflected in our voice. We can sound disingenuous, weak, unintelligent, or lacking empathy.
And things can get worse. When we realise that the challenging communication isn’t going that well, we try to over-compensate by talking about unrelated matters and hoping that the uncomfortable topic will either go away or the person will bring it up themselves.
It is critically important to get the person to talk about the underlying issue/s that is causing them angst. Talking about things that impact on us helps us to rationaslise and normalise how we are feeling about the issue. If we don't talk about the issue, it then becomes such an emotional issue that it totally consumes the person’s thoughts.
Talking about emotional issues disarm them and relieves the negative thoughts.
In these difficult communications, I use a technique I term – ‘Run to the fire’.
In short, ask the person a question about the very thing that you fear asking them. When we do so, the conversation goes straight to the underlying issue and communications become honest, open, and genuine.
Once you have asked the question, focus on that issue and nothing else, stay on that topic for as long as possible. In suicide intervention I call this the death zone, the dark place that we fear talking about yet need to go to, to relieve the pressure.
Ask them questions about how the issue is impacting on them and how they feel about the issue. Once you have gained all the information that you think you need to help the person, take a step back and find out how the issue occurred.
Don’t problem solve the issue until you have all the information.
When we take people back over what has happened prior to fixing the problem, two things happen. Most people like to tell you about the issue which will gain you valuable empathy and rapport. Additionally, we now have all the information that we need to ensure we can help them appropriately without making errors.
This technique doesn’t work for all communication situations, just the ones that we find the most uncomfortable. Go with your gut, say what's in your heart, and be genuine.