Wouldn't it be nice to have necessary but difficult conversations without unnecessary drama, resistance or hurt feelings? Having these types of conversations is both a discipline and an art.
To get better at hard conversations, you can start by becoming aware of the 4 types of negative communication patterns that derail them every time.
Identifying and avoiding these 4 patterns will transform your ability to resolve import issues, increase accountability and maintain strong relationships.
Withdraw & Avoid 🤐
Silent treatment, anyone?
People who typically fall into this negative communication pattern will pull away as soon as an uncomfortable situation presents itself. Whether they are using it as a weapon to "punish" the other person or they truly just shut down as a response to conflict, to withdraw and avoid is not an altruistic response. Conflict avoidance does not equal peace.
Escalate 🤯 🤬
Raising your tone and intensity in a difficult conversation is a power move that immediately shuts others down. This pattern likely has never gotten you anywhere (even though you think it has because you've managed to overpower others into doing what you want).
Typically if someone responds this way, they're going to be faced with one of two of these negative communication patterns in return. The person you're interacting with is either going to withdraw from you or they are going to escalate right back at you and cause a huge blow-up. Neither of these will get you where you want to go.
If you find yourself escalating in a difficult conversation, it's best to recognize it as soon as possible and ask if there can be a time-out in the conversation. This could be a 5-minute break or even the next day. However, it's important to show enough respect to the topic of the conversation, and especially to the other person, by coming back to what you were discussing. And if you've noticed a pattern with a specific person where you frequently find yourself escalating, give them the freedom to also call a time-out if they are feeling like things are getting out of hand.
Negatively Interpret 🤨 😰
"They said _______ but I'm sure they meant _______."
Someone who negatively interprets tends to take what is said and then rewrite a story in their own head. Something that wasn't intended as negative at all turns into a personal attack. Or, they might take what is meant to be real critique and feedback (because sometimes these things are necessary) and make a mountain out of what you think should be a molehill.
If this is you, the best thing you can do in a difficult conversation situation is to mentally declare noble intent on behalf of the other person. Rather than assuming the worst, take a moment to assume the best about them and their intentions. Oftentimes, the words they are saying will take on a whole new meaning if you simply change your perspective on what you have presumed their intent to be. At least give them the benefit of the doubt.
Invalidate 👎 🙄
"You shouldn't feel that way."
While negative interpretation can turn a mountain out of a molehill, invalidation can make a molehill out of their mountain. This pattern essentially tells the other person that their feelings are wrong. Judging another person's feelings will cause you to lose influence every time.
In these situations, sometimes clarity can help close the gap. But if you are sure you've clearly communicated yet they are still feeling negatively about the conversation or situation, meet them where they are. Allow the person to feel their feelings. From this starting point, the two of you can then work together toward mutual understanding and success.
If you really want to set yourself become the type of person who is good at difficult conversations, even good at conflict. Start by not using the 4 negative communication patterns we've discussed.
Bottom Line: Don't be a WENI!
*Negative communication patterns adapted from the book, A Lasting Promise, by Scott Stanley, Daniel Trathen, Savanna McCain, and Milt Bryan (2014, Jossey-Bass).
Interested in making sure you continue to grow? We are too! Schedule time with Bob to start your journey today!