FREE DOWNLOAD: Emotions Vocabulary Chart
Today’s episode is all about communication strategies that help diffuse conflict.
I created a download called The Emotions Vocabulary Chart to guide our discussion in this episode.
One of the strategies I’m going to suggest involves emotions and since the everyday person can really only identify a handful of emotions I thought offering this chart would be really a useful tool.
When my husband and I were dating I was so nervous to meet his family. While Aaron and I met at church his family didn’t live in the same city and so it was Thanksgiving when I met the extended family for the first time.
And the experience couldn’t have been more different than my family. It was held in his grandma’s farmhouse and they were very polite and kind, and the evening consisted mostly of quiet small talk.
Not surprisingly there was a moment when I put my foot in my mouth. A new law was passed that would impact farmers and I inquired about their opinion thinking it was safe to ask making sure not to share my opinion.
Let’s just say it immediately went awkwardly quiet. Which was weird because it was so quiet in the first place then quickly shifted to a safer topic.
Being my first family meeting, I was so embarrassed because it was noticeable that I crossed a social barrier.
It was Christmas when Aaron came to my family event and let’s say it was a bit of a culture shock for him. It was held in the city of Toronto and my family is multicultural, politically active, and let’s just say has a long history of strong women.
At one point he asked why is everyone yelling at each other and I laughed replying that they were just talking. They are very competitive and boisterous There is usually one game played where people are split into teams and the smack begins. It’s all in good fun and everyone is having a good time… just loud fun.
And this Christmas was no different. When the game was played Aaron played it safe with his response and to this day his response is still a joke at family gatherings.
Poor guy, he was just communicating in the style that he is used to and I had a similar experience with his family. Neither was wrong in their communication style but we were just used to a certain style of communicating that in a different setting provoked conflict.
We learn different communication styles and strategies from our experience.
I have met many people who shy away from sharing their opinion because in the past they have experienced anger or violence as a result.
COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES TO DEFLATE CONFLICT
At the time of this recording, we are headed into the holiday season, and with tensions raised, I thought this would be a great time to offer some communication strategies that could be used to deflate conflict.
In ministry, we often hear about people in conflict and it’s hard to point out how someone may have contributed to the conflict due to their communication style or approach.
So I hope you can share these strategies as a tool to help yourself and others improve communication.
The first strategy is all about timing.
One of the qualities of emotional intelligence is being able to read to the room, know when it’s an appropriate time to speak up, have that hard conversation, or perhaps just hold your tongue and wait for a better time to speak.
If you look back, I’m sure there are times that you can remember when a conversation when south primarily because of bad timing.
So the first step in diffusing conflict is finding the best time
THE H.A.L.T METHOD
I want to introduce an acronym called H.A.L.T.
It stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired and it’s a quick and easy reminder that if you feel any of these things you should halt, stop immediately and meet these needs prior to having difficult or challenging conversations.
Essentially, you shouldn’t have any meaningful or potentially conflict-inducing conversations at the end of a workday, before you eat dinner after a day of sitting alone in your home office after a bad night’s sleep. That’s pretty much a recipe for disaster.
But how often do we do that?
No one wants to wreck the vibe when we are feeling good, but when we are stressed, had enough, agitated, and tired we blurt out what is deep inside. And what is the outcome? Offense, and hurt feelings.
However, if we or the person we are talking to are in a Halted state, Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, then it is more likely that the outcome of the conversation will be more conflict.
When you are in the HALTED state you are much more likely to react to situations than to respond. You are already in a state of stress so your body and mind are in full defensive mode.
In Episode 24, I spoke about how to de-escalate a crisis and I went into detail about what happens in your brain when you are feeling attacked or threatened. Essentially your brain is no-longer processing information logically so you are much more likely to be reactive, rather than responsive.
The first step of diffusing conflict is recognizing when you are in a HALTED state.
Anger is a secondary emotion. What I mean by that is that when we feel angry we are feeling that way as a result of feeling threatened.
Ever heard of the fight-flight-freeze response? Well, anger is a fight response. We feel threatened or challenged and so respond with anger. When we are in this state the logic center of the brain is hijacked with a flood of endorphins and we do not process information the same way. We react without thinking logically or about consequences. Ever said something in the heat of the moment only to regret it later? Yep, that is called the adrenaline hijack.
So when you’re feeling angry use the old saying “If you got nothing good to say, better not say anything at all.”
In the last few years, we have really become more aware of how loneliness impacts our mindset. But we don’t need to be in the middle of a global pandemic with restricted social isolation to feel lonely. You can feel lonely in a crowded room.
Loneliness is about connection and when we lose that connection, we are emotionally impacted.
We are created to be in relationships with others. I’m not talking about being an extrovert or introvert, but about having those relationship needs that need to be met, however big or small they are.
When we are lonely or disconnected we can be easily hurt, offended, and feel rejected and none of these produce positive results. Before having a challenging conversation, find some common ground to connect.
Tired isn’t just having enough sleep, we can become warn-out from a hard day and need downtime to replenish.
When you are tired your judgment is impaired and you have poor concentration. I can attest to the impact on mood and lowered ability to pay attention.
When you are tired you are not your best self and you and the person on the other end of the conversation deserve your best self.
So, prior to having a challenging conversation check in with yourself, and reflect on the other person. Are you or they, in a HALTED state? If so, be intentional to meet those needs and plan a time to connect later.
Picking the right time knowing when it’s an appropriate time to have that difficult conversation or share that opinion is the first step in diffusing conflict.
The second communication strategy is using I statements.
When a person feels that they are being blamed—whether rightly or wrongly—it’s common that they respond with defensiveness. “I” statements are a simple way of speaking that will help you avoid this trap by reducing feelings of blame.
A good “I” statement takes responsibility for one’s own feelings, while tactfully describing a problem.
It is natural to want to deflect negative behavior and find fault. We are hard-wired for self-preservation and defense. Avoid threats, keep safe, don’t stand out and of course, justify our own decisions because we all know their right. But when I say natural I mean that it’s human nature. It’s not exactly helpful.
I statements identify and take responsibility for your feelings or beliefs while graciously describing a problem.
The focus of the conversation is on your feelings rather than the characteristics or behaviors of the other person.
For example, typically we would say, “Why are you always late, you never come home from work on time.” But by using the I statement the focus shifts from the behavior to your feelings. “I feel like I’m not important when you always come home late.”
I statements allow you the speaker to be assertive without accusing the person of problematic behavior. It allows for more positive conversation and strengthens relationships.
This communication strategy is very versatile. You can use it in a workplace, marriage, parenting really any situation where there is a close connection and you need to maintain the relationship, yet deal with issues that may be negatively impacting you.
I- statements are not natural to us. It is much easier to say to your children, “If you call your sister a rude name one more time, I’m going to send you straight to bed.”
Not, “I’m disappointed when I hear you say rude words. I enjoy being around people who are kind.”
So it takes practice.
The pattern is saying “I feel” and then describing your emotion using “when”.
However, no matter how you change the wording, if your tone and body language are accusatory or agitated then you will still be sending the message of blame.
Make sure you use a soft and even tone.
Describing emotions is difficult for most people. If it’s not happy, sad, angry, or embarrassing many people are not able to identify it.
So when you’re struggling to have that difficult conversation, find the best time using the HALTED acronym, and communicate using I statements.
I encourage you to put what you have heard into action and start using I statements and identifying HALTED state.
- FREE DOWNLOAD Emotions Vocabulary Chart
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