There’s a reason you aren’t getting along.
Are you finding it difficult to communicate with an ex or with your partner? If so, then this article will shed some light on why you keep having challenging and aggressive conversations.
Below are five critical mistakes I see my clients (and myself!) making to create arguments, spur hatred and disable relationships.
1) Belief that your feelings of anger and frustration are coming from the other person’s behavior. There is a common mistaken belief that someone can make us feel something or that they can trigger something inside of us. The problem with this belief is that it can play havoc with communication because you will immediately blame the other person for your woes.
Really, the cause of your feelings of anxiety and frustration is not your partner’s behavior, but your anger and frustrated thinking in that moment. When coaching clients through this, I often see light bulbs come on because they realize that their feelings are no longer linked to their other half’s behavior.
The minute you understand your experience better and accept that your feelings are coming from you, two things happen; first, the need to change the behavior of the other person dissolves, as does the need to defend yourself. And second, you realize that your security and well-being is independent of how they behave.
2) React immediately with blame and shame. One of the key ingredients that make communication challenging and difficult is using blame and shame as your vehicle. I liken this to using war tactics.
It’s natural for us to want to defend ourselves when we are under attack, which is how wars get started. If you blame and shame your partner, he or she will blame and shame you right back. It also suggests that there is a wrong and right and that someone will win or lose. In this game, there are no winners; even if you think that winning will give you satisfaction, all it will usually do is alienate the other person even more and stop them from wanting to broach the subject.
An insight that I recently had about this is that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. If you could see truth as a separate entity that sits between you and the other person, how different would the outcome of the conversation be?
What if instead, you were to take a deep breathe, create some space between the reactive nature of your thinking and get curious as to why they feel the way they do?
3) Focus on the content of the argument vs. what is creating the argument. When I was going through a challenging time with my husband, I realized that our challenge was not about finances, but more about how we would talk about our finances. I would get insecure and so would he and so we would stop listening to one another.
Whenever we needed to discuss money, we would bring our stories around money with us and what I noticed was that it was our stories around money that were making us feel insecure and defensive. Because of this, there was no room for us to have a dialogue that would allow us to be heard.
Instead, be aware that what is creating your feelings isn’t the content of what you are arguing about, but how you are actually communicating. If you are arguing, then the likelihood is that the defensiveness is coming from your story about that particular subject.
4) Don’t listen properly. It’s difficult to listen when you are locked in your story and are feeling insecure and angry.
But not listening to the other person makes it really difficult to even open up a dialogue for you both to talk about challenging subjects, because you cannot see beyond your thinking.
And it is beyond your habitual thinking that insight and peace happen. When you are truly listening to someone else, two things happen. First, you are not focused on your story anymore, so your mind calms down. Second, if the person you are having an argument with is still in their heads, their aggressive energy has nowhere to go.
All too many times I have seen what was about to be an aggressive confrontation turn into a dialogue when one person diffuses the aggressiveness of the other. Just like when you put ice in hot water and it melts, listening — and not reacting — has the same outcome.
5) Don’t speak in the moment. What does this even mean? And why is it important? Speaking in the moment is about observing what is going on and stating it.
For example, I was having a conversation with my mentor yesterday and we were talking about how to create an incredible connection with someone, especially if one or both of you is insecure. The solution? To have a conversation where you both are talking about the present moment.
It may look something like this:
“Have you noticed how we have both gone into our heads?”
“I am noticing a lot of insecurity in myself, are you there too?”
“What could we do to calm down here, like the times we are feeling really connected?”
As you can see, it’s about observing the moment, allowing for that part of you to come out and give you both space to move out of your head and into your heart. This makes space for connection and peace once again.
It’s easier to transform a challenging conversation into an effortless one if you are both aware of where you are (either your head or heart) so you can consciously maneuver yourself into a more constructive and connected place within yourselves.
In short, if you want to transform challenging conversations into effortless communication, the key is today understand what is creating your experience and work towards creating peace from within. This will make a safe space for you both to talk.
It only takes one of you to alter what you are currently doing to change the dynamic and outcome.