How to Have Emotionally Charged Conversations with Ease

community leadership Jun 18, 2020

In the discussion and exploration of societal concerns, it may feel at times that it’s impossible to communicate with others, especially when it comes to hot button issues where the recipient has a different view from your own.

Words, expressions or underlying emotions that come out during these highly charged conversations can cause a subconscious trigger, that more often than not, causes a knee-jerk reaction to defend, to prove that your side is right, and to “educate” the other on why that is. 

That trigger reaction can show up as bantering, bullying, and dismissiveness. All of these can shut down the conversation and leave people feeling silenced and/or unsafe about further engagement. 

We all possess these unconscious obstacles to engagement and trust in a group environment. There is a natural fear of speaking up because of the reaction that may follow. 

How do we move past this? 

In today’s post, we will explore some basic components that will help us to have these important, genuine conversations with ease, and we will be continuing the conversation in our live webinar happening on July 1st at 11AM. Make sure to register for that here. 

Set the tone and establish boundaries.  

In order for people to be able to share openly in a conversation, there must be a level of trust established. This allows people to be more vulnerable. 

When it comes to highly charged conversations, however, it’s certainly more difficult to express that vulnerability because of the fear of attack. In war times vulnerability is a weakness. 

But within genuine, productive conversations, being vulnerable means that you are open to learning and changing, and that is a strength, not a weakness. 

Vulnerability helps us to acknowledge our differences, and to understand where the other is coming from. 

In order for this trust and vulnerability to show up, we must first have boundaries in place that protect both parties. As a participant in these conversations, it’s important for you to have awareness of your own boundaries, so that you know when a conversation goes from being productive to unproductive. 

It’s valuable to ask, am I actively committed to having a dialogue with this person? Or do I want to squash their opinion so that I can prove that I am “right”? 

If you feel like the other person is pushing your boundaries then there are key questions to ask yourself when drawing that line, and deciding if the conversation is something you want to continue with:

  • Are you truly responding from your heart in alignment with your purpose?
  • Is it productive to continue the conversation? 
  • Do you feel safe continuing with the conversation? 

Listen to understand, not to respond. 

How often do you engage in conversations where you or the recipient are actively listening? If you find yourself waiting for an opportunity to say your piece or to pick out the other person’s weakness so you can attack it, then you’re not truly listening. 

The only way to learn where the other is coming from is to truly listen to them. Listen without an agenda. True authentic conversations happen when we listen to understand, not to respond. 

Part of this listening power is picking up on subconscious cues in yourself and your recipient. This is where the curiosity comes in. 

  • What are they saying that they’re not actually saying? 
  • What’s really going on? 
  • Why is it so important for you or for them to be right about this?
  • Why is it so vulnerable? 
  • What is triggering you about their response? 

Growth and healing comes when you choose to explore the trigger. Awareness is power and it helps fuel compassion over judgement. 

Acknowledge that they are seen and heard. 

Everyone wants to be seen and heard, authentically, and this comes into play within group discussions. Do you feel heard? Are you really listening? 

One way to show others that you are listening is to repeat back what you heard them say that was important, “What I hear you saying is…” 

Reflect back what you actually heard them say, without any additions or your own interpretations, and be sure to pay attention to their response. See how this sets the tone for the rest of the conversation. 

When we feel like we’re truly being heard and understood, we pave the way for further trust and vulnerability and that’s where true change starts to happen. 

Find power in the pause. 

So much of the underlying emotions in a conversation are better picked up in person from visual cues in body language, tone and energy. There’s no doubt that the world of online communication is different. 

When the communication is happening on one side of the computer screen through email or social media, it’s harder to pick up on these underlying cues and messages are easily misinterpreted. 

Words shared online could be strategic in triggering a negative response that has you pounding away on your keyboard and online mediums allow an easy way to immediately respond without thinking. 

While this can feel invigorating at the time, you may feel some regret after you push send and get a heated response (or responses!) right back at you. 

If it feels good to write out your response, to get it out, then do it. But pause before sending. 

There’s power in that pause. 

The pause gives you time to be authentically curious. Is your response a knee-jerk reaction because you were triggered by something? Are you engaging as you want to? 

Can you participate in the conversation without trying to change the other person? Do you really want to understand where they’re coming from? 

There’s a big difference between understanding someone and trying to educate someone on why you’re right and they’re wrong. 

Pausing before sending allows you to address your boundaries and where the line is for further engagement. Are you being bullied, dismissed or invited into an argument? Are you focused on a part of the argument? Are you willing to go further? 

Remember your boundaries. Is this productive?

Share your takeaways from the conversation. 

At the end of these conversations, remember to thank the other person. Share what you got out of the conversation and ask how it was for them.

If the relationship is to continue there is often a next step that all parties need to take to follow up on the conversation in the future. 

Make sure to carry forward the tone and boundaries that all parties agreed upon and build your relationship for the future. 

Join us at the next live SpiralMethod webinar.

We invite you to explore this topic further on how to keep emotionally charged communication productive and heart centered in our free webinar happening on July 1st, 2020 at 11AM MDT called, “Easeful and Genuine Communication in Times of High Emotion"

Register here now. 

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