How to Stop the Downward Spiral - Challenging Conversations in Charged Times

community leadership Jul 09, 2020

In these charged times, every conversation can feel like a high-stakes game of roulette. How will my message land?

Differences of opinion can easily escalate into an emotionally-charged conversation that spirals downward, and out of control.

Am I getting my point across? Is the other person listening to me? Why don’t they just understand my point of view?

Tensions rise, battle lines feel drawn and emotions heighten. The innate, automatic responses are a perceived threat. And we experience fight, flight or freeze - the human body’s protective reactions to avoid further confrontation.

If not interrupted, these responses erode trust, communication and the possibility of human connection. And the spiral continues downward. We retreat into our echo chambers, and avoid confrontation with our work colleagues.

If you want to disrupt the pattern, and make challenging conversations easeful, here’s how SpiralMethod works.

How can we stop the downward spiral?

Recognize what’s happening

Are you in flight, flight or freeze? Take a deep breath. Stop the automatic response from becoming your next action. Re-engage your thinking. Explore the other’s person point of view from a place of curiosity.

Embrace being human

Imperfect action is better than no action. it’s important for us to engage in challenging conversations, knowing that you may fumble. This imperfect action expresses compassion and grace, for all involved. It’s OK to make mistakes in human connection. How you recover is the key to maintaining trust, and easeful communication.

What you say matters, and how you listen, matters more.

All too often, challenging conversations are seen as right or wrong debates. I’m right and you’re wrong. Critique and criticism are especially easy within the virtual world, and online interactions exacerbate the tensions.

Often, peoples’ reactions aren’t in line with what we “intended.” We all make mistakes. Fumble as we try to communicate and connect on charged topics and in charged times. No one is perfect.

How we recover, and re-engage in an authentic conversation where both parties feel heard and understood, is crucial to maintaining trust and connection.

Getting our intentions aligned with the impact that we make ensures that we build and maintain connection through charged conversations. And it takes practice.

How? By choosing the right words, and listening with curiosity.

De-escalate by intentionally choosing your language.

Some examples of messages to try:

  • “What you’re saying makes sense.”
  • “I can see how this must feel for you.”
  • “I didn’t mean to…”
  • “I’m so sorry if that’s what you heard.”
  • “I hear what you’re saying, and I have a couple of questions.”

Ultimately the conversation is pointless if neither of you are really listening. For more on the importance of active listening skills for communication and group dynamics, take a look at our previous blog here.

Make a conscious choice.

If you try the methods above, and the recipient continues to shut you down, bully or threaten you, you will eventually reach a point where you realize the conversation is no longer productive.

If you reach this point, make a conscious choice. Ask yourself these questions when deciding whether to continue or retreat from the conversation:

    • Is this productive?
    • Am I in alignment with my purpose?
    • Do I feel safe?

What can I learn from this? What do I need to adjust?

The process is a spiral, not linear, much as the SpiralMethod is. You can spiral up, or spiral down. Learning is spiraling up. Authentic conversation and communication are built into what we teach, and embedded into the SpiralMethod process.

Once you master these communication skills, you’ll see a quantum impact, as you continue to connect with more ease, and lead groups and teams successfully. There’s no longer a battle to fight, but listening and learning to gain.

The best way to experience SpiralMethod group facilitation techniques is by participating. Try it out! Join us.

Register here to join us for one of our weekly virtual meetings and personally experience SpiralMethod effective group facilitation techniques free of charge.

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