We’ve all had conversations that have just gone bad. The thing is that in every conversation, there’s a goal in mind. There’s some destination that you’re trying to get to.
Even in those social, “just getting to know you” conversations. Or those old friend conversations just seem to meander and go every here and there. The ones that take every rabbit trail possible, there’s still some goal. There’s still some destination. A conversation goes wrong, or goes bad, or turns into a conflict when somebody makes a wrong turn. Either the speaker makes a wrong turn, or the listener makes a wrong turn.
If you get just a little bit off course, that’s easy to correct. If you get way off course, it’s a lot harder to correct. Sometimes the conflict isn’t even about how to get back on course. It’s just about the distance between the original goal and where you are now. When that happens, you’re just arguing about arguing. You’re not even claiming to solve the original problem.
What do you do? Well, if you get way off course, you have to backtrack to where you made the wrong turn. What did you feel when you heard the last thing the person said? What did they say right before that? What did they feel? What did they hear? What did they say right before that? You have to go back.
Best case scenario, you develop the skills of active listening or reflective listening. So you use statements like, “I think I heard you say …” “If I understand you right …” “I believe that you’re saying …” Fill in the blank.
As a speaker you learn to:
- speak slowly
- choose your words carefully
- take responsibility when you are unclear about something.
As a speaker, when you’re the one that made the wrong turn in the conversation. It’s not, “You didn’t understand me.” It’s, “I think I was unclear. Let be back up. I’ll try that again. Let me rephrase that.” You’re keeping the responsibility on yourself.
You’re not making it about yourself to be prideful, or arrogant, or narcissistic. You’re taking responsibility for the wrong turn, and you’re taking responsibility for the correction. Instead of putting it on the other person and blaming them.