What is hIgh risk conversations
High risk conversations are more commonly called fights in relationships They are high risk because the risk of people getting hurt is quite high, not to mention to potential for loss can be high as well. These conversations are intimate with people who know us very well, they know our weaknesses, they know our past, we depend on them for some things, we usually turn to them for love and support, they hopefully are our friends. There is a lot on the line when a disagreement starts between couples.
How do they happen?
Somewhere one party has had an emotional reaction to either something said or done. They have gotten a perception of a situation which they believe to be true. Our brains are designed for survival with a fine tuned fight, flight or freeze system. Our senses provide information to our brain which determines how to respond to the situation based on previous experiences, knowledge and current factors it understands. Second to survival is keeping everything the same in our life. Change is threatening to the brain. With this system engaged, blood is sent to the arms and legs to run or fight. The brain power of logic is no longer needed. You can think of it as, the brain has done it’s job and can now sit back and wait until this situation is over and it is needed again to determine next steps. You now have a person who believes their position is correct and whose brain is taking a nap while they fight this one out. The emotions run higher as it becomes clearer that resolution is further away and the false belief needs to be defended at all costs. In many relationships as the conversation increases in disagreement the risk also increases. Does this mean sleeping in separate beds, no sex, leaving the party early, breaking up, waking children etc etc.
TOOLS TO USE
Determine what you want from the conversation
· Recognize signs of an unsafe conversation :
using sarcasm, sugar-coating or understatements
Avoiding aspects of the conversation
Withdrawing from the conversation
Making it unsafe
Controlling – trying to convince you their point of view is right
Labelling – trying to pigeon hole what is being said, this introduces stereotypes on subjects and makes it easier to dismiss them or sidetrack the conversation
Attacking – belittling, personal attacks, name calling
Check what role you are playing ie:
Victim – it is not my fault
Villian – it is all your fault
Helpless – there is nothing I can do about it
· Begin to change the direction of the conversation
· If you need to step back, take a time out
· Ask for clarification of their point of view
· Show compassion , understanding and empathy
· Investigate with a curious mind. Don’t interrogate. You don’t know the right answer in this situation because there is no right answer. you are looking for information. It doesn’t matter how silly the information is, it is exactly what you are looking for. If your partner tells you they want to be a unicorn trainer and you won’t let them, ask why they think you would stop them. This serves two purposes. First it helps bring blood back to the brain and gets the body out of the stress response, second it shows empathy and builds a sense of togetherness that you can build on to find a solution. it eliminates the us vs them line.
· Use intervention statements
“It seems we are on different pages, I would like to understand your page
I am emotional right now and need to regain control of that before I can continue in the conversation. Can we come back to this in/at....
I don’t think I am understanding what you are saying, can you help me understand?
I want to give you my full attention and I am too angry/confused/tired etc to do that right now. Can we come back to this in/at....
Wow! We are coming at this from very different point of view, let’s work together to bring those two views togetherviews together.”
· Don’t try to use logic with a person who is under the influence of emotion
· Don’t assume they can see things from your point of view.
· A successful outcome will depend on two things: how you are and what you say.
· Don't let yourself get infected Emotions are contagious. Keep yours in check. If you need to take a breath, go to the bathroom, ask them to explain something or describe something, get them taking for a length of time that will give you a moment to regroup.
· Don't take it personally
· Rephrase what you think you heard back to the other person to gain understanding and show you are listening
· Use empathy statements
Similar to rephrasing. Different in that it they serve to diffuse feelings of anger and resentment.
They have two parts: one part that labels the feeling and the second that identifies what you see the problem they are expressing is
As a quick reminder for yourself. Use the acronym ICU
I- Intervention- disrupt to spiral. Change the direction of the conversation towards solution. Take a break if you need to. Ensure the space is safe for everyone
C - Control. stay in control of your own emotions and behaviour as best you can
U - Understanding - Compassion and empathy are key to success. You need to understand what is being said and meant by the words, Understanding how the other person is experiencing the situtation will help you find a solution