Communicating difficult emotions
This is the second part of a three-part blog about conflict resolution. The first part is about recognizing emotions and the conclusion was that we are responsible for our own emotions.
This blog will focus on how we communicate the emotions we feel. I mentioned in the last blog that we are merely influenced by actions of others, not controlled by them. This is important truth to take into consideration when we communicate how we feel. We do not want to blame others for the emotions we harbor but address what we feel based on their actions.
In a conflict and when emotions are hurt it can be hard to be objective. A tool that can help us not make assumptions or pass blame is a tool called perception checking. Perception checking goes like this:
1) Describe the actions you saw or the message you heard. Do it without adding your interpretation of it to begin with.
2) Describe how you interpreted the action or the message. Try as much as possible to give two interpretations.
3) Describe how your interpretation makes you feel.
4) Request clarification of the action or the message.
Here is an example of perception checking:
“When you said you couldn’t come and visit me yesterday, it made me think that you do prioritize our relationship, or that you don’t want to spend time with me. That made me feel rejected. Is my interpretation correct, or could you clarify why you couldn’t come over?”
Most likely, the person who receives these words is willing to clarify their intentions. Also, when forcing ourselves to communicate our emotions in a controlled and objective manner, we tend to put ourselves in a position that is much easier to talk to. Perception checking can prevent unnecessary conflict development.
Expand your emotional vocabulary
Sometimes we feel emotions that can be hard to describe. Some of the most acknowledged emotions we feel are happiness, anger, fear, and sadness. But often those four simply don’t cut it in describing how we feel. Underneath is an emotional wheel that can help us find the words we are looking for in describing the emotion we feel.
Consider your channel and timing
To some, it might seem natural to introduce difficult conversations or topics face to face. Yet, others might see no issue in communicating online or through text about difficult emotions. I will encourage people not to do that due to the simple reason; text-based communication is much easier to misunderstand.
Another small, but significant thing to consider is timing. The mood, the energy level, or the amount of stress the other person is under can have a huge affect on the way they receive your message.
It can help to begin with agreeing on a time to talk about the incident. That can level the playing field for the other person, and prepare them for difficult conversations.
From communication to goal
All relationships have conflicts, but when we are in healthy honoring relationships it is much easier to deal with conflicts. Perception checking can seem over-simplified, I admit that. Though it might not work 100% of the time, I have yet to experience it not work.
The next blog, the last one in this series of conflict resolution, I will focus on the types of results we should want to see from conflict resolution. Spoiler alert: Conflicts can actually be healthy for a relationship.