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When conversations become frustrating

It wasn't long ago that my son and I went through a season of not being able to communicate without things becoming uncomfortable for us both. It just seemed the simplest conversation would escalate and we would both become frustrated that we were not being heard. We connected once things were less emotional to see how we could improve our communication and discussed what we were seeking from our discussions. This opened the door to an important shift for us both, as we realised that we came to the conversation with a need we wanted the other person to hear and acknowledge.

Conversations are deep

Many of us would already understand that our use of language includes both speaking and listening. We have been encouraged in our formative years to listen to another person and actively engage with what is being said. What isn't always highlighted is the conversation that the speaker is having with themselves or the conversation the listener is having with themselves - there is a lot going on. If we build upon this, taking into consideration the recent conversations with my son. Then we can include, the need each person brings to the conversation.

Let me use myself as an example. I have a deep desire to help others, it has been a part of me as long as I can remember. I derive a sense of value from giving and sharing with others. In conversations, I want everyone to be heard and truly engaged. It is my belief, that when people are truly heard there is a sense of acceptance and love that they experience. So I come to conversations with a need that is about others and also about myself. My son has a different need to me and therefore comes to the conversation with a different focus. The possibility of tension when either persons needs are not met, is very real.

When things didn't align

In conversations with my son, I began to realise that while we were saying similar things we were not hearing each others needs. We were operating on a surface level, while our deeper emotions were at play. My wife often said, I think you are saying the same thing to each other, but you dont seem to align with each other. It became apparent that the escalation of our conversations was about our needs not being met by each other, rather than what we were discussing. The different ways we expressed ourselves, seeking to logically connect, did not resolve our emotional experiences. At the core of those emotions, was the inner voice expressing that we were not hearing each others needs. You could view the inner conversation as 'YOU ARE NOT MEETING MY NEED'! We were not aligned in our conversation, because what we wanted at that point was not going to be resolved on the surface. We were both moving to a place of security as the frustration increased and it is challenging to resolve emotional reactions with words alone.

Where to from there?

There were some strategies that we used that assisted our conversations a lot. I won't claim that things are so different now that we do not have tension at times, however they have improved significantly from the season we were experiencing.

Seek to understand the other persons need

Yes it seems simple enough and yes you have probably heard this before, but it is a very important step. Your mind, body and emotions will hold a different space if you start a conversation seeking to understand the person you are talking with.

Ask clarifying questions

This builds upon the above point, where you ask questions rather than assume you understand. Asking a person if what they meant is this? Or checking in that the word or statement used is as you understand it. Are powerful tools to connect and at times bring to the surface the needs of another person.

Check in on what is happening for you

Being aware of what is taking place for you in a conversation, can highlight your own need and what you may be seeking from the conversation. Such moments of reflection can assist us in managing our emotions and being able to care for ourselves.

Be kind to yourself

Be patient in the experience and in the journey. There will be times where it will not work out the way we expect, or our own needs may not be met in every circumstance. When learning something new, it can seem uncomfortable for both people. In family circumstances, you may experience a confused glance as you approach things differently than your normally would. Stay the course and treat it as an opportunity to shift your experience.


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