I’m amazed at the power of healthy dialogue. You’d think communication would be the easiest thing in the world. I mean we all grow up talking to each other. We spent hours chatting with friends over the phone. We talked at length to try to impress a date. We basically grew up developing all the raw skills needed to effectively communicate. So what happened when we finally “grew up”? Why do things go so wrong when conversations become crucial?
I just got back from a Crucial Conversations Train the Trainer class a couple of weeks ago. It was excellent! Our trainer, Darrell Harmon who’s a great guy by the way, did a wonderful job! We all learned the tools needed to move conversations from dysfunctional to healthy. We got to practice our skills in front of our peers. All was well with the world. I was prepared, loaded up with fresh new tools. I was a conversation master… and then…. I went home.
When it mattered most… I did my worst. I had planned out one particular crucial conversation I was going to have with my wife. First off, I chickened out. I didn’t bring up the topic for days. Then it happened. When I was unprepared THE topic came up. Emotions began to rise. We both said things the wrong way.
Things were not going well. Then, in the twinkling of an eye… the thought popped into my head… “THIS is a crucial conversation. This is YOUR opportunity to try this stuff out.” So I went for it. At first, I couldn’t remember ANYTHING from my week long class. My brain was too dumbed down by adrenaline. My amygdala had been hijacked, and I simply couldn’t think. However, the more I tried to remember what to do first the more my emotions began to calm. I asked myself “What do I really want from this increasingly loud conversation?” As I processed that question another one from class popped into my head… “How can I Make it Safe?” Oh yeah… if one or both are going into silence or violence it’s because things aren’t safe. How could I make things safe for her? Oh yeah… a “Don’t / Do” statement would work here. I tried it…. it worked! She started to de-escalate.
I inwardly smiled at my new dialogue prowess. “What else could I try?” I honestly didn’t try anything else because she began to follow my lead and started paraphrasing my statements. (Something we’d learned in marriage counseling years ago.) As we both tried to one-up each other with our conversational maturity our discussion took a 180. We ended up in a very healthy dialogue. We began encouraging each other, laughing and genuinely enjoying each other’s company. It was amazing! This stuff works!
If you’ve not read the book, get a copy. Secondly, you have to try it out! Like everything in life, you have to “take it out of the box” to enjoy it!
Good luck on your conversational journey!