Mindfulness is a key tool when it comes to facilitating and engaging in difficult conversations. As noted in the first two parts of this series, Communication for Conflict Resolution and Conflicted Relationships, we can do our best, but many times disagreements and conflict cannot be avoided. With the help of our Higher Selves, however, we can become more in tune with our mind-body connection and will be better able to identify when a conversation is becoming emotionally charged, leading to the rise of our Fight-or-Flight response. Below are a few meditation, mindfulness, and self-awareness tips and tricks that you can employ before or during a troubling situation.
When we find that someone is difficult to get along with, we should assess our own communication style before automatically assuming they are the issue. If no one else has problems getting along with this person then the issue might actually be us. This is certainly a tough pill to swallow but is essential if we want to remain in a cordial relationship with them.
Our own personal assumptions and viewpoints may be skewing our perception of the situation. Before expecting the other person to change, ask your Higher Self the following questions, adapted from Higher Self Yoga, Book I by Nanette V. Hucknall:
- What’s going on for the other person?
- How might they feel?
- What might they need?
- What could I be doing to make this situation worse?
- Can I open my heart to them?
Conflict tends to narrow our attention. The mind zeroes in on the other person’s words or behaviors, causing our emotions to rise and perspective to be lost. If you notice that you have lost touch with your environment and need to re-ground yourself, take a breath and look around. Where are you? What time of day is it? What do you need to do after the conversation is over? This will help you to remember that you have responsibilities beyond this conversation, and to stay present with reality.
Sometimes we must simply step away from the conversation, especially if you find it is becoming heated or emotional. If one or both people are unable to speak calmly, listen, or look at the situation objectively (even if it’s just temporarily), then not much will be accomplished, and it’s a good time to take a break.
To ensure that there is no further misunderstanding between the two parties, it’s helpful to let the other person know that by stepping away, you are not purely dismissing them or the conversation. Instead, you are taking the time to reflect and ground yourself so that when you do resume the conversation, you can do so mindfully.
Practicing meditation regularly is essential for handling difficult conversations well. The calmer and centered we are outside of conflict, the easier we will be able to turn to tools such as mindfulness and breathwork when we are faced with it. If you know that you will be participating in a difficult conversation, connect with your Higher Self beforehand and ask It to reveal to you what you need to know about the conversation or the other person. Ask It to help you to speak plainly and clearly so that you do not incite further conflict. Maintain this connection throughout the conversation, turning inwards to your Higher Self to help you maintain composure and control your emotional response.
It can be helpful to write down brief points that you would like to cover before beginning the conversation to jog your memory and keep your words on track. However, just as it is important to remain open about the outcome, its important to remain flexible about the conversation itself as it is unlikely to go exactly as planned. By noting the key points that you would like to get across, you will be less likely to get caught up in any side conversations or topics that will detract from the issue that needs to be resolved. In addition, you can visualize the different scenarios that may play out ahead of time, and jot down a possible response to each one.
If you feel an argument brewing, slow down the pace of the conversation. Speaking at a slower pace will help to keep tensions from rising because the person you are speaking with will slow down their own pace to match yours. This naturally diffuses the situation and keeps both parties focused on what needs to be discussed. In addition, make sure that your actions give the appearance that you are interested in and invested in the conversation. Refrain from appearing distracted by consciously giving the conversation your full attention, and never attempt to have any important conversations if you must be on your phone, computer, or in a distracting, noisy environment.
Being aware of your words, speech patterns, and emotions during a conversation, conflict-riddled or not, is never a bad thing. Through continuously working on your relationship with your Higher Self and practicing the above mindfulness techniques, You will find yourself better able to convey thoughts, feelings, and opinions without succumbing to emotional control, ultimately becoming a more confident, engaging and authoritative communicator.