2020 has proven to be quite the year thus far. Normally, during this time we would be seeking motivation. We’d want to get our bodies right for the summer. We might find ourselves planning our next girl’s trip. Perhaps going on a family vacation. However, we find ourselves in the midst of a whirlwind of life-changing experiences. Ones that have altered what we’ve considered to be the norm. From a global pandemic that silenced the entire world, to an outpouring of enraged Americans protesting injustice, police brutality, and racial upheaval. As a result, there are two extremes clashing amongst the masses. Everyone seems to be on edge trying to find peace in the midst of chaos. During these difficult times, it may seem challenging when trying to compartmentalize our emotions. We may even find it difficult to find ways to communicate during a time of heightened sensitivity.
However, I have great news for you. We can have meaningful conversations during times of heightened sensitivity if we learn to lead with love.
You see, problems arise so that solutions can take their rightful place to facilitate healing and change. In order to accomplish this goal, we must learn the rules of engaging in effective communication. We should all be heard and respected in the process.
Here are 5 ways to communicate with care when dealing with difficult topics.
Mastering Verbal and Nonverbal Communication
Being mindful of body language and facial expressions are key when having difficult conversations. Negative non-verbal communication will only exacerbate the situation. People want to know and feel as if they’re being heard and understood. So be mindful of your body language.
Here are some examples of non-verbal communications you should avoid. Folding your arms. Hand gestures that can exemplify disinterest. A lack of eye-contact or glancing away. Yawning or signs of inattentiveness. Turning away from the person as they are speaking. All of these actions show a lack of care and concern for the person communicating.
Now, for the positive ways to communicate: be sure to give direct eye contact. Include an occasional head nod of acknowledgment. Lean forward to show signs of engagement. Smile when appropriate.
For verbal ways to communicate, simply be mindful to use non-judgmental verbiage. Use a peaceful tone when speaking, and avoid using a loud, condescending tone. Be sure to be concise and clear with your delivery so the person understands your viewpoint.
Listen with an Intent to Understand
Sometimes, we unknowingly harbor hidden biases that tend to come up when communicating with others. We must be willing to put them to the side so we can listen with an intent to understand. That doesn’t mean we’ll always agree with one another. It simply means we’re willing to hear the other person’s point of view. Even if it doesn’t align with our personal views.
Remember to be respectful. Allow the person to speak their truth and wait for the opportunity to speak your truth. When we listen with an intent to understand, we open up avenues for healing and progress. On the opposite spectrum is when we shoot down the ideals of a person. We might interrupt them without fully hearing them out. We cause further disruption to the peace we so desperately seek.
Offer Empathy and Reassurance
When communicating with others be sure to offer empathy and reassurance to the person you’re communicating with. Showing empathy and reassurance allows the person to truly open up. They may share their most intimate thoughts and emotions that may have kept them emotionally bound. Doing so will also cause you (the listener) to learn something you may not have known. This may also cause any hidden biases to change.
Here are a few examples of showing empathic ways to communicate when having difficult discussions:
1. I can see how difficult this has been for you.
2. It’s totally natural that you would feel the way that you do.
3. I can totally see why you’re upset.
4. If I were in your position, I’m certain I would feel the same as you do.
Simply, reassure the person that they’re not alone and they have your support. Even if that support is simply listening to their concerns.
Be Honest About What You’re Feeling
It’s important to always be honest about what you’re feeling in order for anyone to understand your outlook or position. No matter how difficult it is to express or to hear, it’s vitally important if you desire to see change. If you’re not honest about your feelings when communicating, you can’t expect the outcome to be in your favor. You can’t truly heal what you fail to reveal.
Have an Open Heart & Mind When Dealing with Tough Topics
Having an open heart and mind when discussing difficult subjects is a great way to facilitate healing and change. It levels the playing field when having those difficult, hard to hear discussions. When a person knows your heart and mind are genuinely open to having difficult conversations, they feel safe and less guarded. They tend to let their guards down because they know that you won’t judge them. This is how you lead the conversation forward in love. When you do, growth and change are inevitable.
“Although we may come from vastly different stories and very different walks of life, we are one people who possess common values and common ideals; who celebrate individual excellence but also share a recognition that together, we can accomplish great and wonderful things we can’t accomplish alone.” -Barack Obama