Effective Communication Strategies and Relationship Advice

 Steve Downey - Chief Cook & Bottle Washer

Steve Downey - Chief Cook & Bottle Washer

Whether it's a personal or business relationship, these tips I just read from Elizabeth Bernstein in the Wall Street Journal, can definitely make life easier. 

As usual, they are simple to do but hard to remember to do at the time needed. I found that taking one of these and practicing on easy situations builds a mind-body memory for facing the harder situations. 

The advice of “count to 10” has been around a long time but why is it still such a useful technique? She describes it as “Listen, Breathe, Listen” or just plain breathe. The wise ones of the past also used the term mindfulness. But what it really boils down to is getting an impression of the discomfort before or as it becomes explosive - and catching it before it catches you.

For me, the first practice is becoming aware of how certain words or actions can create pain, sadness or anger. And I if I don’t notice these reactive feelings, I do “lose my mind” or my rational thinking and revert to the defensive emotional feelings - often with poor results. When this happens, it is really hard to catch the bullet and bring it back into the gun. So if you do notice or feel those triggers first, you may not need to try that impossible catch.

 Steve and his wife, Marilyn, on Vacation in Italy

Steve and his wife, Marilyn, on Vacation in Italy

We all have these habituated responses - and many keep us alive like seeing a big pothole on the road and instantaneously jerking the wheel to avoid it or feeling scared after a sudden bang and ducking. 

One of my triggers is being interrupted in a sentence. I immediately notice it and in the past I would get really cranky or sarcastic, especially after it had happened several times. I used to say, “Can I finish my sentence?” in a rather demanding way. That usually just pulls the trigger on the other person and now we are both upset. Now what I do - after the interruption(s) I say, “...As I was saying..." or "...As I was trying to say..." Sometimes the person gets the idea. If it really persists, I might say, “Forgive me if my words are not coming out fast enough but I try to speak slowly so my thoughts are coherent and make sense." 

It makes me then keep quiet and I listen better myself.