Responding appropriately to a core disagreement, unreasonable demand or hostile threat takes skill. The way you respond can have long-lasting effects on your relationships, reputation, and overall sense of peace.
Here are 5 quick tips on responding:
1. Listen deeply. Stay present — even when the fight, flight or freeze response has kicked in — to better assess the situation. Start with deep listening. When you’re constantly thinking about what you’re going to say while the speaker is talking, tuning out things you disagree with, and offering unsolicited advice, it’s hard to give an effective response. Watch your breath, allow mental chatter to come and go, and resist the urge to quell anxiety by resorting to an immediate, defensive response.
2. Seek clarification. Ask open-ended questions to build your understanding of the other person’s perspectives, fears, needs and wants. Refrain from asking leading questions and initiating interrogations, which will escalate discord.
3. Aim for mutual benefiting, not winning. Trying to convince the other person that you’re right is the goal of most arguments. But arguing your side or pointing out the flaws in the other’s position typically creates more distance. Strive for mutual understanding, instead of making ultimatums or engaging in manipulation. At the same time, it’s healthy to define, set and preserve your boundaries. If you truly cannot find common ground, it’s okay to walk away than fight a losing battle.
4. Let go of the outcome. You do not control the receiver’s thoughts and feelings about what you say and how you say it, no matter the amount of deliberation that goes into it. What works with one person might not resonate with another. Stay true to your values in your response, but release your attachment to the desired result of your response.
5. Respond, instead of react. Pause, evaluate your options, and give a meaningful response, based on your needs, the other person’s needs, and the situation itself. Reacting according to your instincts, habits, and raw emotions is far less ideal than responding with a calm and clear mind. And sometimes the best response is not responding at all.
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