- Ricka Robb Kohnstamm
Why is this a critical time to intentionally step into courageous conversations?
The world has been turned on its head for many people... managing online learning for children while maintaining a professional appearance with coworkers, learning to live (temporarily) with almost unbearable loneliness, facing critical medical procedures that can't wait.
It's a lot and you may find that, like others, your nerves are frayed. The stress may leak out through snarky comments or backhanded statements. The little prickle here or the snappy retort there. Or you may explode in tirades of stress lava that pours out over your partner or family or coworkers, spewing and smoking for hours after the initial explosion. The harm is real and can be very damaging.
Fortunately, there is a better, more healthy way to express our truth, even when highly stressed.
Instead of turning "out" and relieving stress by snapping and spewing your truth with angry or blaming words, or by retreating and withdrawing into silence, each of us can practice communicating our truth carefully and kindly to those who matter most. It is a choice and it is definitely a practice.
Here are three tips to laser-focus communicating your truth in a healthy way...
Notice the stimulus and then pause; always pause. The stimulus, or hook, can be so immediate that we don't notice unless we really pay attention - the flippant response from an angry child, the dismissive gesture of a stressed partner, the indifference or pushback from a coworker. There is always a stimulus and it is our responsibility to notice it and then pause. A pause can look like one deep breath. It can look like three deep breaths, or it can look like requesting a pause in a heated discussion. The pause is what gives our brain the time and space to come back online, to reset, to consider other possibilities. This is a life long practice and it not easy for anyone.
Get curious about the story you are creating. The truth is that we are all creating storylines in our minds about everything and everyone all the time... we create a story about why a teenager is sulking or a college student isn't coming home. We create a story about why our partner always gets our takeout order wrong or why our co-parent criticizes our son for how long he is in the shower, instead of focusing on how passionate he is about history. We create a storyline about why our boss isn't telling us something that we should have known or why the Board of Directors is excluding us. Own it. Recognize it. And then stand back. Realize that the story you are creating is one of a trillion stories that could also be true. And then give yourself (and others) some space for curiosity about what other perspectives can emerge.
Own your feelings and needs and make a request for resolution. Notice and own your feelings instead of pushing them away or squashing them down. Get curious about what your feelings are telling you about which of your needs are being met or not met. And then take responsibility for yourself by making a request to others that will help you get your needs met, without blaming or shaming or using angry words. While you can't obligate others to meet your needs or even honor your request, you can take responsibility for clarifying it for yourself, owning it, and stating it with kindness, with your brain fully online. That gives others a fighting chance to hear you and understand what you need.
Communicating courageously requires skill and practice. It is not easy. And others in your household or workplace are not obligated to use skill or to practice, simply because you are. But notice the difference it makes in your own ability to stay grounded and kind.
But don't take my word for it. Try these suggestions and let me know what you notice.
It is always good to remember that with choice, I can add intention to my routines and feel more present. Actions, aligned with values, support optimal health.