How you can achieve the following in a conversation:
• Your partner feels comfortable during the conversation
• You will be seen and understood
• You will get support
• You can enforce your wishes
• You can provide constructive criticism without hurting others
• You can solve conflicts
• Both partners in the conversation have a positive feeling
Everyone has been in the situation where a conversation is going around in circles. Where there are no new solutions in which nobody really feels understood. No matter whether in a team meeting, with a partner or with a family member, everyone would like to have positive and constructive discussion.
A: “You always leave the dishes, I’m not your cleaning lady. You can put your things away yourself! “
B: “I will clean that away later. I never said you should do this for me! I feel attacked when you talk to me like this! “
A: “I want you to wash your things now, because I want to use the table.”
B: “You don’t need the whole table! I can put things over there. I want to decide when I do what… and now I want to read the newspaper!”
Both are not very happy with the result. Why is it that some conversations are going wrong, when we seem to be very clear about what we need?
The problem is that we are often unaware of the deep need that is not being met at that very moment. In this example situation, the dishes seem to be bothering us and we may think that the conflict and discomfort dissolves when the dishes are washed.
A: “When I find the dishes from our breakfast on the table that I like to use, I am feeling annoyed. I have a need for relaxation and comfort. When I see the dirty dishes, I cannot relax and my need for comfort is not fulfilled. Can you please wash the dishes right after you’ve finished eating?”
B: “I want to relax after eating. I can put the dishes away and wash them off afterwards.”
A: “You want to rest after eating and do the dishes later?”
B: “Yes, I would like to read the newspaper first.”
A: “Okay, you want to relax and read the newspaper and then you’re ready to do the dishes.”
A: “I want you to be able to relax. At the same time, it is important for me that I can relax, too. It is very difficult for me to relax when I see the dishes here. Do you have an idea how we can solve this?”
B: “Mhm … I can put the dishes in the sink, then you don’t have to see it.”
A: “Good, and when you’re done with your newspaper, you will wash them?”
If we have the feeling that the other person listens to us emphatically and wants the best for us, we are much more willing to meet his needs. Equally, the partner is more willing to meet our needs if he gets empathy and feels understood.
Simple steps for better communication in conflict situations:
1. Objective observation
2. Name your feelings
3. Formulate your own needs
4. Develop empathy for others
5. See each other’s needs
6. Develop strategies
1. Objective observation
What is the other person doing or saying? Without being aware, we have mindsets and patterns that stand in the way of good communication. It is therefore important to name what happens as objectively as possible.
We often use the words: “I feel …” without expressing a real feeling.”I feel cheated” – Cheated is not a feeling, it tells us what we think the other person does, it is an assessment.
“I feel ignored by you” – it is an assessment that you ignore me. Ignoring is not a feeling.
“I feel rejected” – this is an assumption.
These pseudo-feelings avoid the actual discussion of your own feelings in a conversation. In addition, assigning blame to the other party leads to a defensive attitude. The other person is no longer open to your wishes and feelings, since he is busy explaining or justifying himself.
Real feelings are: frustration, anger, sadness, loneliness etc.
3. Your own needs
We often associate the word need with being needy, which has a negative aspect. Unfortunately, there is no more suitable word to describe what lies behind our feelings. Needs are independent of another person, location, or time.
So there is no need: “that you do the dishes after breakfast.” Washing the dishes is just a strategy to meet the need. For example, there are needs for order, comfort or relaxation.When we are aware of our own needs, it is easier to be open to different strategies to meet our needs.
4. Empathy for others
Before we start talking about our own wishes and ideas, it is important to get in touch with the other person. By that I mean getting involved with others: listening to them empathetically and seeing their feelings and needs. The other person feels particularly understood when you mirror their needs and feelings back and ask if you understand that correctly. This may seem a bit unnatural to you at the beginning, but it is important for the further conversation.
5. The needs of the other
Sometimes we choose strategies to communicate which can lead to the opposite of what we intended.
It is significant to understand which need the person tries to meet with his chosen strategy.
A: “I don’t want you to meet your ex-girlfriend alone. I am not meeting my ex-boyfriend, so you shouldn’t meet your ex-girlfriend!”
B: “But you could, I have no problem with that.”
A: “You don’t respect my feelings when you meet her.”
Instead of clinging to the date with the ex-girlfriend, it would be helpful to deal with your own needs and those of your partner.
A: “I need connection and security. If you meet your ex-girlfriend alone, I feel insecure.”
B: “I’m sorry if you don’t feel well. I don’t want to make you feel bad, but I don’t want to give up my friendship with my ex-girlfriend either.”
A: “You want me to be fine, at the same time you want to support your friendship with your ex-girlfriend and make your own decisions?”
B: “Yes, I don’t want to hurt you with it, but it is important for me that you don’t tell me with whom I meet and not.”
A: “Okay. I want to give you the freedom to make your own decisions and I want you to keep your friendships. At the same time, I want to be sure that I am the only one with whom you have romantic feelings.”
B: “Sure you are the only one. I’ve told you so many times that I have no feelings for her anymore.”
A: “Yes, you are right, and sometimes it is frustrating for you to explain this to me again and again. To feel safe in our relationship, I need more than your word. Would it be possible for you to give me security in another way?”
B: “I don’t know.”
A: “I want you to be able to keep your friendship with your ex-girlfriend. At the same time, it would give me a lot more security if I know that you are not meeting alone. Would it be possible for you to do more things in a group or for me to come with you?”
At this point we have already reached strategies. Group activities or joint activities are possible strategies to meet the needs of both partners.
The needs for security and friendship can certainly be met differently.
It is important not to focus on a strategy right from the start, instead focusing on the needs and to look creatively for solutions.
This communication concept with the six steps is known as “giraffe language” or “non-violent communication”. Giraffe language because giraffes are the land animals with the biggest heart and our communication should come from the heart.
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