Can we talk? I mean, can we talk effective communication skills? Better yet, let’s talk about how to respond under stress. Or in conflict.
We all have different communication styles based on our background, culture, and what was modeled in our family. Here’s a few I’ve noticed:
The Screamers: Think “Big, Fat, Greek Wedding” (love that film! “You don’t like meat? That’s OK. I make you lamb”. And the miracle cure for everything from zits to cramps – Windex!). Gregarious, fun-loving, wear-their-feelings-on-their-sleeve people. All talking at once. Not getting through? Talk louder!
The Bulldozers: No pause button. Diarrhea of the mouth. The I-know-I-shouldn’t-say-this-but…” kind of people. Then the download. More like an avalanche. Once you dig out from under this direct, no-holds-barred approach you pick yourself up, reeling, not sure what just hit you.
The Silencers: Nothing. No words. No explanation. No confrontation. Nothing! You’re left wondering how to give CPR to the relationship.
How do you tip toe through the mine field of these communication styles? You’ll be doing a victory dance using the tried and true recommendations a couple of subheadings away. But first, let’s lay the groundwork for the fire works in our relationships:
The 7th Grade Chihuahua
When we’re under stress adults are kids in big clothing. The average adult’s emotional age is 7th-8th grade in a tense situation. That’s when we developed patterns of behavior for handling stress based on our peer group: passive-aggressive, fight, flee, or collapse.
When the pressure builds we go 7th grade chihuahua – barking and biting with an emotional discharge disproportionate to the situation.
Expectation vs. Reality
We all create expectations. Here’s an example:
You’ve got a meeting with Joe Millionaire at 9:00am tomorrow that’ll put CHA-CHING in your bank account. YOU CAN’T BE LATE.”
You prep the night before, clothes laid out, alarm set, and out the door a full hour earlier than normal. You’ve got this covered. Expectation.
All is good until the accident on I-10. The traffic rivals the opening scene from “La La Land”. Miles of bottle neck and rubber necking. You can kiss that cha-ching good-bye. Reality.
Reality collides with expectation. When there’s too much distance between expectation and reality then KA-BOOM! Emotional discharge. Heaven help the first person who catches a glimpse of the smoke coming out of your ears when you get to the office!
OK, got the picture? Try this:
How To Tame The 7th grade Chihuahua:
Be objective. Know the other person is in pain. Let them vent.
Maintain a consistent, low volume.
Listen. Nod your head, maintain soft eye contact, and avoid interrupting.
Use reflective language. After they finish talking, use their words and rephrase what they said. This demonstrates that you listened and they feel heard. Finish with, “How can I support you?”
Here’s another scenario using the Bulldozer-type communicator:
If Brian Bulldozer comes barging into your office ready to explode and you have a project due in 18 minutes at the executive level, say, “You deserve to be heard. I’ve got time at 2:30pm. We can use the conference room. Between now and 2:30pm email me everything that’s on your mind and we’ll take it up then.”
Here’s the benefits of what you did in both situations:
– You hit the pause button
– You set a boundary
– They feel heard
– They shifted from right brain freak out to left brain logic. By emailing they activate the logical side of their brain. Now the conversation can come from a place of strength and solutions.
– You’re in effect, saying, “I honor your hurt. You’re valuable.”
– Practice the 7-11 breath: Breathe in to the count of 7. Breathe out to the count of 11. Do this for 90 days. That’s when habits move into muscle memory.
– QTIP – Quit Taking It Personally
– Instead of telling, ask. What I say is debatable, what you say is fact. Find out through questions.
– Cover your hot buttons with a healthy appreciation of what’s good in you.Then you’ll become emotionally bullet-proof. Believe this about yourself:
– I’m worth it
– I’m enough
– I’m lovable
Whether you’re naturally a screamer, bulldozer or silencer, or face-to-face with a 7th grade Chihuahua or 9th grade German Shepherd, you’ll be ready and confident with these tools.
Practice these! I do. Stand in front of a mirror and replay these scenarios until they flow, transform your hot button into an easy button, and watch your relationships go from ☹️ to ? instantly. (FYI, these suggestions are just as effective with any 7th grade Chihuahuas in your home and personal relationships as they are at work).
Can’t get any traction in the communication department? Hot button having a melt-down? Schedule your free Discovery Session here and we’ll put a leash on that Chihuahua.
What pushes your buttons? What do you do to douse water on volatile situations? Share your wisdom in the comments below.
See you next month,
P.S. – A super-sized shout out to Patrick Dougher from Fred Pryor/Career Track. He coined the phrase “7th Grade Chihuahua” at a Fred Pryor seminar on “Dealing with Difficult People”. He was animated, engaging, hilarious, and many of the suggestions I shared today are from that seminar. If you haven’t already heard about Fred Pryor/Career Track, their courses are chock full of take home goodness. Check them out at pryor.com.