We all experience moments when we’re not at our best, where we react without thought, and as a result, our conversations unintentionally take a turn for the worse.

Communication blunders can quickly escalate from a minor mistake to an outright argument for many reasons. For example, when you’re hungry, stressed, or exhausted, you may have limited patience to listen and can rush a conversation to completion, ignoring another person’s inquiries or suggestions.

Other times, you may have pent-up energy, anxiety, or anger that needs a physical release, and occasionally, someone’s vibe, tone, or word choice activates an unexpected visceral reply.

Clashes often stem from opposing wants, needs, and preferences.

The Myers-Briggs® Company defines conflict as: “The condition in which people’s concerns—the things they care about—appear to be incompatible” and explains that disagreements often stem from one of three types—task, relationship, or value.

Regardless of which category may be causing you issues, successful interactions require that each party feels seen, heard, and understood and that disputes are repaired promptly.

Not everyone handles conflict in the same manner.

Some individuals thrive in debates, and some avoid conflict or seek harmony in discussions. The Enneagram assessment provides insight into your type’s typical inclination to protect against conflict, obstacles, and disappointment.

The three styles are:

  • Competency (Types 1, 3, 5): Takes a logical and methodical approach.
  • Reactive (Types 4, 6, 8): Reacts strongly with intensity and directness.
  • Positive Outlook (Types 2, 7, 9): Looks to avoid, escape, or make it disappear.

While you can’t completely eliminate instinctual reflexes that get you into sticky situations, you can learn how to curtail your automatic responses. For example, taking a breath and pausing when triggered can allow you to determine how best to respond.

Constructively working through challenges can lead to a more positive outcome and foster collaboration rather than causing distrust, harming rapport, or shutting down information sharing.

Stay focused on what’s in your control.

Check in regularly with your heart, mind, and body to create balance and self-regulate. When you enter into conversations as an “emotionally mature” and compassionate adult, you can courageously speak up while remaining receptive to what’s top of mind for the individuals involved rather than focusing on proving your point, being right, or receiving validation.

To help you minimize communication “snafus,” here are five ways to prevent and repair slip-ups:

#1 Prioritize mutual understanding.

Trust is developed by honoring what matters most in partnerships with consistent actions over time, and starts with how you show up. Concentrating too much on differences makes it easy to forget what you have in common with another human being, like the desire to be seen, heard, and appreciated. Also, be patient. Give people the benefit of the doubt when what they express doesn’t land smoothly, especially if they mean well. Focusing on camaraderie and desired outcomes can help both parties interact in a more meaningful dialogue.

#2 Have reasonable expectations.

Remember, no one really knows what you think, want, or need unless you say so, and it’s not your job to guess what others require. However, you can enter into conversations to meet people where they are, ask questions, and listen rather than interpret. As the saying goes, “When you assume…you make an ass out of you and me.” Also, on a positive note, demonstrating appreciation for another person and what they may have to say can inspire shared discoveries and strengthen relationships.

#3 Remain agile and relevant.

If what you’re saying isn’t being received as intended, that’s a gentle cue that your messages must resonate to make sense for someone else. If you find yourself continuously pushing, you may be too tied to your perspective and need to pivot in the moment. Additionally, if you catch yourself talking and talking, think of the “W.A.I.T” acronym, which stands for “Why am I talking?” to pause and allow the other person to speak. Also, be mindful about using the word “should” as it can be perceived as passing judgment. Lastly, expand your outlook by asking questions to understand their reasoning and conviction to find common ground. Ask yourself, “Are there additional means to accomplish what you’re looking to achieve?”

#4 Stay resilient in the face of adversity.

How you talk and treat yourself impacts your ability to communicate with self-confidence. If you find yourself ignoring, running away, or glossing over a negative state of mind and disregarding your body’s warning signs, it’s time to reclaim your authority. There are many reasons why you may do what you do, ranging from your upbringing, cultural norms, inborn tendencies, preferences, life-long experiences, and the expectations you put on yourself. Regardless of the root cause, the issue is that these “hidden” sentiments remain in the background. Further, they may fester and turn into regret, resentment, or even be projected back onto you—until you acknowledge, accept, and process them.

#5 Take accountability.

When someone makes you upset, pinpoint the reason objectively and ask yourself, “Did they treat me poorly, or did their actions activate a sensitivity?” By viewing your emotions as—rational or irrational thoughts—you can identify the triggers and work through them before they become problematic. When you don’t like how you’ve been treated by someone, ask to share with them how what they said or did negatively impacted you. For example, “When you stated X, the comment made me feel like X, and I automatically reacted as I did. I’m not condoning my behavior as I’m truly sorry; I’m providing this insight to explain what caused my reaction.” And for times you cause strife, own it, and apologize with care and consideration.

Boost your emotional intelligence (EQ) skills to cultivate connections.

Self-leadership is all about getting to know yourself better and applying that knowledge to how you act, think, and feel. With an open mindset, practice, and self-discipline, you can make small shifts to demonstrate your EQ acumen, elevate your executive presence, and accentuate your assets. To learn more, schedule a call with me.

Deepen your perspective to activate your best.

As a lifelong student, certified professional coach, and consultant, activating the best in others through self-leadership, interpersonal relations, and team dynamics are passions of mine. My approach is personalized and customized, tapping into various assessments, disciplines, modalities, and techniques.

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