In these turbulent times,* fear and stress can be our constant companions. This blog focuses not on whether we experience fear and stress; rather, how we communicate with others when feeling these emotions.
*Last year, when I wrote Consequential Communication in Turbulent Times, a Practical Guide to Leadership, little did I know we would be facing an alarming pandemic. The lessons contained in the book are more relevant today than ever.
“Fear may be as old as life on earth,” writes Arash Javanbakht and Linda Saab in an October 2017 article for the Smithsonian. “It is a fundamental, deeply wired reaction, evolved over the history of biology, to protect organisms against perceived threat to their integrity or existence.” The authors go on to explain “thinking about the circuity of the brain and human psychology, some of the main chemicals that contribute to ‘fight or flight,’ response are also involved with other emotional states, such as happiness and excitement.”
Hmm. This suggests that we can acknowledge our fears, and then take positive steps to overcome them and move into a state of happiness or excitement – especially when dealing with others. I bet I am not alone in a long-held observation that when we are most in need of others (needy?) we often have a difficult time attracting others to us. It seems that we are not fun to be around. Conversely, when we feel independent, strong and have that “I can go it alone” mindset, others are drawn to us.
Let’s consider how in these uncertain and stressful times, we can communicate in ways that attracts others to us. This blog – the first in a series – contains tips that can prove helpful in replacing fear with happiness.
Three Tips for Communicating in these Turbulent Times:*
- Listen and Ask More – Talk Less;
- Use “I” Statements and Eliminate “you” statements; and,
- Practice the Power of Apology
Listen and Ask More – Talk Less:
Although we may have much on our minds, and are eager to blurt it out, especially our fears and stress, others are likely feeling the same. Start the conversation by asking how they are and listening to their concerns. Listen to what is being said and ask focused follow-up questions.
“Oh, I’m sorry that Suzanne is out of state and ‘in place’ at college. I bet that’s tough on you.” When Suzanne’s father, David, expresses his concern, ask whether he’s tried using zoom, SKYPE, FaceTime or another online application to speak with her in real time. When he’s finished, David will likely say “enough about me, how are you doing?” Now it’s your turn. A happy byproduct of having David speak first is that it may well sooth your own concerns just by having an engaged dialogue.
Use “I” Statements and Eliminate “You” Statements:
In these fear-inducing and stressful times, we are all a bit more sensitive to how we are approached, reacting or over-reacting to seemingly benign statements. Regardless of one’s intentions, using “you” statements is often perceived as accusatory or blame shifting, especially in these turbulent times. How frequently have we heard phrases such as “You didn’t do . . . “ or, “I told you . . .” or, “You didn’t understand me . . .”
It’s quite easy to turn around all three of those phrases by using “I” statements and accepting responsibility for the transaction, rather than suggesting it belongs to someone else: “Oops, I guess I wasn’t clear. I thought I asked you to . . .” or, “let me try it again, I was trying to say . . .” or, “I’m having a tough time getting my point across, how about if I say it this way . . .”
Practice the Power of Apology:
It’s not if we make a mistake, rather it’s how we handle it. Own up and apologize. “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to offend. I guess I’m a bit rattled these days.” “Please accept my apology. I goofed and hope it didn’t hurt.” Or, a simple “I’m sorry. I’ll do my best not to do it again.”
Stay tuned to this site for updates; leave a comment and let me know what you think. There are many more tips in Consequential Communication in Turbulent Times, a Practical Guide to Leadership. It’s on Amazon and I’d be honored if you bought one.