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Negative Self-Talk Eliminator


How To Work Through Important Issues

Part 9 of 14 from Communication Essentials

(continued from last week…)

One Thing at a Time

Tip number eight is that when you go to talk about things that are important to you, talk about one thing at a time. Talk about only one topic.

When people get in heated discussions, they often feel like they have to defend their position at all costs which doesn’t really work. They bring in all kinds of side issues. When you’re having a discussion, stick to the topic. Take one thing at a time.

We don’t need to be right. We don’t have to support our position. We don’t have to argue. We don’t have to bring up things from the past or focus on what might happen in the future. We talk about one thing at a time.

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If you go off track it adds complexity to the thing you’re discussing or the issue that’s at hand. It makes it much harder to reach agreement if we talk about multiple things going on simultaneously. Now there can be side topics that come in when you’re talking, but stick to one issue.

Unless your intentions are to sit down and list all of the issues you’ve got, then you do them one at a time. Stick with the present thing. Handle it, work through it, resolve it or come as close as you can to resolving it. Then go on to another one if it’s appropriate then.

Sometimes things get heated enough that we can only deal with one thing at a time. We wouldn’t want to have a list and try to go through one, two, three, four, five, ten, or twenty things because by the time you’re done with that, you may poke so many holes in your relationship it may be hard to come back from it.

Are you making a point, a valid point? It will stand on its own. Don’t get tied up in disagreements. Don’t waiver. Say where you are. Stick to one topic. And when you’re doing that, say precisely what you mean.

People all too often speak in generalities. Though our statements, though the topics may be very clear to us and we know precisely what we’re saying, the person listening to us may interpret what we said quite differently from what we intended.

If you want to make an important point, then you take the time to say precisely what you mean to say. Get very specific.

You don’t have to beat it to death but you have to be specific and know that you are clear enough that they can understand you. Try to frame your statements and your questions in such a way that doesn’t imply a preset judgment or an evaluation or finger pointing towards the other person, feelings or actions.

As an example, maybe your partner is unusually quiet and you think it’s because they’re angry at you. It’s far better to ask, “Are you angry with me?” than to ask “What are you angry about?” You frame it in a way that elicits the most information instead of shutting communication down.

There’s an important difference between these two questions. The first question, “Are you angry with me?” leaves room in your own mind for change just in case you’re mistaken about your partner’s feelings.

The second question, “What are you angry about?” implies that you know for certain how they feel, and have already decided how they feel. That’s called “mind reading”, it’s a hallucination on your part, and you may or may not be correct. Whether you’re right or wrong, they will feel like they have had fingers pointed at them and will probably be at least a little defensive, so watch the way that you phrase things.

Another example of being more precise is learning to distinguish between feeling words and non-feeling words. Feeling words only describe an emotion. If someone says, “I feel like you don’t listen,” it is an inaccurate statement. “…like you don’t listen.” is not an emotion. You can’t feel it! What you do feel is hurt, anger, joy, happiness, sadness, scared, etc.

You can truthfully say, “I think you don’t listen to me.” or “I think you are not listening.” But not “I feel you don’t listen.” There are think words and there are feel words. “I feel _________ (angry, sad, happy, etc.) about X.”

Or you can describe your thoughts, “I think you are ________ (yelling, overreacting, kind to me, etc.)” You can describe that but you can’t describe “You are feeling this” because you don’t know that unless you are inside their brain somehow and have the ability of a mind reader.

Only use the word feel when you couple it with an emotional word and it is talking about you. I feel irritated. I feel confused. I feel sad. Speaking more precisely helps retrain your mind and helps you develop the habit of thinking more precisely before speaking.

It helps you fine tune a bit. This allows you to become clear about what your thoughts and your feelings really are and what you actually wish to say. Precise speaking requires specific thinking, which gives you more distinctions and therefore clarifies your communications.

(to be continued…)

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