Current events are constantly occurring and are inevitable. It can be exhausting trying to stay up to date with all of it. It can be hard for most humans to tolerate the opinions of others that may not be the same as theirs. We often become passionate about issues that impact our lives or the lives of others that we care about. With passion, difficulties can come with being able to understand how others can feel differently on an issue than we do.
Preparing for challenging conversations
The following are some tips to help you prepare for challenging conversations and navigating discussions on current events:
- Determine what the goal of the conversation is- The goal of every conversation is different. Figuring out what you are looking to get out of a discussion, can make it easier to keep the conversation steered in the right direction and to keep it on course.
- Being aware of defensiveness as it comes up- As humans, it's quite common to be in the defense when someone brings up an argument or stance that does not align with our own. While this is a normal human response, it's important to recognize that when we get defensive, we often shut down and it makes it harder for us to be willing to listen and understand the opposing perspective. To decrease defensiveness, it can be important to dove deeper into your own triggers regarding the topic at hand. Understanding what triggers us and why we feel triggered, can help us to mentally prepare for a conversation and feel more confident in it. While this doesn't mean one may not still become emotionally charged during the conversation, it may help to be able to think more clearly
- Try to go into the discussion with an open mind- Sometimes when we are preparing for these difficult conversations, we can anticipate negative outcomes. We may go into a conversation expecting to not get anything out of it. When you go into a conversation with an open mind, you may be able to leave the conversation with something that you didn’t come into the conversation with.
- Know when to end the conversation- At times, conversations can become heated on both sides. While this can be helpful, it's time to understand when a conversation is no longer healthy or becoming unproductive. It is okay to tell the other person that you are talking with that you appreciate the time you have had to discuss the issue with them.
- Utilize Empathetic Listening- Empathetic listening is when one listens to what someone else has to say, even when they don’t agree with it. One can demonstrate empathetic listening by utilizing active listening skills. This can be done by summarizing what one has said or reflecting it back to them. This can help to show that one is engaged in the conversation.
- Use a mindful dialogue- A mindful or conscious dialogue consists of a few different parts. One aspect means being fully present during the conversation. Being fully present means trying to eliminate any distractions from the conversation. This isn’t just being present from distractions such as putting away the cell phone, but also making a conscious effort to be focused on the conversation at hand. It can become easy to think about things unrelated to the discussion, especially when we hear things that we do not like or agree with. When one is engaging in a conscious conversation, it is imperative to not interrupt the other person who is speaking. They have just as much right to voice their opinion as you do. Another component of mindful dialogue is allowing space for silence during a conversation. For some, it may take them a bit longer to develop a response or to articulate what they are trying to say.
Having difficult conversations
It can be challenging and emotionally exhausting to have a conversation with people of different views. As humans, we tend to feel most strongly about the issues that directly affect or impact us. However, all of the stress that can occur from having these conversations can negatively impact us physically and mentally. The following are some things to consider implementing after encountering a difficult conversation:
- Engagement in mindfulness practice- This could range from meditation, going for a walk where you're able to be as present as possible, and trying to take some time to minimize distractions.
- Journaling- Taking time to take the pen to paper following a difficult conversation can help one to organize their thoughts and emotions. This can be done in a few different ways. One way is to summarize content from the conversation taking place, including talking points from both sides. Another is to write about emotions and current feelings following the conversation.
- Practice Self-Care- The term "Self-Care" can be interpreted differently by different people. For some, it may be turning their phone off for a few hours to allow themselves to decompress. It could be engaging in some type of physical exercise to release excess pent-up energy. It may also be watching your favorite TV show or diving into a book.
- Debriefing a difficult situation with a family and friend-
It can be hard talking to someone who does not give your thoughts and feelings a space to be heard. Oftentimes, we leave conversations feeling frustrated as we weren't engaging in a conversation with someone who was attempting to be open-minded. It can be helpful to debrief a challenging conversation with an outside friend. While this can not only help one to feel validated, it can also help to have a third-party perspective. This can help to eliminate personal biases and increase takeaways from challenging conversations.
Respecting others’ viewpoints can be difficult, especially when it's a topic you personally may be affected by. It's important to recognize that your opinions and feelings are valid. Remember, not every person you encounter may be as open-minded or willing to understand your perspective. Uncomfortable conversations are necessary for growth.