How to have a difficult conversation when you are emotionally charged

How can I have a difficult conversation when I am emotionally charged? The easy answer to the above question is – don’t! When emotions are running high we can quickly be drawn in to saying things that are better left unsaid. In the event that an emotional response is triggered, I recommend a process that will help you to generate a desirable and constructive solution to your perceived problem.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Something happens! This could be a big thing or a small thing. It could be the first thing or the final straw thing. If it has been building inside of you and it is coming to a head, try to be careful and hesitant.
  2. Notice your emotional response. Depending on your personality you might become aware of a slight feeling of discomfort or you will possibly begin to boil immediately, get red ears and silently fume. Just develop a good awareness of your feelings. Don’t DO anything just yet.
  3. Where is the problem? Take a moment for discernment. I have to decide whether the problem is with me or with the other person: whether it is mine to deal with, internally, or whether there is even a need for a conversation. I know my quirks, if it’s just a pet peeve of mine that is being reactivated I may have to just chalk it down to small stuff and move right on, let it go: no conversation necessary. In this case I generally call a friend who will help me to see the nature of my problem and help me to get over it quickly. So, is there any need to say what’s on your mind? What does it bring to the table that is constructive?
  4. Ask yourself what outcome you are looking for? I want to leave people empowered. It isn’t always easy, but it is always worth it. I want a strong, intact relationship, respect, credibility and I want us to still be able to work (or live) together after I’ve said what I want to say. Knowing that in advance makes a difference.
  5. What’s to say? How do I formulate the conversation in a way that gets me the end result that I am looking for? Am I being appropriate? Am I calm? Am I friendly? How is my demeanor going to affect that end result?

The Rotarian 4-Way Test considers the following questions in respect to thinking, saying or doing:

  • Is it the truth?
  • Is it fair to all concerned?
  • Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
  • Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

When you are feeling a strong emotional charge, it might be wise to say nothing, even to take yourself out of a situation for a short while. Make self-management a priority in your life and, I promise, you will prevail.

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