The word “conversation” comes from the Latin root conversari, which means “to associate with”. The prefix con meaning “together” or “with”. It’s an exchange of ideas and sentiments. And as much as we’d all like to only engage in true conversations that are moving us toward a positive outcome, we occasionally don’t.
I would venture to guess that, more often than not, the cause of these heated and non-productive conversations is the result of two people having “versations” at one another. There is no exchange. Rather, we keep blasting our point of view with the hope that the other person will either, A) Finally recognize our brilliance, or B) We’ll wear ‘em down!
Given that A and B rarely ever happen, here are some ideas on how to change the dynamic should you ever find yourself in the midst of one of these dueling “versations”.
- Stop and take a breath. As soon as you recognize the dynamic and realize that both of you are on the fast-track to nowhere, simply pause the conversation. Say something like, “Can we take a moment here? I’m sensing frustration on both sides and I’d like to see if we can get back on track.”
- Take responsibility for your part. Acknowledge that you were playing an active role in creating and sustaining the dynamic. Because if you don’t, they will on your behalf! You could say, “I have to admit that I got caught up in arguing for my point of view rather than listening to really understand your perspective. Maybe we could start over and come at this in a new way.”
- Explore both perspectives. Find a new way to re-engage and see if the other person is willing. Offer something like, “Tell you what, let me see if I’m understanding your concerns/frustrations/perspective. I’m hearing _____.” Check with them and course-correct your understanding as needed. Once you’re clear on their perspective, ask that they do the same for you: “What did you hear me say? I’d love to see if we’re both understanding one another.”
If you follow these steps you should be on a much more productive path free of circular conversations and mounting tension. And, better yet, there won’t be a need to clean up the relationship at a later date. You’ve addressed the issue head-on and immediately.
What other tips do you have?