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Resilience journey #7 – people say what they think | beware of the whirlpool of emotions

Bringing emotions into arguments does no good.

I am not saying we should not have feelings. They are important, but we should not submit to them. They can give good advice but equally they can give bad advice.

Emotions are not factual, and they can change as the wind can change in Dunedin: taking a 360 degree turn within half a day.

I am also not saying that we cannot talk about emotions, there are times we must. What I am trying to explain is that

we should leave our emotions at the door when we enter a confrontation.

We can look back at them, we can reflect on them, but they stay where they belong: having no impact on the conversation. When we manage to do this, we can keep ourselves from falling into fright/fight/freeze mode. Which means we can use our logic in our arguments, we are able to listen carefully what the other party is saying, and we can even find ourselves showing empathy with them.

Moreover, it is not only easier to leave a conversation when it is getting overheated, but it is far more important to recognise when it starts slipping into that category.

Leaving a conversation when the other party is getting more and more emotionally involved gives them space and time to reconsider the topic.

Listening well, I believe, is a key factor in effective communication. It takes time to learn but brings huge benefits.

When we listen to the other person without presuppositions, bias, and our own agenda, we can understand better their point of view, analyse their arguments, and more likely find a solution which satisfies both of us.

A key factor to success is to be persistent in our communication.

We need to learn to say what we think, leaving no place for others to try to figure out what we might have really wanted.

By doing this we represent transparency and accountability, which are essential factors in building trust.

However, it is a one way street: we can use it as a guideline in our perception and evaluations of what others say to us. Implementing this rule can save us a lot of time pondering about what others might have thought when they said something.

People say what they think. If not, it’s their problem.

This approach, although seemingly quite harsh, draws clear boundaries, ousts hidden agendas, and leaves no place for emotional manipulation. Then people cannot blame us by saying: “You should have known what I meant by saying …. “, because we can be sure we acted upon what they said, which is far more factual than thoughts and theories 😊. 

When we manage to build up a habit of factual communication we are more likely to identify situations where we are being manipulated, and so, avoid them.

Upskilling ourselves in the area of ‘the dynamics of conflicts’ is beneficial both for ourselves and those around us: using this approach the way we re-act to others changes, which will most likely make them stop and re-think.

An emotionally heated argument is like a whirlpool.

It might only be a gentle pulling force at the beginning, but we quickly find ourselves pulled down to the bottom, deliberately hurting each other with labelling, and saying things we would have never said if our brain was working!

The improvement happens gradually. First we might recognise that the bottom of the whirlpool is close, so we just suddenly opt out: not making the other person cry at the end is a huge step. Then we might spot at an earlier stage where we have just been pulled into an emotional conflict, so we gently row away. And the time might come when we spot it before putting our feet in.

Sticking to the facts – including our emotions – demonstrates not only honesty but also openness: we are keen to solve the problem. We dare to show vulnerability as we talk about our emotions, but we are not willing to go down the rabbit hole of deception and manipulation.

“I know you did not mean it, but when you did such and such it made me feel such and such. Could you please help me to figure out why and what could we do about it?”

Here is my hand.