Tuesday, January 17, 2012

That Internal Argument

Do you find yourself engaging in internal arguments?  The kind that runs through your head as you’re trying to relax or interrupts what might otherwise be mental quiet time?  With January being a time for resolutions – perhaps one healthy resolution to consider is letting go of those unhealthy internal conversations.  

While these battles in our mind may serve a purpose - by helping us to think things through or by providing an outlet for our frustrations - they often do so at a cost.  Such arguments often signal our inability to move past a problem or conflict.  And, as the conflict repeats in your head, lingers, and remains unresolved, it actually damages the relationship you were most likely hoping to preserve.

The alternative - bringing up the conversation with that person whom you are arguing - sounds daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.  Here are 5 steps to making that conversation safe and productive.

1.      Forewarn – Tell the person (you’re in mental conflict with) that you need to talk about a past issue that’s been playing on your mind.  Let them know this a conversation to bring about a better understanding – not to find fault.  At this point, don’t elaborate on any details.  If the timing isn’t appropriate, make a plan for when you will both have time to talk. 

2.      Agree on Basic Rules – Set simple rules by starting on one’s they will like to hear.  For example, no blaming.  Other good rules to follow are: no interrupting, ask questions only when the other is done speaking, and stay on the subject (avoid bringing up other issues). 

3.      Take Responsibility – Explain the issue and why it is important to you that it be discussed.  Remember they may not have thought about it at all.  It may be helpful to explain your feelings (eg: frustrated, misunderstood, angry) as a way to demonstrate the importance of the discussion, but be careful not to use this as a way to place blame.

4.      Share Points of View – At this point it is appropriate to dive into the details of the issue, but remember most of what you will need to discuss is not facts, but your perspective.  Take the time to share the nuances of why the situation upset or hurt you – and why it continues to sit with you.  Have this become a discussion where they also share their thoughts and point of view.

5.      Determine Outcomes – As you listen to each other’s perspective, you will work toward developing a shared understanding of what happened, and what if anything, should be handled differently in the future.  Discuss these until you are both comfortable that you have reached a new understanding.  Close the conversation by thanking the other person for being open to the discussion, for listening, and for helping you to clear your mind of the situation.

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