You don’t have to look very hard to find people being mean to each other. It is all over reality TV and in the office under the guise of ‘office politics’. It happens in clubs, on teams and in volunteer groups. There are ‘monsters in the minivan’ at play dates and mean girls and bullies at school. But you don’t have to allow it in your life. You can make it stop. You can address it by owning your power and taking control of conversations.
Own your side of conversations.
You have the opportunity to state what you need, want, how you feel or what you think using sentences that start with the word ‘I’. Using ‘I’ statements creates space in a conversation for the other person to have a differing opinion without having to say you are wrong. Avoiding ‘you’ statements will decrease feelings of blame which can cause the conversation to escalate.
Assume the positive.
It is so easy today to assume that others have malicious intent. or that something was said or done because the person wanted to hurt you. But you don’t have to jump to that conclusion. What other options might there be? Could there be a positive or neutral reason for their actions? Maybe they were just oblivious. You would certainly react differently to someone who didn’t understand than you would if they were actually being evil or mean. Take a breath and see the situation from a different angle. Even better, ask them why they did what they did.
Give yourself space to feel your feelings.
Somehow ‘feelings’ has become like a dirty word. The truth is, whether you want them to or not, your emotions are making and will make decisions for you. The stronger an emotion is, the harder it is to completely ignore.
Have you ever said something while you were angry and regretted it later? That happens when you don’t allow yourself the time and space to really figure out what you feel. In all likelihood, it isn’t really anger. That is just a cover.
Using a “feeling words” list can help. Over time we learn to suppress our feelings and we forget the words to describe them. Frustration, disappointment, embarrassment or hurt can often masquerade as anger. You have the ability to recognize and express the truth.
Make others feel heard.
Have you ever had this conversation? “You’re not listening to me!” “Yes I am!” “No you’re not!” That happens when someone doesn’t feel heard. You have the option of never having that conversation again, use comments like, “What I think you are saying is…” or “You need xyz from me. Is that correct?” Then provide the opportunity for them to confirm or re-explain what they need.
Life is complicated enough without having to deal with drama. Fortunately you have the power to make it stop by using effective communication and productive conflict resolution. Your success is up to you. Never let others sidetrack it.