Don't Talk it Out

people talking.jpg

Maybe you are like me and when you find yourself in conflict you want to work it out right away?!

I have found over the years that there are many times when this is just not the best idea.


Because talking it out with the person who you are in conflict with isn’t always the most efficient or even effective strategy to get needs met.

Remembering to connect with the needs you want to meet by talking it out will help you choose talking or one of the many other options for meeting those needs.  

I am going to make an assumption that the needs for talking now are:  connection, mutual understanding, shared reality, security, partnership, companionship, belonging and others like these.

Here’s a short list of times that you might choose another strategy to meet these needs:

1.  You are feeling angry.          
When you are angry, likely you are not yet feeling curious about why the other person did the thing you are angry about.  Very little of the above needs will get met if you are still holding them as bad or wrong in the situation.  Best to choose to talk with someone else, get some empathy –connect to what’s important to you.  Connect to the needs that are the cause of the strong feelings you are having.  You could also do some self-empathy practice. Or grounding, earthing, body-centered practices, meditation, and the like.  Connect back to your internal state.  When you arrive back inside yourself, you can share what you discovered with the other person.  “Hey this is what is important to me about what happened!”

2.  They are feeling angry.          
Sometimes you are okay with what happened and the other person is in significant pain.  Unless you have some mad-skills at empathy, I would encourage you to invite a little break so the other person can find their own calm, just like I suggested above.

3.  When you bring up ‘this particular topic’ (the one that repeats over and over, perhaps?) there is a significant rise in the tension between the two of you.           
Set yourselves up for success by accurately assessing your capacity to talk about something that is an 8 or 9 (on a scale of 10) in difficulty.  Maybe just bringing it up, and sitting in the tension, and acknowledging it is too much for today, and put it on hold, (knowing that you will get to it one day) is what you can actually agree to.  Rather than tough it out, and find yourselves further apart than when you started. This way you find agreement and connection about the very idea that you are in a struggle together.

4.  It’s 3:15am and you have been talking about this thing for 4 hours already.            
Give it a break.  While I have done this a few times myself, I now realize (obvious in hindsight!?) that if you haven’t gotten to mutual understanding and connection in the first 3 hours of talking, a fourth hour at 3am is not going to get you there.  Let it go. Take rest.

5.  One of you has a big commitment the next day.            
If one of you has an important meeting to prepare for, or some other big event, then consider holding off on talking this through right now.  Likely one or both of you won’t be able to give your full attention to this conversation (which will like add to the struggle?).  If it is the other person with the previous big commitment, and you insist, and they give in to your demand, they very likely will end up resenting you for having the conversation and it will not get resolved.  Remember in every moment we are navigating an assortment of needs.  In this situation, your need for mutual understanding or shared reality might be better met by choosing to support the other person in preparing for the important thing (even if it is only by holding off on this conversation). 

6.  Your reason for having the conversation is so they will agree to what you are asking for or are upset about.         
If you are having a conversation in order to ‘get what you want’ rather than create a quality of connection where everyone’s needs get met, likely you will end up in a very similar place as when you started. Remember that needs are not related to any strategy to get them met.  The more open you are to recognizing the needs of both people first, rather than staying committed to how you want to get them met, will lead you to a solution that works well for you both.

7.  This conversation is just too challenging for the two of you to handle on your own.            
Sometimes asking the person with whom you are having the conflict to be the one to help you navigate through your own judgments and hurts is too much.  And vice versa.  Don’t tough it out.   Talk it all through with someone else who can easily hear you and direct you to seeing the needs of all.  Once you are calm and connected in, then you can go back to the person and share what you discovered with the help of the other person.  

I could easily go on with this list and I think you get the idea.

Just because you are having a feeling, doesn’t mean you need to share it with anyone.  Before you speak, understand the needs you are attempting to meet —and come up with an effective strategy.

Slow it down.  Notice your sense of urgency.  If you need time to connect with your needs or the needs of the other, yet feel scared to take it (hence ‘we have to talk about it now’ energy), what could you ask for that would speak to your concerns?  Ask for that and take your time getting back to the original conflict.  Same if the other person wants time to ‘think it through’ or connect in.  Honor their needs for reflection or space and ask for something that gives you enough security to say yes to having this conversation later.

Resolve conflict by knowing when to talk about it, rather than always talking about it now .