The Cost of a Toxic Conversation~

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Have you ever walked away from a conversation feeling like you’ve just been sucker-punched?  Have you ever walked into a discussion that took a shocking turn and you suddenly felt you were being verbally attacked?   Have you ever let yourself stew over an offense or misunderstanding only to find yourself the perpetrator of a harmful toxic conversation?  I imagine, in our lifetime, that we would have to say “yes” to these questions.

Conversations of this nature NEVER bear any fruit and truly,and the energy it takes to try to “take back” what has been expressed can simply be wasted time; angry words spoken are a lot like a feather pillow~ Once the feathers are out you can never, ever put them back again.  Marriages, families, companies, churches, and friendships have been ruined by toxic conversations.

We may never be able to fully control how someone else conducts themselves in a conversation. However, there are some key elements that can help each of us to notice when we are initiating or engaged in a toxic conversation:

1.   Your body will feel the tension. (jaws, hands, heartbeat, etc.)

2.  You feel you are 100% sure that you are 100% right! (in every challenge we have to own our contribution.)

3.  The conversation has become unfruitfully repetitious. You find yourself saying the same thing over and over and over with no sign of resolve.

4.  You find yourself using terminology that is offensive and hurtful; attacking angrily making personal jabs that you know will wound.

5.  You know in your head that the conversation is getting worse and worse but you give yourself permission to keep trying to “Win” this discussion. You ignore even your inner voice that tells you to end the conversation.

I don’t believe that most of us engage in Toxic conversations on a regular basis, but frankly, even one can cause incredible damage to all those who engage in it!  Our best decision is to choose to be aware of ourselves in a challenging situation or relationship and make a decision ahead of time not to initiate or engage in it!

I’m a firm believer in crucial conversations; we all have to have difficult discussions from time to time and “done well” there can be resolve, understanding, forgiveness, or even a decision to agree to disagree. But~~a toxic conversation only causes harm!

Colossians 4:6 “Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”

 

Monologue or Dialogue?

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Today while driving through traffic I got stuck at an exceptionally long traffic light. As I took a moment to look in my rear view mirror;  I observed a scene that made me feel really, really sad.   In the driver’s seat was an older woman who appeared highly agitated; pounding her hand on the steering wheel while talking without seemingly taking a breath! Sitting beside her was a teenage young woman wearing dark glasses and looking out the window shaking her head “No”.

THIS is what an unsuccessful conversation looks like.  I can know for certain that what was taking place was a monologue, not a dialogue between to engaged individuals! Just from my observation, one person was expressing their thoughts while the other was disengaged. This never,ever works!

In my coaching practice I always use this statement as I help my leaders learn to become incredible communicators; “If you throw the ball you want to do it in such a way that the ball can be caught!”  Meaning…try to have conversations, even in a conflict, where the end result is that both individuals can be heard, can express their thoughts agreeing to disagree if necessary, and where their can be some kind of resolve or understanding.

I recognize that the interaction I observed in the car today could have easily been a mother “severely scolding” her wayward teenage daughter; I am sure there was a very real back story.  Nevertheless, I can say for sure that the conversation did not end well.

In any crucial conversation both individuals must be engaged.  It never produces resolve to talk “at” a person.  Add anger to that mix and well, the conversation cannot end well.

If you find yourself habitually talking “at” family and friends; consider engaging in conversations in a fresh way! Throw that conversational “ball” with a good goal!! 🙂

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Important Conversations!

” The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw

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I have heard this quote numerous times, I find it incredibly profound every time.  It is never easy to have a difficult conversation.   No one ever wakes up in the morning eager to jump into a discussion that could have an uncertain outcome. No one naturally wants to feel uncomfortable or to create possible conflict. If they do, frankly, then may have other personal issues that need to be dealt with. No~ no one really enjoys a “Crucial Conversation”.

In the Book “Crucial Conversations” the term in the title of the book would be defined as a discussion between two or more people where the stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong.

In order to navigate relationships in your family, workplace, community, or place of worship there will be times when the need to have a direct conversation will be clearly evident, left unaddressed gaps in relationships, teamwork, or productivity will be the result.

Have you ever gotten a phone call or email that you simply ignored because in order to move forward there would need to be a conversation? Have you ever walked “around” a teammates office so that you could avoid a tough conversation? Have you ever abandoned a friendship because having a hard conversation seemed too challenging?

I have to say YES to all of these situations. In trying to asses “WHY” I would have avoided challenging conversations I would have to discern that it was because I assumed I wouldn’t fare well; that I would cause more trouble.  But often these types of conversations can bring fresh understanding, resolve conflict, and relational rebuilding.

 In considering a crucial conversation we have 3 possibilities:

1.  We can simply avoid them.

2.  We can face them and handle them poorly.

3. We can face them and handle them well.

I feel that most of us would choose either #1 or #3.  Assuming  you have picked #3, I would l like to offer a few suggestions that I have learned in my years of being a Leadership Coach. (I am not an authority by any means; I continue to be a learner!)

Prepare yourself for  the conversation.  What is the end result you desire?  What is the temperament of the individual you need to address? Are you angry? Have you already indited this person?  Can you see your part in the challenge? What words will you use to clearly communicate? Are you prepared to listen?

Set a quality time/place for the conversation. Timing is key when addressing a challenging topic.  I always tell young brides that it is NEVER wise to address challenging topic with their spouse after 8:30-9:00!! Two tired people addressing conflict will rarely provide a positive result!  Does this conversation need to be in private? Do you need a 3rd party present for accountability?

Follow up within 24 hours. It is important be sure that your crucial conversation truly created the clarity needed between every individual involved. Do an understanding check as well as a relational check. Your conversation may not result in complete agreement but see if it has cleared away the intensity of emotion or misunderstanding.

Difficult conversations are necessary as we grow in every area of our lives and the results of having them successfully will empower us to be brave enough, kind enough, and wise enough to address them well.

Are the conversations you’ve been avoiding? Situations that need to be addressed? Relationships that need reconciling? Gaps on your team at work?  Instead of focusing on how negative a crucial conversation could be, consider how much fruitfulness is to be gained. 🙂