How To Have Hard Conversations? Start With The Nervous System
No one really loves hard conversations and, yet, we all need to have them. What might change for you if you looked at hard conversations as an opportunity to get closer, to better understand, and to even protect a connection? If you feel the opposite of that, you're not alone. If your chest gets tight, your belly drops, your throat knots, your breath gets shallow, your eyes water, and/or your mind races to all the worst things that can happen, that makes sense. It makes sense because the nervous system's default is to resist anything that can separate you from those around you. From a nervous system perspective, community represents physiological safety and relational ruptures, no matter how temporary, can be very disruptive to a system that's not used to being able to repair. So, are books on hard conversations and non-violent communication important? Yes, they are very important. And. As long as it's true, finding ways to help your nervous system *and* the other person's nervous system understand that no one is in physiological danger when having hard conversations is vital. This goes for both nervous systems because conversations are, at their core, neurobiological exchanges between systems doing their best to keep each person safe by scanning for potential threat. How do you do that though? Practice. Why? Because, you guessed it, practice makes possible. Practice helps your nervous system gather enough information consistently over time as to whether or not certain people, places, and experiences pose a physiological risk/threat or not. Where do you start, though? I invite you to start with 6 questions:
1. What do you need to make explicit in this conversation? It helps to frame the why behind a conversation. That way, everyone involved knows what to expect, which lowers stress. 2. How might you help the other person feel seen, heard, and understood? 3. How might you set yourself up to be able to actively listen to what the other person is saying and get curious about what makes your uncomfortable?
4. What type of preparation helps you feel centered when you're stressed? Is there anything in your environment that can act as an anchor? This can include a saying, an image, or a thing. 5. What time, environment, and set up is most conducive to everyone involved feeling comfortable to voice their opinion?
6. What can help you and those around you sit in the tension of a hard conversation long enough to get to the possibility of a constructive resolution? For Executive Coaching support on how to leverage communication to adapt to change and lead more successful teams, book a Discovery Call with me today.