Body language do’s and don’ts: Do put cell phones and smart watches away. Do face towards each other and make appropriate eye contact. Do smile when able and posture is noted by others when communicating. Do use hand gestures (it signals authenticity). Don’t cross your appendages (it’s typically a sign of being closed off). Don’t roll the eyes (it's a universal sign of either being annoyed, bored or feeling contempt). Don’t put your hands in pockets or hide them behind your back.
“Check yourself”: Pause before you speak - especially when involving high emotional topics. You will have a better chance to be heard AND to hear as you learn to manage emotional reactivity.
Verbal reflection: Restate what you’re hearing from the other person until they agree with what you heard. The communication takes longer but it's very much worth the time investment.
No yelling: This is a tricky one as emotion can escalate things quickly. After setting this boundary, it’s good to create a safe word that the other person will understand as a sign to lower the intensity.
Take turns: Resolving issues isn’t a one-way street. Taking turns in the communication process will help everyone to feel heard.
Give intent: Giving the other person notice about what you intend to discuss can help them to both emotionally prepare and feel safer going in to the conversation..
Make notes: Often minds go blank when discussing emotionally uncomfortable topics. Making bullet-point notes not only helps you remember main points. It also helps you to address what's on your mind before ending the conversation (only to LATER remember the other things you wanted to cover).
Make “I” statements. This keeps assumptions and mindreading from unnecessary roughness. Begin by saying “I feel __________ when you *add specific behavior here* and I would love it if you did *add specific behavior here* in the future.
Stay on target: Distraction and redirection are coping techniques commonly used to shift focus from distressing thoughts or emotions. Stay on target and if needed, don’t be afraid to gently remind them by saying, “I’m happy to talk about that later” and redirect the redirect back to the original focus.
Remember, resolving conflict doesn’t mean ‘winning’ the argument. It doesn’t even mean that the other person must agree.