We probably all have at least one. You know, that person that drives you crazy. You just know when you see them next that the conversation will probably go south.
In fact you could probably predict the dialogue. You are going to say something, and then they are going to say their thing. You reply, they counter, etc. (In fact, you could probably change sides and say each others lines just to spice things ups sometime!)
There’s two healthy ways you can work on a conversation/relationship like that. I call them the Pre-think and Re-think.
The Pre-think Pathway
This pathway pre-empts the tricky conversation by (you guessed it) thinking ahead about what is going to happen. If you can pre-think what they are going to say you can change something in the way you move and disrupt the familiar dance.
The idiom “It takes two to tango” has quite a bit of merit to it.
Gary Smalley calls it “the fear dance” in his insightful book The DNA of Relationships.
Here’s how it works. If I keep doing/saying what I have been saying, and they keep doing/saying what they normally do/say. Nothing changes. We keep dancing.
Inside, we hope that they will change. We hope they will “get it” and do it the way we think is right or best, but alas, they are hoping the same thing.
In the Pre-think pathway we think ahead about how things are probably going to go and WE CHANGE SOMETHING. We can only control ourselves, so we can only change ourselves.
Here’s some ideas of changes you could make:
- Have a crucial conversation. This one takes the most thought, the most courage and can offer the most clarity. Here’s a step by step plan to build one out.
- Put it all out on the table in honesty. Talk to the person when you first see them and share how you don’t want to talk about whatever item has been an issue in the past as you feel you have both shared your hearts and are just on different pages. Agree to disagree amicably and silently. (There’s other things to talk about!)
- Pre-empt the discussion dance by setting a boundary. Explain that if the conversation goes somewhere you feel uncomfortable you will leave the room. Decide in advance to smile and walk away.
- Ask if you can clarify. This one is only for the bold and daring. If you feel it would be helpful, ask if you can explain their point of view to them to see if you have it right. If they agree, give it a go, and then let it go. Let them know that you understand what they are saying or seeing, but here’s the kicker, just keep your side to yourself.
Each of these options could have value in different situations. It’s up to you to decide if one of these, or another, would best serve your situation as you Pre-think an upcoming discussion dance.
The Re-think Pathway
This one is very similar but it happens after a recent discussion dance. Take some time and Re-think how things could have gone if you had chosen a different step on your side of the discussion path. Go through the options above, or brainstorm a different pathway, but the key is to think through how things could be.
The Re-think then leads into a Pre-think for next time.
If you can “dance differently” in your Pre-think, there is hope for a different dialogue and a more positive or at least healthier discussion dance!