6 Tips to Improve Communication With Difficult People

Dialog between man and woman

Image source: (Fotolia)

Some people are just downright difficult. No matter what you say or do, it feels like there is no way out. Emotions overrun rational thoughts. Conversations turn into heated arguments, and nothing solves. It’s times like these that old patterns of communication need a make-over.

We learn our communication style by our environment and upbringing. If we come from households where our thoughts were not valued, listened, or supported; we learned not to talk. If we were dismissed, ignored, or criticized by cultural gender norms, we learned to remain silent. We adapted to suppress our thoughts and feelings to survive. As adults, we are now confronted with shame, anger, and denial of our thoughts and feelings.

When we retreat from communicating directly due to cultural norms, gender norms, or social norms we deny ourselves. We disallow access to our authentic self and to deeply connected relationships. Our fear of not being liked, avoidance of conflict or perfectionism keeps us isolated. We don’t give our relationships a chance. We hide from who we are, what we think, and what we feel. In turn, we treat ourselves with the same criticism and suppression as our childhood environment.
There is another way. We don’t have to run and hide. We can speak openly, honestly, and directly. It is not difficult. With practice communicating our needs and wants becomes second nature.

Learning skills to be assertive opens up courageous possibilities to be vulnerable. Exposing our real selves involves taking risks. The benefits outweigh discomforts. A richness of meaningful experiences of love, a sense of belonging, trust, joy, and creativity evolve naturally.

With assertiveness, we learn to stand-up for ourselves and not violate the rights of another person. It is a direct and honest expression of our feelings and opinions. We act, think and feel supporting our rights and the rights of others as equally valued, expressed, and respected.

Test Your Assertiveness

1. Do you find yourself saying “yes” to requests when you really want to say “no?”
Yes      No
2. Is it hard for you to make a decision?
Yes      No
3. Are you unable to express your discontent with a friend or partner, even if you think it is justified?
Yes      No
4. Is it difficult for you to ask for help or assistance?
Yes      No
5. Is it hard for you to express an opinion that is different from other people’s opinions?
Yes      No
6. Is it hard for you to share something positive about yourself?
Yes      No
7. Do you not speak up at work, a class, or meeting, even when you know the answer to a question or have a solution?
Yes      No
8. Do you find it difficult to accept a compliment?
Yes      No

If you answered “Yes” to one or more of the questions, you might have difficulty using assertive communication.

6 Tips to Communicate Assertively Using the Acronym, P A S A R R

1. Pause.

Quiet the mind for a moment to check in and listen internally. Noticing our thoughts gives us the opportunity to assess what we desire. Paying attention to our first intentions positions us to listen to our intuitive voice and bash any defeating self-talk. Being aware of how we feel and what we want to say enables us to stay true to ourselves. With consistent practice, reflection and self-validation the process will take less time.

2. Acknowledge the Truth.

Mirroring body language and giving credit where deserved credit helps deflate a heated moment. Agreeing with a kernel of truth in the complaint also provides time for internal reflection. For example, your boss says, “Your work is always screwed-up.” Ask, “In what way did I screw up?” If she says, “You just are a screw-up,” agree with one discreet example (if it is accurate), but correct her overgeneralization.

3. Stay True to Self.

Using clear and definite “I statements” validating our thoughts and feelings keep the conversation focused on the behavior not the person. While beginning a sentence with “I think” or “I feel” then go on to briefly describe the other person’s behavior.

4. Ask for a Request. Following what we noticed in the other’s person behavior with how their actions affected us kept the focus on cause and effect of behavior, not the person. Then make a request. For example, “When you are late and do not call, I feel afraid that something happened to you. I feel angry that I am waiting. I feel irritated that you don’t value my time. I would prefer it if you call to let me know if you are going to be more than 10 minutes late. Can you do that for me?”

5. Repeat.

Encouraging others reflection ensures mutual understanding. We are practicing self-validation and asking for what we want.

6. Repair.

If the steps above have not helped, continue to ask questions. Inquiring about others thoughts and feelings shows curiosity and their thoughts and feelings matter equally to yours, and a mutual solution is desired. During this phase paying attention to our non-verbal cues such as tone and volume of voice, eye-contact, and body position enables us to be in control of our self. It is also important to ensure we stay true to ourselves, saying “No” when needed to provide healthy boundaries, and validating our thoughts and feelings.

Using assertive techniques is a skill. It improves with practice. With time communicating our desires becomes easy. Following these steps as a guideline to stop before a heated argument, reflecting and staying honest to ourselves and others, and maintaining healthy boundaries allocates opportunity for a joint resolution, self-value, and increased confidence. Knowing that we took a risk to stand-up for ourselves demonstrates that we matter, that our thoughts and feelings are valuable, and we are worth defending.

In love and dignity, speak the truth – as we think, feel, and know it – and it shall set us free.
~ Melody Beattie

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10 Ways to Get Things Done

“An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill

“If you think you can, you can.  If you think you think you can’t, you’re right.”  – George Bernard Shaw

“The future belongs to the common man with uncommon determination.” – Baba Amte

“Practice is the best of all instructions.”  – Publilius Syrus

achievementIt’s another year gone by.  Bloggers, editors, and writers are scripting about resolutions, goals, and fresh starts.  Each New Year seems to bring a surge of renewed energy to make this year the best year yet.  Yet come February/ March that enthusiasm fades.  Why?  What is it about the New Year that brings a desire for change but then it quickly dwindles?

Change is hard.  Breaking old habits takes a consistent effort.  Casting your magic wand doesn’t just make it so.  It takes action, accountability, dedication, repeat and do it again.  Research supports it takes at least 21 days, some say 8 weeks to replace a bad habit.  It really depends.  It depends on the new habit, how long you have been doing it, the benefits of continuing, the immediacy of the payoff, and how often and automatically you perform the behavior.

To break the cycle, it is imperative to be conscientious of your thoughts and behaviors around the routine you desire to alter.   It takes consistent modifications every minute, hour and day.  For how long, well depends. Just repeat the desired change.

Wow! That seems overwhelming, huh.  It doesn’t have to be. Write.  Put your desired behavior modification on paper.  Post your desires on a visible spot that you see daily like your refrigerator, bathroom mirror, or front door.

Take some time (as much as you need) and reflect on the past year.  Look at what you achieved, what you learned, gained, and liked.  Review what you didn’t accomplish.  What were the blocks that prevented you from achieving those marks?  What do you need to make them happen in 2014?   Now write this down and keep it in a safe place to review often.

The answers to the questions above help you analyze past behavior, learn from successes and failures, and make fresh intentions.  The best way to accomplish this thorough investigation of your life is to break it down into professional, relational, body, and spiritual goals.  Again, write your thoughts down!

Next set small goals with specific due dates.  Break down those big ideas, dreams, and aspirations into tiny, manageable, and achievable goals.  Ensure they are realistic.  You don’t want to set yourself up for failure before you even start.

Find support.  Join a team or involve friends and family.  Tell them your aspirations, the due date, and ask them to follow-up and inquire upon your progress.  Involving others ensures accountability, support, and friendly reminders.

Here is a list of 10 Ways to Make Ideas Happen:

1. Remove the words “I can’t” from your vocabulary.

2. Focus on the possibilities instead of the limitations.

3. Remember that there is a solution for every problem (some are just harder to find than others).

4. Write it down and set a deadline.

5. Allow yourself to receive help (there is no reward for doing it all yourself).

6. Be open to feedback and suggestions.

7. Learn how to enjoy the process (it may take you a while to get there, so you might as well enjoy it)!

8. Reward yourself often.  Be proud of even the tiniest steps of progress.

9. Hang around with people who make their ideas happens.

10. Start even if you don’t know how you are going to finish.

11. REPEAT.

Journal Writing: Helpful or Harmful?

journal writingJournaling is journaling, right? Well come to find out, it can either bring relief or intensify misery. It all depends on the focus of writing.

What is the best way to journal?

When writing about a particular event, focusing on cognitive processing (making sense of a stressful event) and emotional expression helps to resolve the experience and find positive outcomes. Research shows writing about a stressful incident with emphasis on thoughts and feelings increases positive growth. It directly affects beliefs about the self, the world, and the future (Ullrich & Lutgendorf, 2002).

A study regarding bereavement supports that persons who engaged in deliberate, effortful thinking about the death and externalized their thoughts on paper were more likely to find greater meaning in their relationship with their lost loved one.  They came attuned to more values, priorities, and perspectives in response to the death (Purcell 2006).

Writing not only has mental improvements but also physical.  Here is a list of just some of the positives of journaling:

  •   Strengthens immune system
  •   Increases white blood cells
  •   Decreases symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis
  •   Reduces stress
  •   Effectively solve problems
  •   Resolve Conflict
  •   Clarify what makes you happy
  •   Helps to resolve stressful experiences and find positive outcomes
  •   Increases positive growth
  •   Increases ability to find multiple solutions to a single problem
  •   Helps broaden perspective and enables resolution to disagreement
  •   Provides clarity about situations and people
  •   Increases awareness and organization of wants and desires

What is an ineffective way to journal?

The negative consequences to writing persist when focusing solely on emotional expression. Centering on emotional aspects of traumas or stressful situations may not produce greater understanding. One study explains that expressive writing can actually hinder emotional well-being without any relief from distress. We naturally tend to focus on negative emotions and in doing so further deepen despair about the event without concluding anything positive from the experience.  As daunting as some experiences are, there is usually something that can be learned or gained.  It may be hard to find and may not reveal itself immediately but over time may turn into the best thing.  Change usually doesn’t happen until the pain persists and becomes unbearable ( Nauert 2012).

When expressing just your emotions on paper, the negative consequences can effect your physical and mental health.   The following list describes just a few negative costs:

  •   Increases physical illness
  •   No relief from distress
  •   Lowers immune system
  •   Decreases emotional well-being

Thus when writing about a stressful experience hone in on your emotional outlook and cognitive reasoning. Writing about events and reactions to the situation can help to restore self-efficacy, mastery, and add meaning to the incident. Eventually traumatic or stressful images and emotions are translated into organized, coherent, and simplified linguistic forms. Structured representation of the occurrence can be assimilated with other schemas and subsequently can reduce suffering related to the event.

References

Nauert PhD, R. (2012). Journaling May Worsen Pain of Failed Relationship. Psych Central. http://psychcentral.com/news/2012/11/30/journaling-may-worsen-pain-of-failed-relationship/48379.html

Purcell, M. (2006). The Health Benefits of Journaling. Psych Central. http://psychcentral.com/lib/2006/the-health-benefits-of-journaling/

Ullrich, P. & Lutgendorf, S. (2002).  Journaling About Stressful Events:  Effects of Cognitive Processing and Emotional Expression.  Annals of Behavioral Medicine.  Volume 24, Number 3. University of Iowa.

Tenth Anniversary of the Iraq War: The Personal Impact – To the Point on KCRW

Tenth Anniversary of the Iraq War: The Personal Impact – To the Point on KCRW.

Ten years ago tomorrow, the US invaded Iraq. The human cost to American veterans and their families – and the many Iraqis now desperate to leave a ruined country.

In 2003, Saddam Hussein was said to have “weapons of mass destruction.” There were hints he was tied to September 11. Eighty percent of Americans supported the US invasion. Ten years later, 58 percent say it was not worth years of unexpected combat, more than $2 trillion— and the deaths of 4500 Americans and 100,000 Iraqis. Marcos Soltero always wanted to be a Marine, and enlisted when he was 17 — two months after the Twin Towers collapsed in 2001. Linda Johnson watched both her husband and her youngest son go to war. Tomorrow, we’ll look at why the war is so widely perceived to have gone wrong. Today, we focus on the human consequences: veterans and families coping with injured brains and bodies. Was there ever a real welcome home?

Guests:
Steve Vogel: Washington Post, @steve_vogel
Elspeth Cameron Ritchie: former Army psychiatrist
Stacy Bare: Iraq War veteran
Matt Gallagher: Iraqi veteran, @MattGallagher83

Links:
Veterans Administration
2012 VA report on vets who die by suicide
Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on timely access to high-quality care
Vogel on Army ordering reforms for mental health care treatment
Ritchie on the Army task force report on behavioral health
Sierra Club’s Mission Outdoors Program
Gallagher’s ‘Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War’
Veterans Expeditions
Johnson’s ‘To Be a Friend Is Fatal: A Story from the Aftermath of America at War’
The List Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies

Now is the Time to Do

By Richard Branson
When posting recently about the importance of making lists and resolutions, there was an overwhelming response from people keen to reach their goals in 2013. It’s great to see such enthusiasm – and practical planning – for making positive changes from people all over the world.

Planning is extremely important, for any adventure in or out of business. But even more crucial is the will to simply get out there and do something new. A couple of thoughts have caught my attention this week about creating original ideas.

Dr Muhammad Yunus, founder of the wonderful Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, said: “All human beings are born as entrepreneurs. But unfortunately, many of us never had the opportunity to unwrap that part of our life, so it remains hidden.”

He touches upon the potential within us all to bring new ideas to life. For those of us fortunate enough to have the chance to see their dreams come to life, it is foolish to waste our opportunities.

Another perceptive point comes from Seth Godin. On his blog, he wrote about the challenges of initiating any project. “Not enough people believe they are capable of productive initiative.

“I don’t think the shortage of artists has much to do with the innate ability to create or initiate. I think it has to do with believing that it’s possible and acceptable for you to do it.”

As Mr Godin suggests, it is absolutely possible for you to create, to take chances, to allow your ideas to flourish if you have enough self-confidence. While he is referring to artists, the same applies for the art of business.

Now is the time to do doesn’t just apply to starting businesses. it applies to relationships, to fitness, to all aspects of your life.

Nobody else is going to start your business for you. 2013 is the time to put your ideas into action. Now is the time to do.