Can you disagree with someone and NOT feel angry, upset or guilty? That’s the sign of a healthy communicator. I believe that disagreeing is an art, and so here I share my suggestions for how to use differences of opinion as a way to connect instead of disconnect.
3:45 – Perspectives of POOR communicators
10:40– Perspectives of EXCELLENT communicators
14:30 – Habit #1 of Excellent Communicators
18:40 – Habit #2 of Excellent Communicators
25:45 – Habit #3 of Excellent Communicators
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This is EP 77 – HOW TO DISAGREE IN A HEALTHY WAY. Can you disagree with someone and NOT feel angry, upset or guilty? That’s the sign of a healthy communicator. I believe that disagreeing is an art, and so here I share my suggestions for how to use differences of opinion as a way to connect instead of disconnect. Hi, I’m Carla Rieger, and this is the MindStory Speaker Podcast.
To install the top three habits of excellent communicators. Now, there’s this interesting story that is apparently true, that haven’t during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, you may have remembered that Cuban missile crisis. There were all these Soviet and American delegates in the room trying to discuss this very intense issue that could have led to world war three. And it got so intense. At one point, all the negotiations shut down and they were silent. And one of the Soviet delegates stood up and said, I suggest we all go round and tell a joke. But he started, he said, what is the difference between capitalism and communism in capitalism, men exploit’s man, and in communism, it’s the other way around.
And they laughed. And then the next guy went and he had this bad joke and they went around the table and they all just sort of grow into laughed and it changed their brain. Chemistry opens up all kinds of functionings in your brain that you didn’t have when you’re tense and stressed and anxious. So that’s kind of our theme for today. And also the thing that differences are like fire too much causes damage to people in property, but too little and no important change can happen. So I’d love you to write down one communication stressor, obviously for your eyes only past or present. Just one that sort of still you’re like, ah, I wish I had another way of dealing with that or how could I resolve that? And again, it can be from, you know, 10 years ago or a few months ago, or just something that’s going on now.
It could be with someone in your personal life, someone in your work life or, or a group, right? It doesn’t matter. But just write one down right now, just because I’d like a focal point to see if some of these ideas that I’m talking about today would be a useful practical tool to apply to this situation because it can make a huge difference. Uh, just something really little in how you shift what you say, how you viewing a situation because breakdowns in communication are of course inevitable. They happen in every work I’ve been working in this field for decades and it’s just everywhere, right? There’s politics, there’s gossip, there’s miscommunication. It just it’s when humans get together, it just tends to happen. How we deal with those breakdowns can make or break the health of you and your organization, right? So this is for you.
If you are looking for ways to prevent unnecessary communication breakdowns, or want to resolve existing ones in a respectful way. So this is from 12 years of surveying, where we did about 167 programs over that 12 years. And we really whittled it down to the top takeaways. The things that people use that were simple and easy to implement that made the biggest difference in the shortest amount of time. In our research, we discovered there’s perspectives of what we call a poor communicator, which is kind of the opposite of the excellent communicator, which is number one, that conflict means there’s something wrong. So now I’ve had all of these perspectives and maybe you’ve had some of them too, at some point in my life, which made me a poor communicator. That’s why I worked so hard to be an excellent communicator. So conflict means there’s something wrong.
So that’s how it was to my family. I mean, I grew up, you know, my mother was British. My father was Austrian. So it was all about face saving, right? You would never outwardly express conflict. It was all under the table. There was a very lumpy carpet with all sorts of unresolved issues. And you had to sort of figure out by someone’s facial expression, what was really going on. And so I grew up thinking that conflict means or something wrong, but I always remember, I had this friend who lived on the same block as me. She came from an Italian family and in an Italian family, apparently I don’t know if this is true in all Italian families, but if you’re not fighting and raising your fist and stating your opinion really strongly, that means you don’t love each other. That means you don’t care about each other, but in my family, if you had conflict, it meant you didn’t love each other.
So it’s just perception. Right. So think about your cultural background. Like w what was it like growing up for you? Because that really affects, uh, how people communicate as an adult, but you can change it anytime like I did. So number two, it’s more important to be right than to be happy. I mean, we do it all the time, right? It’s just like, I have my perspective and I just know that it’s right. And I just want you to see my point of view because you’re dumb if you don’t, right. That’s kind of how we get with people and sometimes kill the relationship in the process. And so, or the opposite is it’s more important to be liked and to have my needs met. So those are the over accommodating type of people who don’t like confrontation. And they just sort of backed down from any confrontation and never asked for their needs to be met.
And those people tend to build a lot of resentment in. And ironically, if you know of any people in your life who you might call it passive aggressive, they, they tend to have this kind of perspective, right. That they haven’t been honest about what they need. And so they build up this resentment and they get what they need through the back door. Right now, two people must be equally responsible for resolving an issue. And I always thought, yeah, that makes sense to me. Of course, you know, like I’ve apologized, I’ve come 50% to the table, but they haven’t. So we can’t resolve it. And I immediate people many times over the years and they’ll tell me that, like, I’m willing to resolve it, but they aren’t. So we can’t. But now why is that a problem? Why does that make you a poor communicator? Well, think about that. If you’re always waiting for somebody else to behave, how you want them to be, then you’re a victim to external circumstances. You’re a victim to other people’s behavior. Uh, so you can wait a long time. And number five is the external circumstances control how I feel. So it’s a little bit similar to that in that, you know, if there’s a pandemic going on, or if there’s people acting in a triggered way around me, then I have to get triggered and I have to be stressed.
But all feelings that you have are actually triggered, not by anything outside yourself, but by your thoughts, your interpretations, your meanings that you give situations. And I know a lot of us intellectually understand it, but it’s so easy to get caught up in blaming something, outside yourself for how you feel. And the minute you take back responsibility, it’s just a night and day experience of life. And we often need many reminders to do it, but, and I’ll be giving you some number six is if people make mistakes or do something, I don’t like they should live the rest of their life in shame, guilt, and regret. I find that funny to read, but it’s true. Like a lot of people feel that way. And I remember I went to my high school reunion, my ten-year high school reunion. Maybe you went to one of the areas and I saw the guy that dumped me on prom night from across the room. And so I averted his eye contact and I, you know, kept very me finally, at the end of the night, he comes up to me with his arms wide open. And he said, are you avoiding me? I said, maybe he said why? I said, well, I think, you know why. He said, I don’t, what? And I said, well, you dumped me on Prom Night. I dumped you? You were going with Mike. I never said that. Oh, maybe I did. Anyways. We talked it through and clearly we had some miscommunication and then we both took off for university and we never talked about it. And he was a little hurt and pissed off. And, but, you know, he let it go after two weeks, I, on the other hand, held onto it for 10 years. And I felt that he should live in shame, guilt, and regret. Like I looped on it a lot and it affected my relationships through my twenties. So when you loop like that about somebody who’s done something that you didn’t like and never forgive them and never have compassionate, never looked to see, what really went on there. It actually costs you a lot.
And again, I think we know that intellectually and we can see it in others, but sometimes we don’t realize there’s a little dark place in our hearts that is causing us to not be as connected to people and to not be as compassionate and empathic with ourselves as we could. And if we just went through a simple sort of forgiveness process and it doesn’t actually have to be face-to-face with a person, you can just do it within yourself. So that brings us to the six perspectives of excellent communicators, which is kind of like the opposite, like conflict is okay if done in the right way with the right intention. Right? So we’ll talk about what that looks like. I had to take a conflict resolution course because I was working for a team building consulting company, and that was part of their required training. And I was like, Ugh, I don’t want to go do something like that where I was just a two day course.
And it was the most amazing thing I’d ever done. I just loved it. I thought, Oh my gosh, why don’t they teach this when you’re young? Right. This was so important. Like I never learned it in school. Maybe it’s being taught now, but it was just like how to understand the deeper need behind someone who’s triggered, for example, all that kind of stuff. And so I used it immediately, you know, in my marriage and with my friends and my family, I was like, Oh my gosh, what a difference? I didn’t realize that conflict could be healthy because of my background. And so I took more courses. I was like every weekend doing a, until I done a two year diploma in conflict resolution and international negotiation. And I’ve, I’ve loved this topic ever since rightness is subjective. Sometimes the glass looks half full. Sometimes it looks half empty or sometimes there’s just some watering the glass, right. To be able to break out of your perspective is huge, good fences, make good neighbors so well who don’t like to set boundaries because they don’t want to create bad feelings in others. But sometimes you make good boundaries. It actually helps other people know what you need and know how to, you know, make things work for you, whether it’s in a family or work environment. But if you never tell them, they don’t know, but they feel your resentment, right? Nobody likes that.
Number four is I’m 100% responsible for solving issues that are important to me, as opposed to it has to be 50%. I apologized, but they didn’t, so it can’t be resolved. But you can resolve within yourself.
So number five is thoughts cause feelings. And that’s what we notice. Excellent communicators realize that if they were feeling negative about something or positive, it was because of their thoughts. It wasn’t the external circumstance. Like just for example, with the rollercoaster metaphor, right? Why could one person beyond the right like this, this is so fun. And one person could be, I hate this because it’s not the roller coaster. It’s your thoughts about it? What it means to you, the interpretation you give it. And so that’s true with anything. I’m sure you’ve hung around with someone and they don’t like someone that you like, and you’re like, Oh, what’s going on there? Right. It’s just their thoughts about the person.
So number six is seek compassionate forgiveness wherever possible. So even if the person’s passed away, now, this is not to condone the behavior of someone who has done something morally wrong, of course not. But at some point, the past is the past it’s been done. What can you learn from it? How can you have better boundaries next time? How can you have better communicated? What was, you know, your part in it and forgive yourself and others. So let’s look at the top three habits of excellent communicators. So they have those perspectives, but then what were the little habits they practiced that helped them live those perspectives? So the first one was they deescalated before discussing an issue, as opposed to not realizing they’re triggered and saying I’m not triggered and, and acting from a triggered state. So what do I mean by that? Well, I’m sure you’ve heard of the survival brain trigger cycle. You get triggered, right? Somebody cuts you off in traffic. Somebody speaks to you in that certain tone of voice. That’s just a bit impatient sounding. And then, you know, you go from calm and center it to you feel your jog tense, you feel the claws come out, you feel adrenaline surge, right? And as you escalate, your quality of judgment goes down,
Right? And so the common wisdom, if say a loved one, says something to you that triggers you and you don’t want to sleep in the doghouse all day. What’s the common wisdom, take a deep breath, count to 10….You know, wait till you’ve deescalated.
And why do that? When you’re triggered, it’s mostly the survival brain that’s online, the fight or flight or freeze brain. And so you don’t have any of your conflict resolution skills. You don’t have any connection to your empathy. You just want to like kill or run away or freeze. You know? So it’s this really primitive part of the brain operating. And then usually afterwards, you sort of regret and are bit embarrassed by how you act, right? Like you sent that email before, like rereading it, that kind of thing. Then you read it the next day and you think, Oh, that was a bit harsh. Right? So that’s, you were in a triggered state, right. But if you can do your communication when you’re not triggered that’s of course the best. And that’s what these excellent communicators do. They just like triggered going to take a walk around the block, honey, I’ll be back in half an hour and then we can discuss this.
So let me give you an example. I was coaching a woman who was gathering a group of people on her team. She was going to talk about all these budget cuts she had to make. And she was talking to one of her top managers about how she might have to lay some people off, but she said, don’t say anything to anyone. We’re going to have a meeting and get ideas. Maybe someone will volunteer to be laid off. Then she gets a text from her admin assistant that says “How many people are you going to execute?”
She was so upset. She was going to ream out her top manager because he must have talked to her. And she was just about to call, but then she said she’ll just talk to Carla first. So it can be helpful to have someone you could talk to, to just like talk you down. And I said, okay, okay. So that was the text you got. Do you think that’s what she meant – I mean ‘execute’ – does she talk like that? Or could it be an auto-correct issue? Like, you know, when you’re texting auto-corrects and you’re doing it in a hurry. She’s like ‘Oh, I don’t know. Maybe.’ Well, it turned out that’s exactly what it was. What do you think that text was supposed to say? Right, ‘Expecting’. Because she was the admin assistant and she had to set up the room. She texted her and she goes, did you mean how many people are you expecting? She goes, yeah. Yeah. That’s what I meant.
So, that was an example right. Of her completely going into my thoughts are real without like checking it out. So that’s what we’re talking about here. Excellent. Communicators. Just, they get triggered, but then they go, wait a minute, let me, let me really check this out. How am I interpreting the situation? Is it true? It does kind of lead into the heaven. Number two, that excellent communicators use to practices perspectives, which was, they stayed curious. So they were triggered, even though they wanted it to be righteous and defend themselves. What they did was they created like a little habit that would enforce them to stay curious, as opposed to what most people do is they get stuck in the fight flight or freeze mode. And, and they don’t do anything to try to trigger the neocortex. So here’s something that really triggers the neocortex is to ask an open question versus having a defensive response.
Let’s create some possible scenarios where someone says something that triggers you. So here are some common ones that my clients give me maybe a relate to some of them. So the statement that the person says is that idea won’t work, sharing a meeting, and you’ve just started explaining an idea that you think would work. And they just cut you off. That won’t work. That triggers a lot of people to have their ideas invalidated. So what would be a defensive response to that? Well, in my client’s case, he said, you haven’t even heard me out yet. And so of course, this started a little fight between him and the others. They were part of a committee and he just started having this little war. But when he learned to put this habit into place, he instead asked an open question, like what’s happening, that’s making you say that.
Now it’s important to say to that in a neutral tone of voice. So it’s just like, what’s going on. Like, even if he thinks he knows the reason to say, Oh, what’s happened, that’s making you say that because this guy would always shoot down his ideas. So the next time it happened, he just asked that question what’s happened. That makes you say that. I think, I guess, well, we tried that idea last year. Don’t you remember? And it costs a lot of money and it didn’t work. And he said, yeah, I know. But we learned all about why it didn’t work. And I wanted to tell you what we learned and how we’re going to save on the budget and do it different this time. Oh, okay.
And then he was open to hearing the idea. So you just kind of want to find out what’s behind, someone’s saying a statement that triggers you. And then as soon as you do, you can solve for it. So say, somebody says, you don’t have time to do that job right now. So you give something to like an admin person and they got, I don’t have time and you’re on a deadline is really important and they need to do it. And it irks you, what would be a defensive response. You better make time. Now, sometimes that’s an appropriate response and you know, that’s, what’s gonna make the person do it. But if you want to maintain a good relationship and you want to really kind of solve it at a deeper level, you might instead when ask a very similar question. In fact, the same question what’s happened, that’s making you say that.
So in the case of my client and he has her, so what’s happening, that’s making you say that. And she said, well, three other people in this office has given me projects to do that. All have a deadline that are going to take me all day to finish. And now you want me to do this. So, you know, obviously someone’s going to have to prioritize this. So then he had something to solve for. So then he gathered the people who had given her the jobs and said, okay, you know, let’s look at all the jobs and see, which is the most important. Then they decided which ones she should do. First, second, third, fourth issue resolved. Right? So here’s another one. You should get some help with your writing skills. This happened to one of my coaching clients. And so she had made a defensive response to her. So what would be a defensive response you would give to someone like that? So she sent out an email to a group of people that she works with, and that’s what she got back from one of them. So what would be a good defensive response, feel free to use your sense of humor and be like,
She said, you should get some help with your interpersonal communication skills. And so that did not help resolve it. Then she sort of backpedaled. And she said, okay, sorry about that. What’s happened. That’s making you say that. And she said, well, you spelled behavior “O U R”. And I really think you should be using Americans spelling and having it just be “OR”.
So that was her issue. And so they discussed, you know, the pros and cons of those two types of spelling. And in the end she says, okay, well you do it the way you want. Issue was resolved. Right. It wasn’t like, Oh my gosh, you don’t have any command of the English language. Take a few moments to understand what’s behind comments that people make, because sometimes you’ll be often very surprised
Next one. I don’t like having to work with Bob. So what might be a defensive response? I don’t like having to work with you. Open questions is the same question – what’s happened that’s making you say that? This was actually an assistant who said he didn’t want to work with a particular manager named Bob. When the company owner said – That makes you say that? Bob is late, a lot. I don’t like that. Oh, okay. So then he has something to solve for. He can sit down with the two of them and go, okay, how can we have more punctuality here? What would help the situation? Right? But if you don’t know what’s driving it or you make an assumption about what’s driving it, then you’re not really going to get to resolution. So those are some examples, but it’s good to kind of brainstorm with people about what are some typical things that you often hear that can trigger you and just, you know, brainstorm, you have fun with it.
You can talk about some defensive responses you might make. And then talk about what would be like an open question that you could ask does sometimes you have any questions don’t work. I do realize that it’s very contextual, but they work far more often than you think.
And that brings us to this third habit that they use to make sure that they were living the perspectives of an excellent speaker, which was they sought collaborative outcomes where ever possible. Win-win outcomes where everybody gets what they want. Not always easy, but people who are poor communicators, usually just tried to get what they wanted,
This is often a default way that many of us are in the world operate, being very competitive. Now you may have heard of the Thomas Kilmann conflict modes. These are five ways. Humans are in conflict. And what can happen is people tend to have a favorite one that they use. It might be based on their upbringing or their personality style, and they maybe overuse it when it’s not appropriate. So, as I’m talking about this, I want you to look for what might be the one you use maybe a bit too often. And so competing, I win you lose in some way cultures. And it’s very important too, to be like that, to be competitive for some work environments, right? Like the military or in professional sports, right? There’s that way of being is very valued, right? The opposite is accommodating and I lose. And some environments, again, certain kind of professions might inspire more of that way of being like caregivers.
And then there’s avoiding, which is where you lose. And I lose it. It’s a high stakes conflict that you both decided to not talk about it. And it just all goes under the rug and you’re avoiding like sometimes, obviously it helps to avoid conflict, but if you do that all the time, you can have a lumpy carpet. So, um, before we move on to the last two, I just wanted to talk about that sometimes it’s useful to compete. And that would be the style that you would use depending on circumstance. Like I talked about professional sports, you know, in the military or if there’s an emergency and you’re in a room and you know, where the fire exit is, nobody else does. And you get an, a mic and just say everyone out that door, right? You don’t want to have a collaborative discussion about it because people’s lives are at stake.
So, and accommodating. Sometimes it totally makes sense to accommodate. For example, if you’re a parent and your kids want to spend all Saturday at a birthday party and you would have preferred to do something else, but you accommodate to them because really care about the relationship. You know, in our, in our really deep relationships, like in our family, often we are accommodating and sometimes that’s completely appropriate. And some days it makes sense to avoid. For example, I was working on a committee and we were really into collaboration. Everyone was really into collaboration and it came time to lunch. We only had half an hour for lunch. And somebody said, I suggest we go here. And somebody else said, I suggest we go here and there, you know, we all have to agree. It took us the entire half an hour to finally decide that half the people were going to go there and half the people are going to go there.
And so in that case, it would have been better to avoid the conflict and just, you know, actually have lunch. Now, the fourth style is compromising and how I refer to that as we both half win and half lose. So you get a bit of what you want. I get a bit of what I want and vice versa. Now, what is it appropriate to compromise? Well, usually it’s a very complex situation and there’s a timeline, you know, maybe like a union management negotiation, we need to get people back in the job, but we also don’t want them to be really resentful. So we give them a bit of what they want and so forth. And so it’s almost all the way to collaboration. Now, when you don’t want to compromise is when the stakes are really high and the relationship is really important. So that’s when you’d go for the fifth star, which is collaborating, I win, you win.
Now, a lot of people think, Oh wait, we should collaborate all the time about everything, but why doesn’t that work? It’s time-consuming and it takes a lot of scale. And most people aren’t taught the skills of collaborating, but here are cases where it’s really important to collaborate, like say, adult children, of parents who passed away. And there’s this very substantial estate to sort through. And you really care about your relationships with your siblings, right? This for years to come, right? If you didn’t sort this out in a way that felt win-win people would be upset and you’d lose your relationships with your siblings. So, but there’s a lot of money at stake here. So the goal is really high and the relationship is really high. So that’s how you kind of tell relationship is really important. Goal is really important if one or both of those are less important than you can choose another style.
So excellent communicators were always collaborating. They were switching depending on the circumstances, but when and where possible they would collaborate. So that’s what we noticed. So just think about that for yourself. So for me, you know, cause I grew up in this kind of British Austrian household, I think I did accommodating way too much for many years and kind of let people crash my boundaries and things like that. So, so another big reason I love these modes. I was like, Oh, okay. There’s a time for competing. There’s a time for avoiding. There’s a time for accommodating. You don’t have to get stuck in one way of being just that’s what you were taught, right? So it just creates some flexibility in the more flexible you are, the better communicator you are now, the way they often got to win-win outcome was simply by stating that that was her intended outcome.
Now why do that well? So for example, if you have an issue with one person, you might say to them before you even start discussing it, you’d say I’d like to find a resolution that works for both of us or you’re negotiating on price about something I’d like to find a resolution that works for both of us, that alone can create the playing field into itch. That possibility occurs. If you don’t say it, chances are the other person will think, you just want your, and we’ll fight for their way. Of course, if you’re talking to a group, you could say, I’d like to find an outcome that works for all concerned. And again, that sort of rises people up to this. This is our goal. This is our possibility. And people will rise to the occasion and that triggers the whole brain thinking because you know, the brain is a goal achieving device.
So if you give it an intention, this is where we’re going. We’re going for collaboration. It likes that. It’s like, Oh, okay, great. I’ll go to work. Right? Cause we’re very smart. We can figure these things out. If that’s the game we’re playing. But mostly there’s this unexpressed game that we’re playing, which is, you know, doggy dog. I get what I want and get it away from you before you get what you want. And if you live from that place unconsciously, you know, that’s what you get is sort of feeling like you’re always fighting with people over scarce resources when that’s not how I believe we’re supposed to live. In fact, the more you see how to make it work for all concerned, the more you get of that. It’s whatever you focus on. Now, if you want more tools like this, you can go to mind story academy.com backslash free. And I have personality style inventory to see how you are. When you communicate, you can help yourself get over worry with the web ifs checklist. I will end with this poem that a compassionate heart is like water. The hardest stones are dissolved by the softest water and water is not trained to do anything. It simply goes on flowing all the sands and the oceans are nothing but past Himalayas. So just remember that when you’re going into these discussions into these places that have broken down, that just coming from your heart, just a leave in the tiniest drop of compassion about what might be going on for the other person is
Huge. Like getting in their shoes just for a few moments, you go into your own mind and go what’s happened. That makes this person say that to me and just really think about it. And usually we’re very intuitive. We can know, Oh, maybe they’re just going through a hard time right now. And I just happened to be in the crossfire, right? Like it’s often stuff like that, that we take things far too personally when really it’s just people not with good communication skills are just going through a hard time and projecting it out on to other people. I’m not saying that’s the right way to be. But sometimes if you can just be a little bit compassionate, you can resolve what kinds of things.
That’s it for today. Do hit subscribe if you want to hear about other episodes coming up, which you can do on our website MindStoryAcademy.com\podcast. and you’ll see all the ways to subscribe or, if you’re listening on YouTube, just subscribe to our channel. Until next time, I’m Carla Rieger. Thank you for listening.