How to Stay Calm and Communicate Clearly
We are in a time of compelling social, economic, environmental, health, and political issues that are real and worthy of our mindful attention and active participation. On the heels of a presidential debate, there is a palpable tension and discord in our nation. All senses activated, there are surely big feelings happening within homes, workplaces, and friendships, amongst those who disagree over which candidate to support. This can be challenging to constructively navigate, especially between those nearest and dearest to us.
With the energetic field intensifying and emotions flying high, it seems that a double dose of “TLC” could be helpful. Here are a few perceptual concepts and dialogue techniques we can employ to create and maintain a greater sense of calm, on both the internal and inter-personal front.
TLC Post-Debate Communication Tips Part I: The Debate about the Debate
T = TRUE TO YOU
Attitude: This time in history, and the dire converging circumstances we are facing, matters. So do your feelings, opinions, hopes, visions, and dreams. There is no need to ignore, pander, or please. It’s not a time to minimize your concerns, suppress your voice, or apologize for advocating for the causes that matter most to you. Speak your authentic truth in your home and with the meaningful relationships in your life. Just decipher between self-righteous indignation and sincere expression of your deepest core values and perceptions. Share your impressions about the debate rather than impose them. Say what felt real for you, without the need to be right. Whomever is listening will feel the difference.
Action: Speak from the “I” versus the you. (Example: “I felt that this candidate was most presidential in his articulation about the issues,” versus “I can’t believe you didn’t think that……?!”)
L = LISTEN WITH INTENT
Attitude: I believe that the source of most conflict is rooted in projection, assumption, labeling and type casting, and misunderstanding. Most of us want to be heard, rather than judged or dismissed. When it comes to speaking to a friend or family member who has taken a different stance from you about this election, respectfully listen with the intent to really hear and understand what they have to say. Refrain from the impulse to interrupt or reply in haste. Stay curious.
Action: Center yourself so that you can listen without internalizing distress over what you hear or lashing out if there is something you have strong disagreement with. Ask questions, like: “What gave you that impression?” “What issues matter most to you and why?” “What are you most afraid of if he wins?” “What, if anything, would need to happen to open or change your mind about this race?”
C = COMMUNICATE DIRECTLY
Attitude: Effective communication is comprised of the language we speak and the way in which we speak it. It carries an energetic frequency that is either overt or covert, open or closed. It can either heal or hurt, honor or alienate, embrace or offend. After you hear what your friend or loved one shared with you, you may feel discouraged and may assume any further discussion to be futile. At this point many give up, walk away or communicate covertly by venting to someone else (or maybe even screaming in your pillow). Stay in the room metaphorically and literally and voice your truth again. This might require a little sweat equity in tolerating another’s stated position that is very different from yours. The spirit of this second round is for you to share versus preach, and perhaps go as far as encourage versus impose. This shows you care about the issue at hand. It also shows the person you are speaking with the respect of your time, attention, and mindful response.
- Mirror back what you heard. This shows the listener that you were really listening. This also often diffuses rather than incites a defense response. (Example: “So, you liked his response on how to combat the pandemic, correct?”)
- Empathize with what they shared. You don’t have to agree with the other person’s beliefs or fears to have compassion for their concern. (Example: “I hear you are really afraid that your basic rights may be threatened.”)
- Keep the conversation in present time, rather than throwing up the past or catastrophizing the future. (Example: “Please, let’s stay here instead of talking about past presidents or what ‘could’ happen in the future.”)
- Convey confidence versus arrogance. We can challenge a stated perception in a non-condescending manner. (Example: “I disagree because I researched this here and found this to be true. Here it is. What do you think?”)
- Course correct if you find yourself reacting versus responding, taking the conversation personally, or making it personal. Take three mindful breaths, regain composure, apologize, and carry on. (Example: “I’m sorry I labeled you. Please forgive me and let’s get back to the topic we were discussing.”)
- Set boundaries. If you don’t like the way the “other” is speaking to you, kindly request that they relax their tone and use other non-blaming language so that you can hear them.
TLC Post-Debate Communication Tips Part 2: After the Banter
T = TRUST and TRANSCEND
Attitude: There is wisdom in knowing when it’s time to stop discussion and refocus your energy. Here we rise above the voice of our ego who wants to be right, and the inner child within, who always wants to win. True citizenship, leadership, and partnership remains steadfast in upholding good will for all. It sometimes requires courage to fight for that, without alienating almost half of the team, and in this case certainly anyone you hold dear.
Action: To transition out of the conversation, close your eyes, take a breath, and choose to trust that all will be well, and that you and your friend, parent, partner, child, or colleague will transcend this challenging chapter within yourselves and with one another, because…you choose to.
L = LET GO
Attitude: This is not meant to imply trading assertiveness for apathy, hope with resignation, calling into complacency, abandoning your point of view, or opting out of participating in the political process. It also does not mean to let go of close relationships who are simply not looking out through the same lens as you. Rather, it means to let go of that which is unchangeable…like the minds of or votes from some people you respect, as baffling or disappointing as it may be.
Action: Repeat daily the Serenity prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
C = CONNECTIVITY REIGNS
Attitude: I believe the most powerful currency we have is our connectivity with one another. At the end of the day, regardless of the result of this debate or in the fast approaching election, prioritize staying connected to your family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and communities. Agree to disagree and move forward.
Action: Communicate in a way that preserves and prioritizes connectivity. Wrap your arms around— through words, touch, or small graces—those in your life who did not experience this debate the same way you did, and/or who may to be voting for the same presidential candidate you are passionately committed to. Remember who you are talking to and what they mean to you. They are not a political party. They are a person with whom you share an affinity with and who cares deeply about you. Make a pact that while your differing opinions and votes may differ, it is your hearts that will remain committed to one another, with unwavering loyalty.
No matter the outcome of this election, we are all truly in this together. We will reap its hopeful advantages and bear any of the possible unfortunate burdens. In the aftermath of this first debate, may we all do our best to be true to ourselves and loyal to those we hold close. Because in the end, this too shall pass, and love IS really all there is. So, let us stay connected to that, which is infinite.