The ability to communicate effectively is one of the most useful skills for surviving the modern world. It’s impossible to eliminate arguments from all of your relationships. However disagreements aren’t all harmful, quite the opposite!
Constructive arguments can shed light on important issues, clear the atmosphere and take relationships to next the level.
But how do you argue mindfully and make your communication more effective?
1. Practice mindfulness before you argue:
People often beat around the bush and make lists of different issues when they’re really concerned about something totally different. They don’t know really know the source of their frustration.
If you don’t know yourself well, how can you expect others to guess and fulfill your needs? It’s impossible to find a constructive solution unless you understand what’s motivating your feelings and behaviors each moment.
Start by bringing mindfulness into your daily life and staying fully present as often as you can. Spending quality time alone, free from distractions will enable you to connect with yourself and make it easier for you to interact with others. Meditate to better control your body and mind.
2. Don’t evaluate:
The Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti considered the ability to observe without evaluating as the highest form of human intelligence. Every single person sees and interprets the world differently. Therefore, to communicate effectively, avoid evaluation and focus on the facts.
When you evaluate things, another person can feel judged and nobody likes that. Every evaluation put in the form of a label, criticism, insult or comparison will cause nothing but self-defense and counterattack from the other side.
How to distinguish facts from assessments?
Example: “You’re rarely excited to go out with me” would be an evaluation, whereas:
“The last two times I asked you out, you said you weren’t in the mood” would be a fact.
Avoid subjective statements that aren’t facts but interpretations of the facts, these are evaluations. Nobody can disagree with facts. Nobody can feel offended by facts. But someone can disagree or feel upset by an evaluation. That’s why arguing based on facts can help you find a solution.
Communications expert, Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg considers avoiding evaluation during arguments as the first pillar of effective dialogue.
3. Forget about your ego:
People often focus so much on winning the fight and having the last word that they actually forget what they’re fighting about. Accept that being right doesn’t matter and that arguing for the sake of determining a winner will never be constructive.
Focus your full attention on the other person’s arguments, and then you can be emphatic and build better relationships with people. Most conflicts are provoked to attract someone’s attention. Instead of shutting the person down, ask questions and make an effort to actually understand the other person, even if you’re angry.
Stay open and don’t be afraid to ask about someone’s feelings. For example: “You seem a bit sad? Did I upset you with what I said?”
4. Describe your feelings:
I agree that talking about feelings can be tough, but you can’t expect anyone to guess how or what you feel. What’s very painful for one person can be meaningless to someone else. Be as clear as possible in communicating your needs, expectations and feelings.
Example: “I’m frustrated that you’re always late” – is blame with evaluation.
A mindful person would say: “I feel frustrated that you were late two times this week without letting me know. I could do some other things in the meantime, instead of being in such a rush to meet you.”
5. Use positive language:
Clarify what you want from the other person. Be specific and use positive language. People are more likely to listen to your arguments when you say what you want them to do instead of telling them what they shouldn’t do.
For example, if you want your loved ones to be more supportive, instead of saying: “You never listen to me and you don’t care about my passions”
A wise communicator would say:
“I would like you to listen more about my projects. I know that you have no idea what they’re about, but I guess what I want from you is to smile and say that I can make it. Your support is important to me.”
Effective communication is an art made up of many different components and a lot of goodwill. Avoid blaming or judging other people. Instead, ask yourself what’s really important to you. Practice mindfulness to raise awareness of your own needs and learn how to clearly express them.
Last but not least, communication is a dialogue; try and make a real effort to understand the other person. Remember that allowing another person to have different needs and opinions is liberating and makes the world more interesting.