When someone upsets you, the way you reply can either bring calm and closure, or it can escalate the situation. To avoid pouring fuel on the fire of an already upsetting situation for you, it helps to stand back and reflect before planning what you want to say.
Here are several important facts about communicating when upset, followed by 6 practical steps for planning a calm and effective response.
Communication Facts to Understand Before Blurting Out Your Upset
- People receive much more than just your words when you communicate. They receive your energy, body language, facial expression, tone of voice, and then your words. If you communicate from intense upset, frustration or anger, that energy can cause the person to shut down or go into self-defense mode. This blocks them from clearly hearing the words you are saying.
- It is possible to communicate to someone that you are upset or frustrated with them, without communicating in an upset and frustrated way. You say the words and explain the feeling, without enacting that feeling. If you remain calm in this way, you have more mind space, thus more clarity and control to get your core message across.
- While it might initially feel good to blurt hurt back at someone who has upset you, it rarely (if ever!) feels good once the intensity of that moment has passed. Negative energy lingers, and we feel the bite of our own compounded upset long after we have fired it at the other person.
- At times you might feel that your words alone are not powerful enough to show the other person what they have done to you. You might feel inclined to add strong emotion to your words thinking that will add weight to your message. Your ego can lure you into thinking you have to hurt the other person for them to understand how hurt you feel, or that you must show your frustration visibly to the other person so they understand the consequences of what they did or said. Yet, negative energy never adds valuable weight to anything. It only distorts your powerful spoken word, and provokes more negative energy from the other person.
6 Practical Steps for Planning a Calm & Effective Response
Having reflected on the above points about how to effectively communication, now you can get clear on what you want to say and why:
- Write down exactly what actually happened. Stay present to the hard facts. X happened. X was said.
- Now write down what your interpretation of the facts is. Notice any additional meaning you have added to the facts. Notice any assumptions, exaggerations or story your mind might have created. What have you made their actions or words mean?
- Next, close your eyes and ask yourself how you really feel about what they did/said. Anger and frustration are usually surface level feelings that disguise something deeper. Ask yourself, “What is the raw, underlying feeling that bothers me most?” Is it feeling misunderstood, disrespected, lonely, isolated, disconnected or sad.
- Put yourself in the other person’s shoes for a moment, and ask yourself, “What is going on inside of them that might have led them to do or say something so upsetting to me?” Pain only comes out of someone when they are in pain themselves in that moment. This is not to justify their behavior, but rather to understand. Understanding allows empathy. Empathy means you recognize their humanness, because you have that same humanness inherent in you.
- Now ask yourself why exactly you need to communicate. What is the point and what is the intended outcome? Use your conscious awareness to really hone in on the result you want. Are you doing this to create healing, resolution or closure so everyone can move forward? Or, are you doing this to “even the score”, to rectify their misdeed or point out their wrongdoing? The latter will only add further heavy energy to the situation, layering it with hurt ego in response to their pained ego. Choosing a desired result that is healthy for everyone involved will come across in your energy, body language, facial expression, tone of voice and words, and this aids a much better outcome. After all, what most of us really want is not to cause someone else pain, but instead to cause our own inner peace. Our peace never comes from hurting another person, but rather from conscious choice to focus on resolution as our desired result.
- Pick one or two key things that are most important for you to convey to the other person. While you may have many things you want to say, there are usually a couple of crucial points. It is easy to get lost in the mind when strong feelings are at play, and lose sight of what you want to say as the conversation unfolds. Having a couple of key points clearly written down will help you to stay on track.
Bernadette Logue is an Author & Transformation Coach, and the founder of Pinch Me Living. She supports clients worldwide to unleash their inner peace, freedom and success, both personally and professionally. Visit Bernadette at www.pinchmeliving.com and receive free affirmation and meditation audio resources, and join her Youtube community for weekly mind liberation.