I’m getting ready to participate in a communications session that addresses the topic of conversational tones. In short, we will ask the question, “How can we navigate difficult conversations where there are divergent views on an issue? How can we productively stay in a conversation when defensiveness escalates and respectful listening shuts down?”
Here are several ideas from the upcoming workshop:
If an exchange or conversation begins to slide into defensiveness and unproductive argumentation, what communication choices do we have to get back on track?
- Sometimes the easiest thing to do is to say, “I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry, I’m interrupting you.”
“I’m sorry, that was a low blow.”
“I’m sorry, I’m off the issue.”
“I’m sorry, I’m monopolizing this conversation.”
- Sometimes you can get back on track with phrases like,
“Let’s stop a minute. We’re getting defensive.”
“Say that again. This time I’ll listen to understand your point.”
“Let’s start this conversation over.”
There is no guarantee that every conversation can be repaired. At the same time, a small, manageable tactic may be all that it takes to stay on course.