“Those that know, do. Those that understand, teach.” ~Aristotle
I’ve been mostly introverted for a majority of my life, often running away from issues that could cause a damaging conversation between me and another person.
Experience has taught me that when I get upset, I don’t naturally handle my hardship with grace.
I worked as a restaurant manager for some years, and it was just too easy to react to the frustration I felt when an employee disregarded my request that they stock the bathroom with paper towels or wash the front windows.
I would either explode or I would remain silent. I couldn’t figure out how to simply approach the person and work through the issue. And, of course, as the restaurant is an incredibly fast-paced environment, there was no time to process these dysfunctional circumstances.
But as life naturally works out, I found myself unemployed for a small stint, whereupon I had the chance to muse over the past and discover the reasons why my voice wasn’t being heard and understood.
And we all want to be understood. Maybe you relate to my experience in that, at times, no matter how hard you try, it seems that no one gets it. Then we make efforts to force people to appreciate us, defending our case over and over, which can simply create negativity and make the situation more incomprehensible.
If you find this happening, pause for a moment. Consider the idea that, in many cases, we are more likely to be understood by others if we are understanding of them.
This does take a bite out of the ego, and yeah—that hurts.
But it doesn’t mean dropping your position. It will actually strengthen your case to learn and respect the opinions of others—even when they are disrespectful of yours. More often than not, you will find that they eventually return the favor.
You can sit quietly on the couch in your own home and ponder another person’s viewpoint.
This is the foundation to effectively debating your opinions. I follow this concept and frequently find that my voice is heard and accepted amongst people who have differing opinions than my own.
Here are some tips that can help you get that long-awaited point across:
1. Understand that your anger is a normal, natural reaction.
It’s okay to feel angry about a wrongdoing. However, at a certain point, anger becomes a choice. It is at this time when you can make efforts to understand the other person’s position.
I catch myself getting angry at just about every inconvenience, but through some practice I am able to move past the feeling without becoming its victim.
2. Do not express your view until you feel calm and comfortable.
Many times we have a tiny intuitive voice in our mind that tells us to be patient, but because it is tiny, we ignore it. When we do so, we may say something that will be counterproductive to our goal.
3. Set the goal of helping others.
If you want to express your opinion about an important issue, but you do not have the benefit of others in mind, you may inadvertently come across as selfish or boorish.
4. Relate to the opinions of others.
Consider the phrase, “I see where you’re coming from.” Pause on that phrase until you actually do understand their side.
Many people will say, “I see where you’re coming from—but…” This won’t show them that you really get it. Think of a time you have been in their position either on a larger or smaller scale. Often, if you relay this story to them, it assures them you really do get it.
5. Don’t fight.
The moment you are in an argument and you begin to raise your voice, get upset, flail your arms, speak ill of others, you become irrational. People are rarely going to hear you in this state of mind.
6. Try not to take things personally.
“Right and wrong” are harsh words to describe concepts that either “work or may not work.” Consider this when you begin to take the argument personally.
7. Do not tell a person they are wrong.
Perhaps you don’t agree with their position, but insulting them, cutting them off, will only cause them to get defensive, and perhaps do the same to you.
8. If you’re unable to communicate effectively, take responsibility for that.
If you do not successfully get your point across, do not solely blame the other person. Conversation is never less than a two-way street.
Your mind will tell you the places where you made a mistake. Simply reflect on these and decide what will be better to do the next time.
9. Learn when to walk away.
If you feel that you are at that messy point where you can’t get the other person to listen, just let it go. You can revisit the issue later, but forcing it now will only make things worse.
It’s also true that space and time after a confusing conversation will help others to reflect on the important points that you discussed, which will help them to identify with your position.
What helps you speak your mind calmly and effectively?
About Eva Barrow
Eva Barrow has a B.A. in English Literature and 10 years restaurant experience. She now works as an Administrative Assistant to an independent living residence for older adults.