This guest article from Psych Central was written by Christy Matta, MA
Strained relationships create stress and can have a negative impact on your mood and your ability to function throughout the day. When you’re in conflict with someone else, you’re more likely to be worried, distracted or highly emotional.
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We cannot make other people act as we’d wish, but we can become aware of when we act in ways that lead to problems in relationships. As we identify our own communication problems, we can choose to make changes in how we interact. If you do, you might just find that you’re able to solve intractable problems and that habitual conflicts no longer occur.
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Making even small changes to how you communicate can improve the quality of your relationships.
Signs You Need to Change Course:
- You get an angry response. You might have good reason to confront someone, but if you are getting an angry response, it may be time to step back and assess your goals in the situation. When interactions begin to deteriorate into angry reactions, they often stop being productive. Try taking a breather and remembering what you wanted to achieve when you began the interaction. For example, were you hoping for an apology, did you want the other person to help you out or acknowledge wrong doing? Is it a case of misunderstandings? How might you describe your goal to the other person and ask for what you want, rather than become distracted by angry comments?
- As you are speaking or immediately after you finish, you know you have not said what you wanted. In the heat of the moment, we sometimes say things that we don’t mean or that we know we will later regret. If you notice this happening to you, try immediately going back, apologizing and correcting what you said.
- You question whether what you are saying is pushing the other person’s limits. Sometimes we want things from people that they are not able or willing to give. Are you pushing this person away by asking for too much? Try backing off and considering your long-term hopes for the relationship.
- The other person is looking upset, red in the face or near tears. Just like in the case of anger, other strong emotions, such as sadness or shame can cause an interaction to lose focus. Try taking a step back and evaluating your goals, when this happens.
- You’ve been talking for several minutes without anyone else having an opportunity to speak. Sometimes we’re so caught up in what we’re saying that we don’t realize that we’re dominating the conversation. If this happens to you often, you want to focus on speaking briefly and then putting all your energy into listening to the other person’s response, waiting to formulate your reply until after they have finished speaking.
- Other people won’t make eye contact.