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Listening to Your Triggers – How to Suspend Judgment When You Are Angry

Pertinent Points

  • A hot button or trigger word can be words, a tone of voice, or a particular way someone conveys body language that sets you off.
  • Everyone has different hot buttons and trigger words that can cause them to become angry.
  • When we are feeling triggered we automatically rush to judgment about what the other person is saying or doing.

Key Question: How can you listen past their anger or yours?

Identify your physiological triggers.

It is essential to know when you begin feeling triggered, whether your face gets hot, shoulders tense, or your stomach starts turning, being able to recognize when you are triggered helps you to be more efficient in addressing it.

Take the judgment out of what happened.

When we are in a hot-button moment, we unconsciously jump to judgment. We feel accused, devalued, disrespected, or powerless. We judge what the person said and frame it negatively without considering that what we interpreted may not have been what the person intended.

Breathe to Calm Judgmental Thoughts.

Take deep breaths to calm yourself when you are feeling triggered. By taking deep breaths, you allow oxygen to the brain which can directly impact the adrenaline pumping through your system. By calming yourself down, you allow yourself to hear what the other person is saying without becoming defensive.

Be Curious in Conversation.

Ask the person questions about what they are thinking and feeling, to learn more about what is going on with them. Observe what is going on with the other person so you can begin to understand and question the situation.

Develop Self- Empathy.

Identify your feeling words to understand and determine what exactly you need at that moment.

Assignment for the week:

In our interview with Susan H. Shearouse on the Texas Conflict Coach® podcast, Susan suggested an assignment to listen to your reactions. Listen for the moments when you are hooked by trigger words and hot buttons, and spend some time identifying your feelings at that moment and what your needs are to address those feelings.

To learn more about this topic, listen to the entire episode entitled, Hot Buttons and Trigger Words: How to Listen Past Your Anger or Theirs.

Abigail R.C. McManus M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management

Guest Blogger

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Decoding the Communication between Women and Men

TC Blog 8 Men and Women Communication (delete)Communication can be challenging regardless of whether you are communicating with your friends, family members, co-workers or boss. But why do we appear to have such a difficult time communicating with the opposite sex? Regardless of a person’s ethnicity, race, or sex, people converse using verbal and nonverbal communication.

What is the communication challenge?
Verbal communication can be heard by another. It involves communicating a message using words. When you are communicating orally or verbally you are sending your message by speaking to the other person. On several occasions during conversations I have had with my brothers, male friends, or significant other, they have checked-out. Their eye’s glaze over and they are no longer listening to a word I am saying. Several of my female friends have also had similar complaints. If the incident happens repeatedly, it can cause conflict within those relationships. The main complaints I’ve heard and experienced from other women is that they feel ignored by the male and wonder if what they have to say is unimportant.

Why does this happen?
This happens because women and men have different goals and expectations and therefore communicate differently. Women see communication as a way to express themselves and their emotions, and share their experiences with others as a way to build rapport. Men see communication as a way to problem-solve, which may then lead to an action.

What is Nonverbal Communication?
Nonverbal Communication uses body language to send a message without the use of words. These actions can be:
o Facial Expressions
o Tone
o Posture
o Attitude

Women are often expressive with their use of nonverbal communication. Women tend to use physical contact, such as a hug, or the squeeze of an arm or shoulder. Women also use their hands to emphasize what they are conveying in their message. Men, however, tend to be less skilled in using subtle body language such as leaning forward, nodding, or titling their head to show they are engaged in the conversation. A key to men’s non-verbal communication is found in their posture.

Two examples of posture are:
o Standing straight with arms parallel to torso – Shows openness and willingness to talk.
o Hands behind the back with palms on hips – Displays a desire for something to end or be finished.

How can Nonverbal Communication be helpful?
Nonverbal communication can be helpful during a conversation by:
• Providing feedback to the person speaking that you are listening. For example, nodding your head in understanding.
• Providing a window into their emotions. Is the listener smiling, frowning, or perhaps shrugging their shoulders?

Scenario: I am sharing my experience about how my job interview went and twenty minutes into sharing, my brother’s eyes glaze over. What do I do now?

For Women:

  • Observe the facial expressions and then acknowledge it has been 20 minutes. Check-in with him to see if he has more time to listen. Remember KISS (Keep it short and simple)
  • Verbally communicate what you need from him before you share your experience with the job interview. For example, “I really need to talk to you about my job interview and get your feedback.” Remember, men are action-oriented in their goal of communication. Give them something to do as they listen to your story.

For Men:

  • Consider these questions:
    • Has your attention started to drift?
    • Is there something distracting you from listening?
    • Why have you checked out?
  • Remind yourself why you are listening by asking her what she needs from you while you are listening
  • Acknowledge or validate her by simply saying “I hear how excited you are about the interview.”

Women and men communicate differently both verbally and nonverbally. But if you go into your next conversation aware of what the differences are, potential conflicts can be avoided. To further understand the differences in male/female communication and to learn further tools and strategies, tune in to Gregg Catalano’s podcast That’s Not What I Meant! on the Texas Conflict Coach® website.

By Tracy Culbreath
Graduate Student, University of Baltimore – Negotiation and Conflict Management Program

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