Emotions Buried Alive Never Die

Emotions can so easily derail a difficult conversation. In this post I share a couple of simple strategies that will help you talk about your emotions in a way that’s safe, productive and that doesn’t raise anxiety levels further . This is the second of the three most important characteristics you’ll need in order to present your side of the story in a difficult conversation.

Sharing Emotions in a Difficult Conversation

Every good mediator will be familiar with this expression; ‘emotions buried alive never die’. Now, my interpretation of this is, that unless we acknowledge our emotions they will continue to fester under the surface and at some point manifest in an unhelpful behaviour. It will result in us saying or doing something that we might later regret but not front up to. I call this phenomenon ‘brain flatulence‘ because the toxic odour of  a comment said in the heat of the moment can linger for longer than we care it to. We can all suffer from this and we become increasingly susceptible to it when we are in stressful or pressure situations.

Pressure Cooker Syndrome

Emotions can behave like they’re in a pressure cooker and if we let the pressure build up it’s going to blow at some point. It could be that you get mildly irritated by something someone says and you let it go because you don’t want to make a big deal of it. But then they say something else and gradually mild irritation turns into frustration which turns into anger and when eventually you do react, it can seem like a disproportionate response to the other person.

Own Your Feelings

There are two important things you can do get a handle on your emotions and make sure they don’t sneak up on you and catch you out.

First you need to be clear in your mind how the other person’s actions had an impact on you. When you’re having your difficult conversation it’s important that you are able to articulate clearly how the other person’s actions left you feeling and how you’re feeling in the moment when you’re having the conversation.

Secondly, it’s vital that you ‘own‘ your feelings, by this I mean rather than saying something like,

‘you made me feel upset when you called me an idiot….’,

which seems to attribute some blame on the other person for the way you’re feeling. Now whether that’s true or not is irrelevant, what’s important is that you position it in a way that cannot be disputed or discredited by the other person.

You also want to invite the opportunity to create empathic moments between the two of you, this isn’t wishy-washy stuff, it’s about having a meaningful conversation where you improve each other’s understanding and create a learning conversation. So instead you might say something like,

‘…when you called me an idiot I was left feeling really upset by that’.

It’s a subtle difference but one that will be really helpful.

So reflect on the emotional impact the other person’s behaviour had on you and when you’re having your conversation make sure you own your emotions.

To learn more about Difficult Conversations click this link : Difficult Conversations

Please do leave your comments or questions below, I do read and reply to every single one. Thank you in advance!

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  • http://twitter.com/TaraMediation Tara Mediation

    I totally agree! When you own your emotions, you take responsibility for the energy you bring into the conversation.

    • http://resolvegb.com/ Aled

      Hi Tara – emotions are the little captains of our soul and we ignore them at our peril :)

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