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Feb 20

4/23 Giving Complete Messages and Understanding Empathy for Conflict Solutions

 So far in our discussion on healthy communication, we have looked at the importance of listening skills, problem solving and realising your personal fight style.  All these contribute to Conflict Solutions!

Then we went onto the importance co being assertive also in a healthily way.  We take you several YouTube video to help you practice your change of fight style to change from being passive to actually facing anger and difficult people.

A.  Giving Complete Messages

However when we communicate with others, whether in conflict or just expressing our views, we need to include certain basic parts in our statements in order to be understood correctly.  Depending on the depth of relationship and nature of the conversation, certain elements need to be included.

A common statement is: “If you loved me, you’d know what is wrong”.  This remark is faulty on two grounds.  First, it is impossible to know what is going on inside another human being.  Secondly, it is a mistake to encourage others to “mind read” you.  It will only lead to misunderstandings.

“If you have to ask, then you don’t understand me”, is another communication error.  Needs are not judgement statements, or observations.  Needs are simple statements about what would help or please you as a person

Wives often complain that their husbands are just giving them the facts without sharing of themselves.  Husbands have to disclose their thoughts and feelings for wives to feel they have “shared” with them.

There the aim of good communication is ‘self disclosure’.

Whenever we talk, we share of ourselves. We can sum up all the various aspects of talking with others and call it ‘self-expression’ or ‘ self-disclosure’.

B.  The 6 parts to every communication:

To give a complete message of self-disclosure, your statement/s must include all, or some of the following:

1.  Your Observations – what we observe about ourselves or the other person.

This is reporting what your senses tell you.  It means to notice physical information without speculation or inferences of your own.  It is taking note of simple facts without coming to conclusions.

2.  Your Sensations – what we are aware of deep inside.

3.  Your Feelings – what feelings we are currently aware of.

This is difficult for some people, as they are threatened or frightened by emotion.  What you feel is a large part of what makes you unique and special.  When you share your feelings, this builds more intimacy and understanding with others.  “Feeling statements” are not observations, value judgements or even opinions.  The information you give is merely what is going on inside you at the time.

4.  Your Thoughts – what we are thinking about the situation or person.

These are your own conclusions, inferences drawn from what your have heard, read or observed.  It includes attempts to re-word your experiences, so as to understand why and how events occur.  Value judgements may be included as you decide what is good or bad, wrong or right.  Beliefs, opinions and theories are all examples of thoughts.

5.  Your Needs – what needs are behind our communication.

You are the only person who really knows what it is you need.  You cannot assume that those who love you are in touch with your real needs.

6.  Your Intentions – what we intend to mean or to do.

Conflict will come to everyone whether we want it or not.  It then becomes a matter of how we handle it.  Learning good problem solving and negotiation skills helps us move from fearing and avoiding conflict to seeing conflict as a challenge we can learn from.  We then discover solutions for establishing harmony with others.

C. Using empathy in your communications

Empathy means to communicate your understanding to the person you are talking with.  We use empathy to: build the relationship, stimulate self-exploration, to check understanding, to provide support, lubricate communication and focus attention where needed, restrain the helper, to pave the way for solutions.

Empathy shows a willingness to get behind the clients’ messages, to see ‘the story behind the story’.  Empathy focuses on useful probing skills and on seeing the used and unused resources.

The following guidelines are helpful when using empathy:

1.  Use the time the person is speaking to think, aim for short responses and gear your response to the person you are talking to, keeping your own space.

2.  Inaccurate attempts to communicate empathy include:  saying nothing, asking a question, using a cliché, missing the right interpretation, giving advice or just repeating their words without trying to clarify the meaning behind their words.

3.  Help the person  to make the implied talk more explicit, such as with observing nonverbal expressions which further encourage action.  “It appears that our words are saying ………. while your body is saying ………..”

D.  To practice empathy, here are some statements.  See if you can sort out the feeling behind what the person is saying: 

1. “I wish I could drop footy practice ‘cause the coach doesn’t know what he is doing!  No one learns anything!”    Feeling ________________

2.  “My best friend just walked away from me at lunch time without a reason.”      Feeling _____________

3.  “Why did Uncle John die?  I miss him so much.”   Feeling ______________

4.  “Please don’t tell Dad I got an ‘F’ in my Maths test ‘cause he’s been warning me all year long about doing my schoolwork.”   Feeling _________________

5.  “I don’t think I’m going to get onto the volleyball team this term since I can’t get to all the practices.”   Feeling __________________

6.   “Dad seems like he never has time for me anymore.  I wish he were here now.”  Feeling ______________

7. “If Grandma says one more thing about my hair colour, I’m going to let her have it!”  Feeling ________________

Can you see the frustration, fear, feeling left out and rejected, sadness, disappointment, feeling insecure, annoyed, angry, scared, unsure, uncared for, cautious,   These were some of the feelings expressed in above statements.

E.  Catch the feeling and use Reflective skills.

It helps to identify the underlying feelings you think you are hearing in the person or child’s statements as a bridge to start ‘The Reflective Listening Process’.  Learning to put these feelings into a ‘re-phrased statement’ and giving it back to them is a way of making sure you are hearing correctly.

For example:

1.  “So you’re feeling frustrated at footy practice because it doesn’t seem like the coach is helping you learn anything new.”

2.  “You’re afraid of what Dad might say when you ask him about money?”

3. “I felt rejected and left out when your friend left you?”

4.  “You miss Uncle John, don’t you?”

5. “You’re not sure we can make the practices and not get on the team?   You would feel very left out.”

6.  “You sound pretty annoyed and angry at her comments about your hair.”

Remember learning to use clear communication and empathy as a Listening skill will take practice.  We all seem to want to just jump into the middle of a conflict and ‘…..just sort yourself out……” attitude.  This does little to settle the underlying issues in the communication or conflict process.

Susanne Fengler, Blog Author


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