This Communication Strategy Can Help With Tough Conversations
Especially conversations that are negative and spiraling
I’ve learned a lot from my girlfriend about emotional intelligence and empathy.
The first lesson she taught me was about how to ask questions when you’re talking to someone, especially this question:
“How do you feel about that?”
Just that question alone has improved my conversations tremendously. I’ve found that people have feelings about pretty much everything, so they will always have an answer to that question.
Recently, I was having a tough conversation with someone, and I felt like they were spiraling. They were having negative thoughts, one after another. In the beginning, I followed my girlfriend’s lesson and I was asking questions, but this wasn’t stopping the negativity!
All of their answers to my questions were just more negative thoughts — sometimes these thoughts were completely separate and unrelated to the negative thing that they were talking about just before.
Ultimately, the conversation ended and I came away from it feeling like I could have done more to help the other person escape from their spiral of negativity.
So I asked my emotional coach, my girlfriend! And here’s what she said:
It’s called “mirroring.” She said it’s based on her theory that when people are spiraling they really just want to be heard and validated.
So her strategy for doing that is basically just repeating back to them what they are saying. You can start off a “mirroring” statement by saying …
“It sounds like …”
“It seems like…”
Here’s an example:
Other person: This really stinks.
You: It sounds like that really stinks.
Other person: Yea! And you know what else? This other thing stinks too.
You: It seems like both of those things stink.
Other person: Yea exactly!
You have to be genuine. You can’t be like a robot reading a script. And it’s also important to note: you’re not necessarily agreeing or adding in more negativity. You’re just repeating back what you hear.
This is super helpful especially when you don’t know what to say. When someone’s just being negative and you don’t necessarily want to agree, but you also don’t want to disagree and create conflict, so you end up at a loss for words — this is exactly when “mirroring” comes in handy!
Good luck on your next tough conversation!