Increasing Your Influence – How to Talk So Others Will Listen

Here are three secrets for making it more likely that you’ll get what you want from a conversation. (And who doesn’t want that!)

The Take-Aways

Sometimes we have to have tough conversations. Here’s how to maximise your changes of getting what you need:

  1. Start calm – even if you’re a fiesty bundle of fury inside. When you’re feeling furious, anxious, jealous, scared – any of the big feels – it’s easy to come into a conversation showing those big feelings. The problem with this is that it can make it more likely that the other person will feel attacked or blamed. As soon as this happens, it makes it more likely that the other person will yell (fight) or shut down (flee). This is a defensive thing. As soon as the brain senses that we might be under attack, it goes into defence mode and gets us organised to protect ourselves. That shutting down and not listening, walking away from the conversation, hanging up, or yelling back. People often attack to defend themselves.
  2. You can feel one way, and act another. You can be angry and calm; or jealous and generous; scared and brave. This doesn’t mean ‘not feeling’, it means not letting your feelings get in the way of you getting what you need. Remember you only have to do it for the few minutes while you’re starting the conversation. The easier and safer you make it for someone to stay in conversation with you, the more likely it is that he or she will be able to hear you and give you what you need. Tt’s something that you’re doing a little bit for the other person and a lot for you.
  3. Acknowledge how the other person is feeling. Acknowledging and validating the other person doesn’t mean agreeing with them. It’s another important way to help make it easier and safer for the other person to stay in conversation with you. This makes it more likely that you’ll be heard, which in turn increases your chances of getting what you need. Think about what it is the other person might be needing from you, or what they’re trying to say and acknowledge that. This might sound something like, “I understand this is how you feel,” or “I can see that this is really important to you,” or, “I understand you feel like I’m doing this and its hurting you”. 
  4. Remember – just because you’re right, doesn’t mean the other person is wrong. And in the same way, just because the other person is wrong, doesn’t mean you are completely right. Often it’s about points of view, we see things differently. We have different needs, different wants, different histories and they all come in. We’re going to disagree on things. Normally in any conversation or when the things we need conflict both people are a little bit right. So if you can find what it is in the other person that feels ‘right’ or important for them, even if it doesn’t feel right to you, that will increase your chances of being heard.
  5. Name what’s in it for the other person if they listen to you. If you’re having a difficult conversation with someone,  point out what he or she can gain from listening to you. Maximise your changes of being heard by letting the other person know that you’re not just in it for you, you’re in it for them too. So, you have an invested interest in what they want and you’re going to do what you can to make sure their needs are met. 

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‘Brave’ doesn’t always feel like certain, or strong, or ready. In fact, it rarely does. That what makes it brave.♥️
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We teach our kids to respect adults and other children, and they should – respect is an important part of growing up to be a pretty great human. There’s something else though that’s even more important – teaching them to respect themselves first. 

We can’t stop difficult people coming into their lives. They might be teachers, coaches, peers, and eventually, colleagues, or perhaps people connected to the people who love them. What we can do though is give our kids independence of mind and permission to recognise that person and their behaviour as unacceptable to them. We can teach our kids that being kind and respectful doesn’t necessarily mean accepting someone’s behaviour, beliefs or influence. 

The kindness and respect we teach our children to show to others should never be used against them by those broken others who might do harm. We have to recognise as adults that the words and attitudes directed to our children can be just as damaging as anything physical. 

If the behaviour is from an adult, it’s up to us to guard our child’s safe space in the world even harder. That might be by withdrawing support for the adult, using our own voice with the adult to elevate our child’s, asking our child what they need and how we can help, helping them find their voice, withdrawing them from the environment. 

Of course there will be times our children do or say things that aren’t okay, but this never makes it okay for any adult in your child’s life to treat them in a way that leads them to feeling ‘less than’.

Sometimes the difficult person will be a peer. There is no ‘one certain way’ to deal with this. Sometimes it will involve mediation, role playing responses, clarifying the other child’s behaviour, asking for support from other adults in the environment, or letting go of the friendship.

Learning that it’s okay to let go of relationships is such an important part of full living. Too often we hold on to people who don’t deserve us. Not everyone who comes into our lives is meant to stay and if we can help our children start to think about this when they’re young, they’ll be so much more empowered and deliberate in their relationships when they’re older.♥️
When we are angry, there will always be another emotion underneath it. It is this way for all of us. 

Anger itself is a valid emotion so it’s important not to dismiss it. Emotion is e-motion - energy in motion. It has to find a way out, which is why telling an angry child to calm down or to keep their bodies still will only make things worse for them. They might comply, but their bodies will still be in a state of distress. 

Often, beneath an angry child is an anxious one needing our help. It’s the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. As with all emotions, anger has a job to do - to help us to safety through movement, or to recruit support, or to give us the physical resources to meet a need or to change something that needs changing. It doesn’t mean it does the job well, because an angry brain means the feeling brain has the baton, while the thinking brain sits out for a while. What it means is that there is a valid need there and this young person is doing their very best to meet it, given their available resources in the moment or their developmental stage. 

Children need the same thing we all need when we’re feeling fierce - to be seen,  heard, and supported; to find a way to get the energy out, either with words or movement. Not to be shut down or ‘fixed’. 

Our job isn’t to stop their anger, but to help them find ways to feel it and express it in ways that don’t do damage. This will take lots of experience, and lots of time - and that’s okay.♥️
The SCCR Online Conference 2021 is a wonderful initiative by @sccrcentre (Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution) which will explore ’The Power of Reconnection’. I’ve been working with SCCR for many years. They do incredible work to build relationships between young people and the important adults around them, and I’m excited to be working with them again as part of this conference.

More than ever, relationships matter. They heal, provide a buffer against stress, and make the world feel a little softer and safer for our young people. Building meaningful connections can take time, and even the strongest relationships can feel the effects of disconnection from time to time. As part of this free webinar, I’ll be talking about the power of attachment relationships, and ways to build relationships with the children and teens in your life that protect, strengthen, and heal. 

The workshop will be on Monday 11 October at 7pm Brisbane, Australia time (10am Scotland time). The link to register is in my story.
There are many things that can send a nervous system into distress. These can include physiological (tired, hungry, unwell), sensory overload/ underload, real or perceived threat (anxiety), stressed resources (having to share, pay attention, learn new things, putting a lid on what they really think or want - the things that can send any of us to the end of ourselves).

Most of the time it’s developmental - the grown up brain is being built and still has a way to go. Like all beautiful, strong, important things, brains take time to build. The part of the brain that has a heavy hand in regulation launches into its big developmental window when kids are about 6 years old. It won’t be fully done developing until mid-late 20s. This is a great thing - it means we have a wide window of influence, and there is no hurry.

Like any building work, on the way to completion things will get messy sometimes - and that’s okay. It’s not a reflection of your young one and it’s not a reflection of your parenting. It’s a reflection of a brain in the midst of a build. It’s wondrous and fascinating and frustrating and maddening - it’s all the things.

The messy times are part of their development, not glitches in it. They are how it’s meant to be. They are important opportunities for us to influence their growth. It’s just how it happens. We have to be careful not to judge our children or ourselves because of these messy times, or let the judgement of others fill the space where love, curiosity, and gentle guidance should be. For sure, some days this will be easy, and some days it will feel harder - like splitting an atom with an axe kind of hard.

Their growth will always be best nurtured in the calm, loving space beside us. It won’t happen through punishment, ever. Consequences have a place if they make sense and are delivered in a way that doesn’t shame or separate them from us, either physically or emotionally. The best ‘consequence’ is the conversation with you in a space that is held by your warm loving strong presence, in a way that makes it safe for both of you to be curious, explore options, and understand what happened.♥️
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#mindfulparenting #positiveparenting #parenting

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