Do you enjoy being yelled at? People talking for long rants without much of a point? Do you like someone hurling insults at you because you just enjoy hearing their voice? Great, you’re all set. All you need to do is say something mean, and then sit back and enjoy the person screaming at you. You can say something like “No wonder your parents got divorced; you ruin everything,” “I knew I was settling to be with you, but I didn’t realize how much of a loser you really are until now,” or “I think your butt’s new impersonation of Jell-O is fantastic; although it might be a little toooo jiggly.” If you don’t like people screaming at you, you know, like a normal person, this post will offer some tips for preventing others from attacking you with harsh and/or long winded blabbering even when you need to have a sensitive conversation. This is essentially a post about protecting yourself and your relationship.
Before we get into the list, the most important thing to understand is venting. As you probably know, venting is something we do to get out our feelings. It’s a healthy and necessary thing to do to prevent bottling up, but it needs to be done in a safe way that doesn’t hurt other people like talking to a trusted third party, journaling, writing an angry letter we don’t send, fast push ups, screaming in a pillow, and punching a punching bag; whatever explodes out your energy. Unfortunately, most of us want to vent in the moment when we’re with the person who has upset us, and this leads us to saying what “feels right”, which is rarely considerate and well chosen words that are to the point. Venting tends to be a lot of yelling, lies, exaggerations, insults, and rambling; you know, what you don’t want to use when trying to get your point across . Understanding venting is really important for protecting yourself and those around you because you can prevent a lot of unnecessary hurt.
Bonus: If someone is venting to you about someone else, which is healthy for him or her and a sign of trust, make sure you only half listen because, remember, they’re yelling, lying, exaggerating, insulting, and rambling. They’re going to say things they don’t really mean. Thus, it’s not about hearing all the details; it’s knowing the theme: (1/2 listening listener) “Yeah, they’re a jerk.” (venter) “You get it; thank you.”
When starting a sensitive conversation and/or protecting yourself, here is a helpful list to consider:
- Vent: Before you start the sensitive conversation, make sure you’ve released any potential energy that will make you want to vent at the person you want to address (i.e. yell, lie, exaggerate, insult, or ramble)
- Don’t Vent at Each Other: If you or the other person start to get heated, cut off the conversation by saying something like “I need a time out before I lose control. I’ll be back in an hour to continue talking about this,” or “I’ll be back in a minute.” You can even lie and say you need to go to the bathroom. The hope is when you come back you’ll both be in a better spot to talk calmly because venting at each other leads to more hurt and prevents resolution.
- Timing is “Everything”: Timing isn’t literally everything… or it’d be the only thing on this list… but it is important. In AA they warn to consider HAALT because we are at our most vulnerable when we are hungry, anxious, alcohol fueled, lonely, and/or tired. Thus, don’t start a sensitive conversation right before bed or when you or the other person is at their worst in the day. Help set yourselves up for success. (Tip: To help with timing, when things are good, discuss with your partner when the best time is to bring something sensitive up in order to know the best time when there is an issue.)
- One Sentence: It’s best if you can summarize your problem in one sentence. Remember, rambling is venting and rambling means you’re throwing too much information out there for the other person really hear, and it’ll likely lead to him or her pick apart your speech and attack you. For example: “I feel disrespected because you…”, “I feel hurt when you…” and “I feel unloved because…”
- Ask Permission to Start the Conversation: When there is something sensitive to bring up and you think it’s good timing, before jumping into the conversation, ask permission: “Can we talk about something sensitive right now or is there a better time for you?” Your partner feeling respected and being in a good spot will improve the chances he or she will respond as best as possible.
- Choose Your Words & Tone Carefully: People don’t like to feel like they’re being told they’re wrong, a failure, dumb, inadequate, etc. so be careful to choose your words and tone to prevent the other person feeling attacked.
- Consider the Drop & Go with Time: Some people need time to process the issue being presented, especially guys. The ‘drop and go’ allows this, and helps them feel respected and not ambushed. If the person isn’t ready after the time you’ve given, they can request a few minutes to an hour more.
- Consider How You Drop & Go: Some are better hearing you say what the issue is you want to discuss while others are better to be given a note or text. Choose wisely.
- Consider Drop & Go Boundaries: Having boundaries when you drop and go are helpful. For instance, it’s best to avoid texting; thus, it can help saying something like “I’m going out and I won’t have my phone, so we can’t text argue.” Another good boundary is something like “This conversation will only about this issue. If anything else comes up, we can write it down for another conversation.”
- NO TEXTING: Never have sensitive conversations over text unless you both agree you want a warning text like “Tonight I need to talk to you about something that’s bugging me.” Avoid things like “I need to talk to you about something” because that sounds like you’ve cheated.
Bonus: Consider the potential responses and be ready to respond in a proper way.
This week may you discover a way to have better conversations
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people