When talking is like walking on eggshells

Some of us spend our lives worrying about what others think, some of us couldn’t care. Most of us are somewhere in the middle. We care about what the important people in our lives think about us. Sometimes, suddenly, whatever we say seems to be the wrong thing. We feel like we are walking on eggshells, frightened of breaking our relationships, of hurting and being hurt.

Whether it is an elderly parent you’re trying to persuade to get more care or teenagers who pooh-pooh your worries or a colleague at work who seems to take whatever you say the wrong way, there are some basic tips that can help.

So what can you do when you start to talk and things keep going wrong? How can you stop walking on eggshells and start making progress in rebuilding relationships?

Think First

Stop and think about the situation. What actually happens? What is said or done? What explanations could there be for the behaviour? Try and look at the situation as objectively as possible and from different points of view. What has changed? What are you telling yourself–and is it true?

What’s your goal/motive

What would be the best resolution? What could you do to make that happen? How could you help? If you have a clear idea of what you want and what they might want, you will see solutions more clearly.What’s most important? Keep this in mind.

Start by asking and listening

Start tentatively, express the situation and your concern without blame. Take responsibility and ask permission.

“I noticed that when I say…you ….  I care about you and don’t want to hurt you. What can I do to improve the situation? I’d like to talk about it when it suits you.”

Listen and respect their position. Try and see their point of view. Make it safe.

Ask for their solution and listen

Try and see things from their point of view. Be objective–look at what you say from their position. The more you listen and the calmer you are, the more likely they are to listen to you.

Follow through

If you’ve promised something, do it. You cannot change other people, you can only  affect their behaviour by changing how you treat them.

If you would like more information on how to keep calm and confident in tricky situations, here’s a free video with 6 tips.

Before you speak, think