Tense negotiations, touchy customer service problems, and other emotionally charged situations usually involve two or more parties protecting themselves from each other.
No matter what form it takes–typically anger, aloofness, inquisitions, or passivity–such understandable protection has an awful side effect. In protecting ourselves, we squeeze off the very channels of communication we need to resolve the situation.
The solution is counter-intuitive: become defenseless. Unless we suspect (even a little) that we are in physical danger (in which case, use every defense you’ve got), we can lower our defenses and re-open those vital communication channels.
We can get there quickly and easily by reminding ourselves that we can handle anything that may happen. We can catch ourselves feeling tense. We can choose to trust ourselves and trust that the Other needs our understanding, relationship, and kindness more than she or he needs to win.
When we first lower our defenses, it can be scary for both sides. Soon it will feel useful, freeing, and powerful.
In your corner,
PS: I am pretty sure everyone can do this. If it seems too difficult, start small. Pick a small, benign conflict to learn from. Try talking through it and practicing with a trusted friend first.
PPS: This is not about communication tips and techniques. If you were to try a technique without first becoming defenseless, it will likely fail.
PPPS: When you become defenseless, new possibilities, approaches, and things to try will pop into your mind. When they do, try them.
PPPPS: It only takes one to have defenselessness work well for everyone. Shall it be you? Sure.