Why I must work on my responses

Do your friends often describe you as being someone who shoots from the hip and doesn’t pull any punches?  Are you proud of that?

The saying, “shoot from the hip” implies that the person described doesn’t come to the situation with guns drawn but rather can pull the trigger from the hips holster like in a gun fight.  In other words, they don’t come ready to shoot but if the opportunity presents itself, they will respond quickly as though the trigger was ready to fire.  I used to think that having this quality was a good characteristic.  Don’t get me wrong, there are circumstances in which lives are at stake and you better have an answer at the trigger.  But I think, for the most part, we should have few reasons to respond in this manner.   Uncensored responses can be harmful not just to the person or group they were intended but to the sender.  Your response identifies your communication personality.  Scientists have studied the common ways that different personality types communicate.  It is believed that everyone has a primary type and then one or two secondary communication personalities.  The four types are described as D-I-S-C: Dominant, Inspiring, Supportive and Cautious.  You may have seen them described with different tags but DISC is the same acronym used.

It concerns me that our manner of communicating can be so easily narrowed down to a distinct identifier.  I understand that we all have a personality type.  It would be my desire to master the art of communicating in such a way that I may not be so easily characterized according to anyone’s scientific chart.  But I can admit that I have a long way to go in that endeavor.  My responses at times get me into a lot of trouble.  I have learned to just keep quiet when I just can’t find the right words to say at that moment.  I hate that.  I really do.  I am a vocal person so rather I would like to be able to respond appropriately without feeling like I was silenced because I didn’t have the words.  Sometimes I will just say, “I don’t have the words” because I don’t wish to just put anything out there because I know my word choice says a great deal about my position and role in the conversation.  I also hate when people say, “I know how you are going to respond.”  I don’t want to be that predictable.

My pastor always says, “response is key!”  Often he is referring to the manner in which we respond to bad times or difficult challenges in life.  Yet his common saying is applicable to our worded responses as well.  How I respond in the heat of a debate or an unforeseen shift in a discussion is key.  Sometimes I can be in an argument with a loved one and I search my brain for the right words that would kill this unwanted conversation.  Those words don’t magically appear.  Most times I can kill the unwanted conversation by using one or more of these techniques.

  • Change the Tone – Bells and whistles go off in my head when the decibels in my voice get heightened to a level that is not working for anyone. A tone that is a little under my normal speaking voice sends the message home that I am calming things down and we should cool this conversation.
  • Smile – We don’t smile enough. To me, there is a distinct difference in having a reason to smile and having a reason to laugh.  I can crack a smile even when I want to scream on the inside.   I like passing strangers and just flashing a smile at them.  I do it more for me than I do for them.  Smiles are powerful.  If the conversation has gotten heated and frankly unbearable, I muster a smile.  That smile either distracts the intended arguer or reduces the length of the roaring battle of words.  Smiling changes the mood.  One of the best uses of a smile is when things are intense.
  • Repeat Key Points Made – Many times in the heat of an argument, we get lost in the high tension and gun fire of words, we forgot the reason we have gotten to such a heightened level in the first place. So I try to make a mental note and reiterate key points when the arguer insists on firing away.  Again this can be a good derailment of the argument because I now know how to show them that I have heard them.  I may not necessarily agree with their view but my ears work fine.  Which brings me to my last right way of responding.
  • Saying “I HEAR YOU” – You all remember the popularity of Verizon’s “Can You Hear Me Now” Campaign. Verizon made itself a real competitor just by relaying the point that it was most important to consumers to have a conversation where each person can hear the other on the line.  What good is it to talk and the other person can’t hear you?  I actually have to credit my co-laborer and friend, Natasha Robinson, with demonstrating this technique for me.  When she presides over a meeting and there are strong opinions being expressed, she will often say the words, “I HEAR YOU” and then she pauses (which lets us know she is considering her words carefully) and then she shares her following thought.  I have learned that responding in this way conveys that you are considerate of the opinion and thoughts of the other person.  Also it helps to repeat what you just heard so that they know that you really were listening and you were not just saying these words to shut them up.  Again, this helps you make a mental note like I stated before.

When I employ these changes, it either soon shuts down the argument or we both end up smiling.

All in all, when we choose to respond the right way whether to criticism, dissatisfaction, emotional distress, or sharing of opinion, I have found that by just choosing the manner in which you want to be represented in this fight is very important.  It is not right to be seen as a gun fighter in every conversation.  Conversations are not meant to be won, they are meant to be shared and if we can better the means by which it is done then it is a win-win for both parties involved.  I haven’t learned to do it well but I am working to get better.

Are you proud of how you respond to people in difficult or challenging conversations?  Leave a comment about what has helped you respond the right way?