Difficult conversations are those conversations that can be emotionally charged and can result in conflict or discomfort. In such conversations, context plays a crucial role in providing meaning to what is being said. In fact, context is often what makes these conversations difficult in the first place. Without the proper context, it can be easy to misinterpret what the other person is saying or to feel misunderstood.
Context refers to the information and circumstances surrounding a conversation.
It includes the environment, the people involved, their past experiences, beliefs, values, and emotions. All of these factors contribute to the meaning of a conversation.
Understanding the context of a conversation is essential in order to understand the true meaning of what is being said.
Non-Verbal Communication One way in which context provides meaning in difficult conversations is through the use of nonverbal communication. Nonverbal communication includes facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language. These cues can provide important context for the words being spoken. For example, if someone says something with a sarcastic tone, it can change the meaning of the words entirely. Without the context provided by the tone of voice, the words alone might not make sense or could be interpreted in a different way.
Personal History Another way in which context provides meaning in difficult conversations is through the use of personal history. Our past experiences and beliefs shape how we interpret and respond to situations. For example, if someone has had a negative experience with a particular topic, they may have a more emotional response to it than someone who has not. Understanding each person’s personal history can help to provide context and prevent misunderstandings.
Interpret then Respond Context also plays a role in how we interpret and respond to difficult conversations. If we feel threatened or defensive, we are more likely to interpret what is being said in a negative way. On the other hand, if we approach the conversation with an open mind and a willingness to understand the other person’s perspective, we are more likely to find common ground and resolve the issue.
Context provides meaning in difficult conversations by helping us to understand the true intention behind what is being said. By taking into account nonverbal cues, personal history, and our own biases, we can better understand and navigate difficult conversations. By actively listening and seeking to understand the other person’s perspective, we can find common ground and resolve issues more effectively.
Active Listening Active listening means paying attention to both verbal and nonverbal cues and trying to understand the other person’s perspective. It also means asking clarifying questions and reflecting back what has been said to ensure that you have understood correctly. This is easier said than done.
If active listening isn’t a habit you have incorporated into your communications toolkit; if it is not an established skill; it is easy to slip back into the habit of listening to one’s own inner voice, which tells us reinforcing stories of how right we are, thereby entrenching us even more into our fixed view of what the solution might be. This is where a skilled neutral third party provides great value: In the process of assisting people stuck in disagreement and conflict, I utilize a coaching technique which enables my clients to recognise the contextual factors surrounding the facts of the conflict. Ultimately their respective insights open up the conversation to make it possible to explore and evaluate mutually beneficial solutions.
It isn’t just what you say, it is how you say it. In conflict coaching one of the skills you learn to use is something that is also used by professional public speakers and marketers: knowing how to put your message across in a way that the other person will understand you correctly. Not only do you save a whole lot of time in not having to explain yourself, but you also avoid the stresses and strains of misunderstandings and all the unfortunate things that result from that.