Communication in politics, conflict and relationships
Whether it be in politics, and our children to schools, or in our own relationships communication can be difficult. Once emotions are charged or we are discussing a passionate topic it can be more difficult for us to hear other people’s side or viewpoint. Sometimes this can go so far as to activate our fight or flight response which makes it even more difficult to use higher order thinking. Higher order thinking is what the frontal cortex does and it is required for empathy and thinking outside of our own mind. fight or flight has been helpful in ensuring our survival. As human beings when we are threatened our mind breaks things down into black and white with the hope of keeping us safe. However, this backfires in intimate relationships where there may not be the same threat to safety. The part of our mind response to these threats does not know the difference between the physical threat and emotional threat. so the skills that could help us stay physically safe can isolate us from the other person or even lead us to attack their viewpoint. If we wind up attacking their viewpoint we are likely to ensure that we activate their fight or flight response which may in turn leave them trying to convince us of their viewpoint.
Given current events in our society, it seems we may all benefit from being curious about this process and how it may play out our own lives, state, country, and world. When we find ourselves for the other repeating the same thing multiple times in an argument it might be an opportunity to wonder if we’re feeling unheard and if our fight or flight response is activated. If it is sometimes just being aware of this process can allow us to activate higher order thinking. Many times by telling the other which you hear them say, confirming that your understanding them correctly, and letting them know that you can understand how it may seem that way to them can be a powerful opportunity for them to hear what you are saying. Unfortunately, this is frequently counterintuitive. The suggestion here is that to be heard be must first let the other person know we are hearing them. Perhaps to have space for us we also need to make space for them. Sometimes we can wind up in a standoff waiting to see who is going to make the space first. We may not always be able to both take the step at the same time but certainly this could be a powerful aspiration.
Dr. Charles R Davenport is a Licensed Psychologist who works with organizations, businesses, couples, and individuals to address difficulties in communication and leadership. Services are provided in Sarasota Florida and Venice Florida.