Is it possible to both keep the peace and communicate your hurt feelings?

There have been painful times in my life where I would do almost anything to avoid conflict or communicate my true feelings, for the sake of keeping the peace.

Communicating painful feelings and setting boundaries can be very stressful and is difficult to do well.

After all, it’s not like most of us were taught how to do this while we were growing up.

There are times when you must speak up, however.

And, according to Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, it’s possible to do so in a way that communicates your thoughts without disrespecting the other person.

I’ve written before about his method of teaching listening skills to doctors and how you can use the same listening techniques in your personal life.

He has a similar system he developed for doctors to help them handle conflict and speak their minds while dealing with contentious patients. Those of us who aren’t doctors can use this six point STABEN method too:

S for SOURCE: Make sure you speak to the person who is actually the source of the problem. The only way to influence the behavior of someone is to speak directly to that person instead of to their spouse, boss, colleague, etc.

T for TIME and PLACE: Make sure the discussion takes place at a favorable time and in a private place.

A for AMICABLE APPROACH: Make sure the other person is at ease from the get-go. Begin by using the person’s name because we are more receptive to our name than to any other word.

Then say something positive. For example, if you want to complain to your boss because she criticized you in public, you could begin by saying, “Kristin, I appreciate your feedback because it helps me improve my work.”  This opens the door to communication.

B for OBJECTIVE BEHAVIOR: Explain the behavior that bothered you without making moral judgments. For example, say: “When you pointed out my shortcomings in front of my colleagues…” Don’t say, “When you acted like a jerk…”

E for EMOTION: Describe your emotion but don’t mention anger. It’s more powerful to say “I felt hurt” or “I felt humiliated by the experience.”

N for NEED: It’s effective to mention your need that you feel wasn’t recognized: “I need security at work and to know that I won’t be humiliated in public by critical remarks, especially from someone as important as you.”

Dr. Servan-Schreiber admits that this approach may seem stilted at first because it’s not second nature for most of us. Doctors usually carry around an index card with the STABEN outline until they get the hang of it.

He says there are only three ways to react in a situation of conflict: passivity/passive-aggression, aggression or nonviolent assertiveness.

Difficult relationships with loved ones lead to stress, anxiety and depression. STABEN, combined with the BATHE technique I wrote about in my other post,  are excellent first steps in changing those relationships.

By the way, Dr. Servan-Schreiber’s book The Instinct to Heal describes many other methods of alleviating stress and anxiety without meds or psychotherpay and I highly recommend it. It’s from his book that I first found out about Dr. Remen’s Kitchen Table Wisdom book, for which I’m grateful.

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