- Dr. Teresa Edwards
Healing Old Wounds
Some conversations leave terrible damage in their wake. These painful interactions can't just be swept under the rug. So, how you heal from a fight or a disappointing or hurtful interaction?
Healing old wounds requires talking about them, but not talking in the same way that created the incident in the first place. Talking should center around processing the incident or wound, not getting back into another hurtful conversation. This conversation must happen in a calm manner, when both people can discuss the situation more objectively. The goal is to understand each other's point of view, experience, and needs, and to address how the issue was talked about and dealt with, without restarting a fight.
Elements to focus on.
1. Feelings - Talk about how you felt during the incident. Feelings are our emotional responses such as afraid, overwhelmed, hurt, and frustrated. Avoid blaming the other person for your feelings or commenting on your perception of the other person's feelings. This is not a time to be critical and judgmental. This is a time to allow someone into your emotional world. For more information on this, check out Communicate to be Heard.
2. Your perception - Everyone lives in a slightly different reality. None of use experience
a situation in the exact same way. Use this conversation to share your reality and be willing to listen to and validate the other person's reality. Describe what YOU saw, felt, and heard and avoid commenting on your perceptions of the other person's motives and feelings.
3. Meaning - Share the meaning attached to the incident. Sometimes interactions escalate or become emotional because they are triggering a deeper fear, need, or past hurt. Discuss the deeper issue that was being triggered by the incident and why this
is so important to you.
4. Responsibility - Take responsibility for your part of the hurtful conversation or interaction. None of us is perfect and acknowledging responsibility for your part of the incident will help to decrease any defensiveness the listener may be experiencing. Taking responsibility can mean being aware of and acknowledging the cognitive filters that may have lead to miscommunication.
5. Future plans - Discuss how each of you would like a similar situation to be handled next time and how you'd like to use this to improve the relationship. Take the time to talk about what you need from each other to be able to put the incident behind you.
Remember to take turns talking and listening. If you need to brush up on your listening skills, check out The Art of Listening, Part I and Part II.