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How to Handle High-Tension Situations and Tough Conversations

How to Handle High-Tension Situations and Tough Conversations

Last week, a friend of mine reached out to me to provide him with professional feedback. I had worked with him a few months prior, and he wanted my real, honest feedback- of which I had plenty.

Feedback is always a tough thing to go through for everyone involved, but this was going to be a new level of uncomfortable, since I needed to provide feedback to my friend.

High-tension situations are almost unavoidable. It’s crucial to approach these situations in the right way in order to get exactly what it is you want.

Think about the last time you were in a high-tension situation. How were people acting? How were you acting?

It’s likely that there were people who were staying quiet and avoiding the conflict and also people who were getting heated and obviously frustrated.

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Not talking things out will most likely cause you to act them out. This can be very, very bad for your career (or even your personal life)! There are two ends to the communication spectrum: silence and violence.

Neither end is productive or beneficial.

Avoiding conversations by being silent won’t allow you to express your thoughts, ideas, or feelings. At the same time, arguing to the point that you get violent is also not effective.

I couldn’t ignore my friend’s request, as he was definitely in need of feedback, but I needed to proceed with tact.

The goal is to find a middle ground- somewhere in between- where you’re expressing your thoughts and feelings, but in a productive, non-violent manner. Middle ground exists in the form of dialogue- talking things out in a productive manner to work toward achieving the desired outcome.

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Sounds easy enough, right?

Not quite.

We are often in situations that are out of our control, and we naturally go toward one end of a spectrum. As humans, our natural response to stressful situations is either fight or flight. It’s a natural reaction, and it’s hard to truly avoid having these reactions, and so our communication naturally shuts down.

What you can control, however, is how you respond to these natural reactions.

But how?

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Prepare yourself.

When you know that you are going to be having a tough conversation with someone, you must prepare yourself. When tensions get high, the conversation can immediately take a turn for the worse.

But, if you prepare yourself before going into a high-tension conversation, you greatly improve your chances of having the conversation turn out how you want it to.

    How do you prepare for a critical conversation?

    You must know the outcome you want. At work, this could be things like: a salary raise, the ability to work from home one day a week, more management experience, etc.

    In your personal life, maybe it’s getting your significant other to help you with dinner on Mondays and Wednesdays.

    Whatever the situation is, know exactly what it is that you want from the conversation. It’s crucial to keep this at the forefront of your mind for the entire conversation so you don’t unnecessarily stray toward being silent or violent.

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    Another step in preparing yourself is to know what you want to say. Don’t go into a high-tension conversation or situation without knowing what it is you want to say. When we are unprepared to talk, we often start off by blabbing out the first thing that pops into our heads, and this can make the situation worse. Or, we don’t say anything at all.

    If you know what you want to say, you’re less likely to start the conversation off on the wrong foot. Treat this just like any other high-stakes situation. Think about it- professional athletes don’t go out on the field without practicing their playbook for days or weeks before a game.

    So, I needed to practice what I wanted to say to my friend, so I:

    1. Wrote out exactly what I wanted to say
    2. Practiced reading out loud by myself
    3. Simulated the conversation with a colleague at work

    As I practiced, I tried to look at what I wrote as little as possible. Practicing like this made my actual conversation that much easier.

    Prepare yourself and what it is that you want to say, and you’ll be able to influence the direction of the conversation, making it that much easier and more likely for you to achieve the outcome you want. Finding middle ground in a critical conversation isn’t easy, but by preparing yourself ahead of time, you’re bound to make the conversation easier on yourself and significantly improve your chances of success.

    What are ways you try to keep dialogue flowing during conversations? Let me know in the comments below.

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    Dominic DeMartini

    Founder of DrivenProfessional, helping professionals improve leadership and social skills.

    How to Handle High-Tension Situations and Tough Conversations 9 Things Confident People Do

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    Last Updated on November 12, 2020

    13 Science-Backed Ways to Improve Your Memory

    13 Science-Backed Ways to Improve Your Memory

    Life is made up of memories, what you have seen, heard, and done. Every bit of information you take in is only useful if you can remember it at the right time. How can you improve memory and ensure information is there when you need it?

    There are many scientific theories and observations on how memories work. These theories provide us with an understanding of how feelings, routine, context, and recollection affect our memories. Here are some tips backed by scientific insights for improving memory.

    1. Method of Loci

    Method of Loci is a popular mnemonic technique that helps you recollect a large amount of information.[1] It works by utilizing your spatial and navigational skills as you envision your memories as part of a geographical entity. This is the technique that the famous fictional detective Sherlock calls the Mind Palace.

    memory techniques loci

      This method is extremely useful when you are preparing for a speech or an exam[2]. Here is how you can make use of it:

      • Visualize a space you are most familiar with. It could be your home, your favorite park, or your school.
      • Construct the rooms, shelves, furniture, and everything inside it in your mind.
      • Imagine yourself keeping the items you want to remember in each of the rooms or in/on/around specific objects.
      • Next time you want to remember something, walk through room by room to recall what you placed there.

      Repeating this exercise has proven to be a great way to improve memory and remember loads of information with ease.

      You can learn more about this method in this article: How to Build a Memory Palace to Remember More of Everything

      2. Acronyms

      Acronyms are proven to be very effective in memorizing a group of words. Research has shown that our brains are better at retrieving things when we associate meaning to them.[3] This is why recollecting a single meaningful word or phrase is easy compared to trying to remember a list of words.

      For instance, to memorize the directions on the compass, you can use the acronym NEWS (North, East, West, and South); or, when you want to remember the Great Lakes basin, you can make us of the acronym HOMES (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior), etc.

      Make up your own acronyms to the list of things you want to remember. All you need to do is list the things that you want to memorize and arrange them in an order such that the first letter of each word spells a real word.

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      3. Rhyming

      There is a reason why rhymes are still a popular way to teach kids. Our brains are great at acoustic encoding, which means breaking down sound structures.[4] We can easily remember stuff when they sound similar.

      The peg method can help you out. You first need to memorize the list in the exact order given below:

      one = bun

      two = shoe

      three= tree

      four = door

      five = hive

      six = sticks

      seven = heaven

      eight = gate

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      nine = vine

      ten = hen

      After you have memorized this list, now connect the first word to bun, second word to shoe, and so on. This will help you in making a memorable connection.

      Another way is to construct rhymes on the information you want to remember. For instance, if you want to remember that Mr. Jones runs a real-estate business, you can remember him with a rhyme:Mr. Jones from Homes.

      Although this may seem a bit weird and funny, this method will help you to improve memory overall.

      4. Linking

      This is a useful technique to help you stay sharp in many everyday scenarios, like remembering shopping lists. This is a visualization and association technique where you associate meaning to visual imagery. However, it is important to ensure that the images stored in your mind are as vivid as possible.

      For instance, if you want to remember a set of items, just link them up in a story. Let’s say that you want to remember the South England countries: Avon, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Somerset, Surrey, and Wiltshire.

      You can link all these countries in the form of a story to improve memory. An AVON lady is looking for a house. She is sweating and thirsty due to high SUMMER (Somerset). Along the way, she came across a giant CORN (Cornwall), but it is about to WILT (Wiltshire), etc.

      5. Chunking

      Very few people bother to remember phone numbers by heart nowadays. But what if you lose your contacts and need a way to recollect those long numbers? This memory technique will be handy in those situations.

      Chunking is basically breaking down the information into smaller pieces that are easy to remember. Start with a small number, say 379372518. Break it to three chunks 378 372 518. Improve your skills every day by trying to remember more numbers this way.

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      6. Write It Down

      Writing stimulates your reticular activating system (RAS).[5] So whenever you are trying to learn something and improve memory, try writing it down. Review what you have written and test yourself.

      You can also hand draw memory maps to further develop your memorization power.

      7. Be Busy

      Repeat all your brain exercises regularly and keep testing yourself to get better. A recent study revealed that our brain needs to be busy to keep itself fit as well.[6]

      Test yourself repeatedly if you want to retain the correct information for the longest time.

      Take walks or indulge in some physical activities as well. Research shows that healthy people who exercise regularly have better memories than those who don’t.

      8. Give Yourself a Good Sleep

      Sleeping is very much necessary if you want to improve memory. A tired body that lacks sleep will not be able to recollect or retain information effectively. Rest well and make sure your body and mind are rejuvenated every day.

      Furthermore, studies show that a lack of sleep can increase risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease[7]. Do your body and mind a favor and get a good night’s sleep as often as possible.

      9. Eat Healthy

      Try to include more memory-boosting fruits and vegetables into a healthy diet to improve memory. A study conducted by Harvard medical school backs this as well. Scientists believe that the antioxidants and vitamins from vegetables and fruits help to reduce oxidative stress in the brain and help battle age-related memory issues.[8]

      Learn about the brain foods you should include in your diet: 12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

      10. Play Video Games and Brain Training Apps

      Now here is a fun way to improve memory. Playing video games may not seem the best way to study for an exam, but regular video game playing can actually improve certain memory-associated regions of the brain. Studies have shown that video games helps in total knowledge recall and can reduce dementia risk.[9]

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      Considering the benefits, maybe you can make brain training apps a regular pastime or something to do on your breaks.

      11. Think of the Ways in Which Things Relate to You

      According to a recent research, you can boost your memory considerably by contemplating why the information is important to you.[10] This signals your brain to convert the short-term memories into long-term ones, thus helping you remember effortlessly.

      12. Exercise Regularly

      You might not see this coming, but people who exercise daily, whether it be leisurely walking or long-distance running, have better memories when compared to their counterparts who do no physical activity.[11]

      If you’re really interested in learning how to improve memory, shoot for aerobic exercises to reduce cognitive decline and increase blood flow.

      13. Pay Attention to Essence

      Although practice makes perfect, this might not necessarily be true when it comes to boosting memory. Scientists have found that while repetitive practice could help you in remembering things, you might miss out on the bigger picture.[12]

      Do you remember that one presentation when you memorized everything by heart without giving much thought to it? What happened next? Someone interrupted in the middle, and you were not able to recall information after.

      Thus, rote repetition will not do any good. You need to complement repetition through a proper understanding of the finer details.

      The Bottom Line

      Sharpening your memory is not rocket science. All you need to do is follow the fun and simple ways mentioned above to improve memory, and eat right to boost your brain health!

      For more tips on boosting your memory, check out the following video:

      More on How to Improve Memory

      Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

      Reference

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