06/14/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Tear Down the Walls By Becoming More Comfortable First

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. - Marie Curie

Walk into tense situation as relaxed and comfortable as you can.

Consider a person afraid of water -- a common fear. You can teach that person technique all day, but the person's absolute dread of drowning totally blocks them from proper arm and leg motions. If a person is panicked, he is unable to learn. However, if the person alters his relationship with the water, then slowly enjoying standing in the water, progressing to putting his head under the water and enjoys himself, then he changes his state of mind and body so that he can then learn quickly and effectively. Eventually he can go into deep water, go scuba diving, because the water has become fun and relaxing.

If you are having problems interacting with someone else, one of the underlying reasons may be that you are anxious. Remember the terror of interviewing for a first job that you really wanted? A first date? In those situations, sometimes we learn the hard way. But consider something you found enjoyable. Was it easier to get better, because you wanted to do more of it?

Anxiety and discomfort can flip quickly into anger and defensiveness. This is especially true when the other person pushes your buttons. When you have a higher degree of comfort, ease and rapport follow. When you have discomfort, treat it as a learning opportunity. Maybe you begin to recognize how uncomfortable you are with people in authority positions. Maybe you discover you are uncomfortable with a person from a background you have never spent any time around. The less you go into denial and accept discomfort as expected, the easier it will then be to relax.

Begin by accepting anxiety rather than denying its existence. Be aware of tension in your body. After acknowledging the discomfort, release it. Like swimming, not everything comes from working harder. If something is enjoyable and easy, you want more of it. Relax around the person with whom you are working things out.

My next post will build on this idea by focusing on making the other person comfortable so that person can release their hostility.

To learn more about the importance of communication skills particularly in negotiation and conflict resolution, read about the solutions, results and publications Grande Lum has created at Accordence, Inc.
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