Communication can be poison or medicine: A conscious 5-step guide for written communication in times of conflict

Communication can be poison or medicine: A conscious step-by-step guide for written communication in times of conflict when you struggle to verbalize in the moment.

When you’re someone who freezes up under pressure, interpersonal conflicts can make it hard to speak up in the moment.  

You don’t want to say something in anger.  Or say something you regret later.  Your nervous system shuts down your capacity to think clearly.  So you censor yourself.

At the same time, withholding of communication can have disastrous effects.  

Going into an automatic response of appeasement and people-pleasing can assuage the situation in the moment, but damage trust and reduce satisfaction in the relationship.

You might end up ruminating over a situation for weeks without the other person having any idea of what’s going on with you.

Communication can be poison or medicine.  

It can be used to allow your true intention to come across.  It can be thoughtful, tactful, and diplomatic.  

Or it can take the form of barbs, harming yourself or others.  Unsaid (but felt).  Internalized (self-blame or shame).  Verbalized (spoken from a place of woundedness, anger with the intent to hurt, or over-intellectualization.)

One of the most helpful things to do for those who need extra reflection time is to say “I’ll think about it and get back to you.”  

This works for those who are sensitive, easily overwhelmed, introverted, struggle with boundaries, etc.

Writing the response to be sent in the form of a letter, email, text message, or verbal conversation ensures that what needs to be said is balanced with kindness.  It allows you to take full responsibility for yourself, and separate yourself to have clearer boundaries with the other person.

Here’s something that you can try if you are needing to express yourself and communicate but need to do so with care.  

It’s good for those times requiring more care and thoughtfulness than blurting something out in the heat of an activated moment.  It’s good for when you know the situation is bringing up some deeper stuff for you.

The first two drafts are for yourself.

Draft 1: Catharsis for your inner child and all your parts

The purpose of this draft is to get anything that may come outside ways if suppressed out onto the paper. 

This first draft is a raw uncensored expression of thoughts and feelings. This is a time to purge any strong emotions and express anything that you wouldn’t actually say to anyone’s face. 

Give a voice to your inner child.  How does your inner child want to communicate? Does your inner child want to scream, cry, and whine about how unfair this is?  Let it happen.

This purges any of that poison in your thoughts and feelings. 

It’s important to note that this is just for your own eyes. You might even rip up this paper when you are done writing or delete the document.

This should feel cathartic or soothing afterward.

Interim step: Self-care break to reclaim your power

Take some time to care for yourself.  Give yourself a treat, take a walk, or nap.  Step out of that inner-child-emotional state and reclaim your power as a sovereign adult with authority in your life.  

Draft 2: Full expression to the person

Now you are going for a full expression as if you are talking directly to the person.  This draft may have things that you wouldn’t actually say to this person, and that’s okay.  Allowing yourself to write them purges any emotions or thoughts that you don’t want to be stuck in your system and coming out sideways when you are actually interacting directly with the person.

Interim step: Self-care break to gain perspective

Take some time away from this draft and the processing.  This gives the opportunity for fresh perspective. 

Draft 3: Consider how it will land

Start a fresh draft as if you are going to share this writing with the person. This is where you consider your audience.  Think about what you want to say as well as how it might land for this person.

Interim step: Self-care break to identify and care for unmet needs arising through written draft

After taking a time away from the document, reread draft #3.  

Look for places where you may be speaking from wounds, hurts, or unmet needs.  Look for places where you’re being unintentionally unkind. 

Observe and focus on identifying places where you need to meet your own needs. 

Are there wounds you need to care for? Is there room for self-care and kindness? At this time, give yourself exactly what you need. This will make communicating a much better experience.

Revision 1: Delete what you wouldn’t express to their face 

Consider what’s appropriate in this specific situation, with this particular person, depending on the type of relation you have. 

Delete the things that you wouldn’t want to say to this person.  Things that you really can’t imagine yourself communicating directly to their face. 

Revision 2: True to your intentions, flowing smoothly

Draft number four.  Rewrite the words so they are clean, clear, and easy to digest. They should feel good to read and say. They should sound like you, true to your voice, intentions, and care. When you read this draft out loud it should flow smoothly and feel good in your body.  There should be no more contractions in your stomach.  Reading it should feel calm.  This is a time to organize the content so that it makes sense for the other person to read.

Final revision: Cleaning up grammar and sentence structure for ease of readability and digestibility

This is pretty straightforward.  Preparing it for the eyes of the other person.  Cleaning up grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation so that the words are easily understood and digestible. 

At this point, you might consider how you are going to frame this piece of writing.  Do you need to tell the other person that it’s on the way or give a caution at the top for the other person to read this at a time when they are able to process it?  Can you add a sandwich of statements of gratitude or appreciation for the other person?  Think about how you can help the other person more easily absorb this form of communication.

At this point, these words should be ones that you would freely say directly in person. So there shouldn’t be much discomfort about sending it other than the risk of vulnerability, where you don’t know exactly how it will land for the other person. You are only responsible for yourself your words your actions your behaviors, so this part is about leaving it up to the person to respond, in their court. 

It’s so hard to freeze up or become overwhelmed by emotion when you try to speak up. 

This method can be tailored for speaking to a friend, family member, partner, colleague, boss, etc.  

The process doesn’t have to take long.

Is getting clear on your words something you struggle with regularly?

You might benefit from a neutral supporter to help get the words of your heart out.

Contact me to learn more about how body-centered coaching using writing can help you.

About the author

I help people reconnect to themselves and tell stories that make their soul sing.

I am a certified coach, writing mentor, writer, and group facilitator who enjoys helping people who’ve felt different to write from the heart.

Since 2008, I’ve worked with writers in every messy step of the creation process. I’m passionate about delving deep into the story underneath the story — the root cause of the struggle with self-expression — so you can feel good about the results.

For more, I invite you to sign up for my mailing list or explore how we can work together.

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