I was a go kart passenger driven by a daring, competitive 9-year-old this weekend. Lap after lap she held off the other drivers so that we would round the track in first place every lap.

The photo above didn’t capture our crash and burn finish.

We crossed the finish line and were told to “brake, brake, brake.” I looked, and she had the brake pedal to the floor. It wasn’t working. We kept flying and the employees kept yelling, “brake, brake, brake!” The next thing we knew we were flying through orange cones, back onto the track, and then abruptly stopped when we crashed into the rail.

We found ourselves frantically telling the go kart employee that she was in fact laying on the brake. He calmly said, “It happens sometimes.”

Wow! What an experience.

Communication is sometimes like this; emotions take over and we barrel through conversations and create misunderstandings and even resentment. Essentially, we crash and burn. So, what can you do?

Ask questions – it’s like pumping the brakes.

Find moments in your conversation where you can pause to ask questions.

What is the outcome I want?

What is our goal?

Am I communicating in a way that is moving toward or away from that outcome?

What emotion am I experiencing right now? (see affect labeling by Dr. Maika Steinborn)

Do I need to apologize?

Am I talking too much or not enough?

What do I need from the other person(s)?

If you make a point to pump the brakes, you will enjoy smoother, more effective communication where everyone wins.

P.S. We are both okay!