Each day we have countless opportunities to express ourselves and exchange information with others. In the dictionary, communication is the successful conveying or sharing of ideas and feelings. These interactions are in constant motion, taking shape as verbal and nonverbal messages. It makes me wonder how well we actually get our point across?
Within a relationship, we develop patterns of communication that we practice over and over, until they become deeply ingrained and difficult to change. I was in a relationship where we created our own pattern; he got angry and talked loudly, hoping I’d hear him and I would repeat my position over and over, hoping he’d get it the third or fourth time. Sound familiar? Neither are effective ways to express important information.
There are two voices we use:
(1) The big voice – this one comes from our ego; we use this tone when we are connected to the negative forces such as anger, jealousy or fear. This voice operates on impulse and unconscious patterns that result in using words we often regret.
*Tip – shut your mouth, walk away or drink a full cup of water. That energy will eventually dissipate and you will have time to rethink what you want to say.
(2) The little voice – this one comes from our heart and aligns with our most important values such as compassion, kindness and love. To enter into it, we must surrender to humility and trust; namely, positive energy.
*Tip – remain calm and speak firmly from your truth. Do not place blame on the other person or point to what they are doing wrong. Take responsibility for your actions.
Within our relationships, it is beneficial to set guidelines for productive dialogue, such as respect and kindness that you will each honor and live by. When a conversation begins void of these ground rules, you have permission to point this out and begin again.
Seven “easy” (or not so easy) steps to conscious communication:
1) Verbal and nonverbal language. Verbal cues are more obvious than the subtleties of body language and hidden thoughts. If you are keyed into a person, you can hear their words and feel the energy behind them. Notice when they are not in synch. Other nonverbal cues are eye contact, tone of voice and body position.
2) Choose words wisely. What gives us the license to throw hurtful words at each other? Words can leave in indelible mark on our heart and the negative energy leaves a permanent imprint like a fossil in the sand. Great quote: “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” What is your intent behind what you have to say?
3) Drop your weapons. When someone throws a dart, it is our natural defense to throw one back. This leads to more adverse weapons and when the nuclear bomb goes off, you both lose. Close your mouth and stop the cycle; watch anger bounce off silence and back to its origin.
4) Clear thinking. Never discuss important issues under the influence of alcohol or other recreational drugs. The truth becomes masked by too much emotion. Walk away and talk about it tomorrow.
5) Humility. When we want to get our point across, however effective or not, we are holding onto the notion of being right. We get so caught up in our stance that we are not fully listening to the other person. What would it look like if we gave up the need to be right and showed respect for the other person’s viewpoint?
6) Trust and truth. This is the bottom line. Do you trust this person implicitly? Have you agreed to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Half-truths, white lies and hidden thoughts will not cut it; over time they will reveal themselves.
7) Give each other space. One of the most effective tools in listening is to give each other 10 minutes (or more) to speak freely without the other responding at all. You may choose not to comment for at least 24 hours. This will give both of you time to let the emotions settle and absorb what the other has said. Save your impulsive response and choose words that are real and true.
Disclaimer: None of this comes without making mistakes, trying on new behaviors and holding the relationship up to the light. Each person must share the willingness to receive feedback and explore new behaviors.
A relationship actually exists as its own separate entity. It is within this container we provide a safe place to be open, honest and grow together in a loving way. Only from here can we create mutual respect, positive patterns and lasting change.