Communication: Do These 4 Things to not Miss the Real Intent
by Tami Anderson on 10/08/15
Communication is one of those nebulous words that mean everything and yet nothing. We know what it looks like. We want it. Do we do it well? Do we model positive communication or do we react or respond to the others, the situation or the circumstances, based on our own needs and wants?
We all want positive, healthy, productive conversations everywhere we go - work, home, socially, school, shopping, any place we gather. Do we do what it takes to actually listen to the person or do we categorise their words and the relate-ability of what they are saying to only our personal frame of reference? Instead of listening to what the person is truly saying to us, do we start thinking about our experiences, beliefs and what we want to share?
I believe we all perceive the world from the one perspective of Me, My, I, or Mine. Sounds rather selfish. Perhaps it is just a reality of how we are wired. We relate primarily to our own experiences, to how we are feeling in the moment and to how this moment relates to those feelings of our past experiences. It all happens without any cognitive awareness. It's on auto pilot until we learn differently.
During a conversation each person is trying to find a place of comfort for themselves. Each person wants to be heard, understood and accepted. When it is an easy conversation, comfort comes easy. When it is stressful, either outwardly or inwardly, the communication becomes uncomfortable. If there is an imbalance between people, the discussion follows that track. Whenever there is conflict, an auto-pilot defence mechanism to protect us is triggered. So, effective communication boils down to ensuring people feel comfortable (heard, respected, valued and valuable) in the conversation, no matter the circumstances.
First step is to become aware of our own feelings and thoughts to ensure their sharing does not become self focused, all about Me. We do a two part Check In: first, check in emotionally - to either the heart or tummy area. Are you feeling good, happy, content, comfy, cared for, safe? Do you feel insecure, threatened, concerned, unsure, scared, yucky, anxious? Second, we check in intellectually or physically - is there an instinctive plan of action forming. What am I thinking? Are my thoughts positive, reassuring, happy, content, helpful, encouraging? Are they negative, angry, protective, judgemental, critical? Am I able to listen, relate, understand or am I planning a "Run Forest Run" escape, revenge or defence? So, what do I feel, what am I thinking. Deal with what is there.
Then, begin to listen. We listen with what we hear, see, feel, know and relate to. Listen carefully to the words, eye movement, voice tone/volume/speed/pitch, body language and the emotions we can see. These are the many aspects to watching for the real intent of what is being said. Is there congruency between it all? In other words, does the information and body/voice clues match? Is there depth, care, passion? What are the key points, words, phrases, body language, voice variances being expressed.
Next, focus how your own mind, emotion and body relates to this person. Become aware of the feelings and thoughts coming up. Our relate-ability is not about sharing the same experience/incidents of life. It is always about sharing the same emotions. This connects us at the true intent of what they are sharing.
Lastly, here is where it matters. It can be a bit tricky while learning these tools but push through anyways. Now, we want to actually relate and identify to that person. We acknowledge, understand, appreciate or care about what they said. We want them to know that we know the effect what they shared has on them personally. This means how they feel about themselves, other people, the circumstance or situation. The key here is to find their 'right' feeling. The 'right' feeling is the one coming up for us as we relate emotionally to their feelings while they are speaking. Please note, we are not relating to the experience, or to a feeling of how we felt in a similar situation. We share with the person the feelings we felt come from them while we listened. This is true empathy - to feel their feelings and identify them as our own related to an experience where we felt that same way.
Now, in relating back, there may be several feelings coming forward. We begin with one. It may not be the exact feeling they felt or it may be a secondary one. If it is not close, they either don't respond or let us know that's not it. If it's a secondary feeling, they nod a bit, think, check in for themselves, giving a vague ok. It is not the primary; we are close but not spot on yet.
We go back, check in internally to the next, similar feeling their story brought up, sharing this one. We keep going until we find the match between their feeling and ours. And, the right words to describe the feeling. You will know when you find it by their reaction. There is a settling of the body, they look comfy, sometimes relieved. Sometimes they agree, not always though. They often stop talking or explaining; they have been heard. Once successful, we are connected. We now know the intent. We now have trust. The more we do this the more trust we build. And, we certainly have compassion, relationship and effective communication.
This technique does not only apply to people sharing about tragedy, sorrow or difficulty. We all want others to relate to us on our level no matter the situation. We can relate to others this way on any topic they choose.
It is a paradox, my favorite kind of thinking. When we actually listen by getting out of our own neediness, our needs get met by relating at this soul level with another person and we gather into a community. Then, we hear the intent of what another is sharing; of how it relates to their state of Being - how they truly want and need to communicate.