What is Conscious Communication? As we discuss relationships, how we relate to our family, friends, partners and co-workers, the first thing that comes up is COMMUNICATION. To communicate is to share ideas, thoughts, and feelings with another. Conscious communication is to be aware of how, what, and why you are communicating with another prior to having the conversation. It is absolutely necessary to stay conscious when we have to have those tough conversations that come up in every relationship, every family, every deep friendship, and every business.
How? Consider how you would like to communicate. Would you like to remain neutral? Are you passionate about your idea or vision? Are you emotionally connected to what you are saying? Do you want to be clear? Thinking about how we want to communicate can help us bring clarity to every interaction.
What? What exactly are we trying to say? Think about the end result of the conversation. What is the intention? Not knowing precisely what our intention is as we begin a challenging conversation can easily result in conflict. I like to answer it this way: “I will feel complete with the conversation as long as I am able to clearly convey __________.” It may be expressing how I feel or sharing my passion for a specific vision and asking for others to “buy in”. Regardless, setting Intent for your communication helps it become conscious.
Why? Why am I having this conversation? This is tied into the What? but different in that it answers the purpose of the communication whereas the What? dictates exactly what you want to say. The Why? answers why you want to say it.
When? Timing is everything. It is best to have challenging conversations face to face as this supports our connection with one another. But it’s not always possible so the next best option is over the phone. Texting is NOT a good option for conscious communication as so much is lost in that format. Email is also not a good option and best reserved for professional communication. Attempting to communicate when you are tired is not a good idea; we are fragile, more vulnerable and emotional when lacking in energy. If your mate is tired or stressed, consider waiting for another opportune time to have this deep talk. You can always ask your inner guidance, “When is the best time to have this conversation so we can achieve a positive outcome?” Also, don’t allow too much time to go by before you talk. I understand that the “best” time doesn’t always present itself on your schedule, but be mindful of your personal timing as well as your partner in communication.
How to Set Intention
Consider the How, What, Why and When. Answer each question in your mind or even better, in your journal. Once you have answered these questions, your Intent will be clear. Simply write: I intend… and fill in the blank. It is helpful to consider your desired outcome as a result of this communication. You can do the same as above by writing: My desired outcome is…
I like to combine Intention setting with prayer, asking for support for all parties involved. I focus on my heart and, if applicable, the foundation of love between me and the other person. Celestial support always helps!
Fill out the following after considering a difficult conversation you need to have.
My intention with this conversation is to… __________________________________________________________
My intention for my relationship is to… __________________________________________________________
I intend to clearly communicate the following: (Bullet point what you intend to say)
The best possible outcome for this conversation is: ___________________________________________________________
Building a Bridge
I like to ask myself, “Is this conversation building a bridge? Or building a wall?” Obviously, we want to build bridges. At times, we may be ending a relationship or setting clear boundaries. In that case, we may want to build a wall. This is essential in toxic, draining relationships in which you have exhausted communication and are clearly not on the same page with the other person.
Active listening is a part of all communication. Listen to the actual words, not what you think the person said. Too often, we interject our own perception of the words, rather than hearing the words themselves. Or we may be triggered by something someone says and go into our own emotional process of “not good enough” or “unlovable, unwanted”. We are no longer present for the conversation because we are too busy being offended or even defending our position. An excellent exercise to practice Active Listening is the Sacred Mirror. In the Sacred Mirror, we repeat back to our partner precisely what they said, no more, no less. We do not add our interpretation of the words. We literally repeat, word for word, what they said. Practicing this exercise can help us become aware of how often we infer what is being said rather than the actual words. To practice this with a partner, agree together that this something you want to do. The person speaking will need to go a bit slowly, one sentence at a time, so the Listener can repeat back.
Setting Boundaries is an act of self-love and self-respect. We teach people how to treat us based on the way we allow ourselves to be treated. Let us lead with kindness, understanding, and compassion combined with firm, clear boundaries. This will allow us to move through our relationships with grace, ease, understanding. We use our gift of discernment to judge what people and situations are in alignment with what we say we want in the world. We simply make choices. We don’t carry guilt and shame around those who are not in alignment with our journey. What’s the point of setting boundaries if you’re just going to feel bad about it? A simple tool is to state to your friend or business associate:
I noticed_____________(Name the action or behavior)
I prefer______________(Name what you would rather experience)
Emptying the Jug
A technique I learned while in marriage counseling for my previous marriage is the Emptying the Jug technique. This is best used in more intimate relationships such as best friends, marriages, or with family members. This is not necessary in work communication unless moderated by an objective third party. In this exercise, one person is sharing their emotions and the other listens. When the “giver” finishes speaking, the “listener” asks, “Is there more?” If there is more, the giver continues sharing. This goes on until the giver answers, “No, there is no more. I am complete.” This allows a person to completely empty everything she is feeling without being interrupted or launching into a back-and-forth argument.
Triangulation: What Is It and Why You Should Avoid It
Triangulation is when Person A-Allison, has a problem with Person B-Bailey. Instead of going directly to Bailey, Allison goes to Person C-Cathy. Allison tells Cathy all about what Bailey did, what Bailey said, how Bailey acted, but resolves nothing other than stirring up dissention within the group. Cathy may even side with Allison, lending more fuel to her self-righteous fire, but again, nothing is resolved and no progress is made. This is not Conscious Communication. This is a misuse of creative energy and is an extremely destructive force within a group or a team. Making the conscious choice to go directly to the source of the problem lays the foundation for resolution.
How Do You Address a Conflict?
1) You have to determine what is actually happening. Take the facts; not what you think is happening. Learn to recognize when you are making up a story rather than maturely dealing with the facts.
2) Determine how much of this conflict you can resolve on your own. Was the other person rude? Disrespectful? Consistently unprofessional? Is it your responsibility to address it? The only way you’ll know that is if you are the one impacted by it or if you observe how this behavior negatively impacts others. But be careful of the story you weave. Allow people to handle their own issues. Each of us have lessons to learn, skills to master, opportunities to grow. We don’t need to borrow trouble, nor do we need to master someone else’s lesson for them.
3) Once you have discerned that you will have to address an issue with a co-worker, friend, or family member, re-read How to Set Intention. Then decide your How? What? Why? When? Fill out a practice sheet. Remember to say a prayer to keep your heart open and guide your words. Ask for spiritual support in creating resolution with this other person.
4) When at all possible, go to the person face-to-face. If you don’t work with this person, call and ask to schedule a time to meet for tea. You may text to set up the time and place to meet but DO NOT ADDRESS YOUR ISSUE OVER TEXT. This is the worst way to communicate the “sticky work”. “Sticky work” is challenging, internal growth that requires you to step outside your comfort zone and practice actually using a new tool: conscious communication.
5) Compliment, Observe, Engage. Compliment the person on something that they do that you appreciate. Example: I like that you are always on time to the office.
Observe: Explain the action or behavior you noticed that you didn’t appreciate or see as a contribution to the team. Example: I didn’t understand why you left me with all that paperwork.
Engage: Present an opportunity to partner or collaborate, problem-solving together. Example: Perhaps we could create a better system that would work for all of us.
Triangle of Disempowerment
Victim: This is the person who feels like s/he is being victimized by the situation. Example: I don’t know why Linda is always directing her crappy energy at me! She is toxic and makes me feel like I don’t even want to be here.
Rescuer: This is the person who wants to help everyone out of any challenging or negative situation. Example: Well, you should just avoid her at all costs. Tell the boss to not schedule when she is working.
Their intention is to be helpful, but usually they wind up giving information that fans the flames of conflict rather than helps to resolve the issue. They think they are doing the right thing but the right thing is to encourage the person who feels victimized that she needs to speak directly to the parties involved and come to resolution.
Perpetrator: This is “Linda” in the example. This person is usually considered to be “evil” or “back stabbing”, “untrustworthy” or “manipulative”. She’s the Big Bad Guy.
In the Triangle of Disempowerment, no one is able to grow. No one “wins”. In fact, any time you are thinking about “winning” and “losing” in work or family relationships, you are on the wrong track. If someone “wins” the argument, that means that someone else loses. We don’t want to create “losers”. We want a win-win solution every time. A surefire way to determine whether your heart is leading your thoughts or your ego is creating a story is if you feel that you are pitted against another person or they are pitting themselves against you. The only person you can control is yourself so make a choice not to play the game. Make a choice not to play a limiting role in that Triangle of Disempowerment. You can step right out of that role by refusing to see any of those involved as Victim or Perpetrator.
Right Size the Situation
Emotional Maturity provides us with the opportunity to Right Size any situation by bringing it into perspective. Observe your own tendency to create a story.
Example: Kate called in sick to work.
The Story: Oh my gosh, she is never here. Now I have to pick up her work load. I’m gonna have to do this all by myself and it’s gonna be so stressful. How am I going to even get through this day?
Right Size: Bring yourself to the present moment with the facts. Nothing more, nothing less.
“Kate” called in sick to work. That’s it. It doesn’t have to mean ANYTHING else. Focus on the task right in front of you, bring your full attention, your full presence to the moment and take everything as it comes. This keeps you from being distracted, angry, and overwhelmed. For help working with anger, please see Women and Anger. For help with communication within family relationships, check out Mother Daughter Madness. I’m available if you have questions about your specific challenges with relationships, love, work, and personal triggers. Kim@KimMacy.com