Communication:  Access to Power

By Barb Grady

Communication is a bridge to the world.  Language is what brings the world into being—a process of fitting or matching our words to the world, as we know it.  It allows us to achieve certain outcomes, to serve our particular interests and concerns, to make sense of the why and how of things, to express ourselves, to be known and understood, to get our point across and to make things happen.  This class will pose that language is not merely a bridge, a response, or a way to deal with the world, but in fact what allows for and brings into being the world itself.  Communication and language then come to be seen as what they are, creative acts.  Listening and speaking take on new dimensions and are instruments of our creation. 

In this class you will:

  1. Begin to see yourself and others outside of the qualities, personalities and ways of being you have always known and become open to the ongoing discovery and invention of who you and others are.
  2. Find yourself seeing and completing whatever stands in your way of your creativity, contribution, and self-expression, leaving you with increased freedom and ability to be with others.
  3. Discover that instead of seeing things as “wrong,” as if they “shouldn’t be” or as if they need to be “fixed,” you will see those same things as possibilities, as opportunities, as openings for action.
  4. Experience a natural affinity and a depth of joy and appreciation for people who are different from you.
  5. Begin to know “listening” in an entirely different way—not as a passive but as a generative act that brings life to both the speaker and to what is spoken.
  6. Come to know “speaking” as a purely creative act—that which allows for who you are and what is possible; you come to honor and respect your word and the power it has in a whole new way.  Learn to be impeccable with your speech.
  7. Find that full self-expression comes naturally and easily to you and that you are readily able to elicit it from others as well.
  8. Be able to identify and resolve breakdowns easily through communication.

            What are communication skills? 

Words:  Are the foundation of effective communication.  Choosing your words carefully to truly reflect your thoughts is being impeccable with your speech.

Delivery:  Includes tone of voice, timing and pacing.  Pacing some aspect of posture and occasionally using similar gestures can increase rapport.

Gestures:  Body language is an important part of sending and receiving messages.  Nonverbal communication accounts for 70% of communication.

Symbols:   A picture (metaphor) is often worth a thousand words.  Many people think in pictures and matching their thought to pictures is critical for effective communication.

Communication is a complex activity.

It involves:

A message—Types of messages include: statements, questions, commands, and warnings

A way to send a message—voice, touch, silence, gesture, writing

Sender—Person who begins communication

Receiver—Person who receives and interprets the message

Context—People’s emotions, physical surroundings, and experiences.  Context affects how the message is received.  Context is filtered through our childhood and previous experiences often establishing unconscious patterns.

Delivery:  How you say something is just as important as what you say.

Expressions:  Smiles, frowns, rolling of the eyes, tone of voice (anger, pride, impatience, joy, sorrow) all play a part in communication.  Be aware of your feelings and what you are communicating.

Why work on communications skills?

Success:  Happiness in your family and personal relationships depend on effective communication.  Words express thoughts that create your reality and are powerful tools of creation—not to be used lightly or carelessly.

Growth:  Communication skills allow you to:

  • Make discoveries
  • Learn about yourself and others
  • Solve problems
  • Develop new skills
  • Create your world
  • Have fun!

 

Roadblocks in personal relationships

  • Making fun of others
  • Lecturing
  • Taking other’s problems lightly
  • Giving orders
  • Giving too much advice
TOOLS

Communication skills include the ability to listen.

Effective Listening

Tips: 

  • People who are listened to will listen to you.
  • Pay close attention—use good eye contact (but not too intense), body language (mirror speaker), minimal encouragers (verbal and nonverbal messages that support continued talking)
  • Never interrupt—interrupting shows you care more about what you’re saying than what you’re hearing.  Listen with the attitude of understanding rather than trying to change the other person’s perspective.
  • Ask questions (don’t assume) Open Inquiry –These are questions that can’t be answered in a few words.  Open questions typically begin with “what,” “how,” or “could”.  “Why” can also be used, but carefully as this word makes many people defensive. 

Closed Inquiry- These are questions that can be answered in a few words.  They elicit specific information.  Typically they begin with “is,” “are,” or “do.”  They help to clarify facts.  Use these sparely as these questions don’t generate the self-referential processes that open questions do.

Watch your voice and emotion. Be genuine in your interest.  Become curious and seek to understand, not change.

  • Act trustworthy—Never repeat intimate dialog without permission or use information as a weapon when angry or hurt.  Use your physical presence and attentive skills to create a safe and trusting environment.
  • Show you understand–Paraphrase by restating what the person has just said using key words or phrases.  Try to use the sensory modality that the person has used (visual, auditory, kinesthetic).  Don’t repeat the words exactly.  Ask the person if you understand correctly.  Paraphrasing encourages communication, creates a sense of understanding and facilitates feedback.
  • Summarize–Summarizing brings together important points after a longer amount of time than paraphrasing.  It helps people organize their thoughts, creates openness and increases understanding.  Example:  “You’ve talked about the pros and cons of the job.  From all you’ve said, it appears you’re feeling it would be best to leave.  Is that accurate?”  Always do a check out—is that accurate?
  • Don’t take another person’s words personally.  Recognize it’s about them and set good boundaries.  Don’t take responsibility for the other person’s reality.  If your partner/child is lonely, don’t assume it has anything to do with you.  Find out how it feels to them to be feeling whatever they are feeling.  Don’t feel like you need to fix things.  Your job is to understand, not fix
  • Reflection of feeling—Paraphrase the major feeling states of the person.  These may have been implicit or explicit.  Label the feeling, add the context and use a check out.
  • Reframing—Suggests a different perspective that changes the meaning for the person’s thinking about an experience.  This is incredibly powerful in that you can’t change a person’s experience, but only their perception of it.  It’s a higher-level skill that calls for creativity and imagination.  It’s a form of “every cloud has a silver lining” thinking. 
  • Positive feedback—Positive reframing, encourage, make it clear that the other person is understood (rephrase the speaker’s main points in your own words).
  • Negative feedback—Disagreeing may not be easy, but hiding how you feel blocks communication.
  • Focus on the problem or issue—not the person.

Explain your thoughts and feelings.  Give clear reasons.

.

Use “I” Statements—Talk in terms of yourself—not the other person.  I feel _____, when you _____, and I need _____.

Reflect Feelings—Sounds like you’re feeling_____ (check in to see of you’re on target).   Be open to understanding if not on target.

Honor whatever the other person says as truth for him/her—Be accepting  that it FEELS like fact to him/her.  Discover “how” that is true for them.

Be assertive—Express your feelings honestly, openly, without attacking others, and at the right time.

Understand your right—to say no, state your needs (along with changes you would like to make), and allow yourself to feel what it is you do feel.

Humor—Pointing humor at yourself rather than others is usually safe.

Anger—Use it to know when something is not OK with you.  Take time to regulate your feelings and thoughts before attempting to communicate them. 

Go slowly—Stay calm, especially in response to someone who is angry.  Talk in a quiet voice.  Show you are aware of how the person feels.  Don’t get pulled into an argument or bring up the past.

Do not criticize—Even if you feel you are offering constructive criticism, you are still criticizing and therefore you are telling someone they are wrong and should change.  Instead, simply state how you feel and what you want.

Do not retaliate—Trust must be established to achieve deep levels of communication.  If people get punished for feeling the way they feel, soon the sharing will stop.  Give each other a safe non-judgmental place to feel everything.

Do not withdraw—If anger comes up simply take a break to cool off.  Don’t leave the area, the process, or each other.  Anger is a normal, natural feeling.  How you process it and what you do with it can be either positive or negative.  Once you have cooled off return to the process.  Do this as many times as necessary to avoid letting anger escalate and return and resolve the issue.

 

Activity

Make a list of: 

From me to them—You with your children or partner

From them to me—Your children or partner to you

 Others to others—Between 2 other people (like your parents)—Can you make a difference by voicing your feelings, knowing it’s not your responsibility to change them?  Do you have “unfinished business” with anyone?

  1. What should be there in your communication but isn’t?
  2. Is present but something is missing.
  3. Has been lost.
  4. Is not fully expressed.
  5. Has been given up completely.
  6. May not be great, but is where I am doing my best effort.

Pick one person you want (or wanted) a more powerful relationship with…

What’s blocking your communication?

Where was/is your communication ineffective?

What do you want out of the conversation?  (Everyone wants to be loved and understood).

When you have the intention of a result, what happens to communication?

When communication is ineffective, what do you do?

TOP CARD (insert handout)

Give up, point/blame and shame, bite my tongue, stuff my truth, feel victimized and worthless, complain to others, withhold love and affection, get stubborn, yell and scream.  We sabotage communication by: avoiding, covering pain, protecting, manipulation, withdrawing, domination, fixing, convincing, and changing.  From this model, there is no power to be free (yourself) and you are not whole and complete.  There is no communication in this model.  How did we get into this model? —Socialization, childhood, parents not accepting feelings. 

Questions

What are lies or pretenses that I tell?

Who am I fake with?

When have I been inauthentic with my words?  What’s the impact of being inauthentic in life?  What does it mean to loose your identity and give your power away?

What is the value and significance of intimate relationships?  (Best teacher on the planet).  Conscious people make decisions from the center and context of relationship.  How does my presence, process, and ability to be love affect my partner, my family, my life, and my planet?

Being Present: Identifying Family Patterns

  1. In my family, communication was: (open, nonexistent, guilt-laden, etc.)  Secrets were: (prevalent, forbidden, used against us, etc.)  Disagreements were dealt with by: (discussion, verbal abuse, violence, etc.)  My opinion was: (valued, discounted, belittled, etc.)
  2. If I had to describe my parents’ relationship, I would say it was:
  3. If I had to describe my relationship with my parent/s, I would say it was:
  4. In my family, intimacy was:
  5. My response to the idea of being fully present to myself and others is:
  6. The ways that my partner could help to make that a safe experience are:
  7. The thing I would never want my partner to do is:

The keys to good relationships with others:

  1. Awareness
  2. Communication
  3. Boundaries Do you repeat yourself often?  Do you think it’s hard to express what you feel?  These issues are about boundary problems in your communication with other people.  Nearly every response you have while communicating is based upon childhood experiences.  Everything you think and feel comes from your past.
The 4 Rs of Recovery
  1. Recognition: Realize you made a mistake and that what you did was ineffective. Be OK with saying, “I made a mistake.”
  2. Responsibility: Take responsibility for your part in the conflict that was created by your mistake. Be specific in telling the nature of your mistake: “I yelled at you instead of telling you my feelings.”
  3. Reconciliation: Apologize—“I’m sorry for treating you disrespectfully and for any hurt that I may have created.”
  4. Resolution: If necessary, work on an agreement of what both of you could do that would be respectful and effective if the problem occurs again, or what either of you could to do fix any damage that may have been done.