Since most relationship problems are rooted in communications that are either avoided, forced or misinterpreted, the purpose is to provide an emotional experience that allows each person to feel safe enough to grow a quality relationship in which key emotional needs (not wants…) are expressed, mutually valued – and met through natural giving.
(To give naturally, by the way, is to give from a place of overall love or joy, as opposed to fear or guilt or shame.)
When you express your self in ways that stretch you, particularly in moments where you may not “feel” like doing so, you exercise your ability to stretch and courageously develop the capacity to authentically love your self and another.
In conscious communications, your words matter, and your body-talk and actions also speak volumes, carrying up to 80% of the meaning conveyed. In addition to the eight attributes below, however, a prerequisite step is to set an intention to talk in a way that grows and strengthens you and your key relationships.
8 Attributes of Conscious-Talking
Communication that is effective consciously seeks to nurture, heal and grow healthy, mutually enriching, intimately strong relationships. In conscious communication, your relationship takes center stage. Your individual wants and needs remain important, however, you set an intention to maintain your relationship as a source of strength that nourishes and maximizes your health in every way as individuals. (And, believe it or not, your growth depends much more on how you act and relate — and much less on how the other relates or acts toward you.).
Setting a conscious intention refers to a choice you have at any moment to send messages to your self or the other that your bodies’ chemicals (subconscious mind) translate to a sense of safety and connection (rather than fear and disconnect). Expressing yourself in way that promotes overall feelings of safety and connection in self and another, for example, is going to produce radically different outcomes from feelings of insecurity and disconnect.
These processes occur automatically, however, you can control them to a large extent, consciously, by what you say and especially how you say it. There are at least eight attributes of conscious talking to consider. You will more effectively communicate, when you:
1. Know what you need and want to say, and why.
Knowing what you want to say, and why, makes it more likely you will obtain the shared understanding and perhaps even resolution you desire. Without this, there is a risk of wasting your time getting stuck in old programs, i.e., complaining about what is lacking, blaming one another, or competing for the prize of “who’s more victimized,” etc. Clarity allows you to avoid going around in circles, or getting addicted to problems or conflict, which are a waste of your time and energy. So, before discussing a sensitive issue, ask yourself: What do you need in the situation? What specific actions do you want from the other? What is the purpose of your communication? What do you want the other to understand? How do you want the other to respond to your communication? Whenever possible, it also helps to first write down what you want to say and revise it based on these and other guidelines for effective communication.
2. Are aware of your body language and behaviors.
It’s important to recognize nonverbal communication as a formidable force, carrying a larger punch than verbal. Your body conveys more information about you, and your intentions, than your words. One of the goals in conscious communication is to use your body language, in a conscious way, to let the other know you care and value them as persons. If you avoid eye contact, or turn your body away from the other, for example, this can signal disinterest or disregard, which blocks communication. If you want communication to flow, you want to convey that you value the other as a person and their right to their own perspective, thoughts, choices, and so on. This increases the chances that they will do the same for you, thus, opening up the possibility for mutual understanding, validation and resolution. So, take time to become aware of your body language. What nonverbal messages do you send by the way you sit, stand, your voice, mannerisms, facial gestures and so on? Are you saying you are present and interested in the concerns of the other, or the opposite? Does your communication say you care about your self and the other?
3. Share your thoughts and feelings, clearly.
Once you know what you want to say, then you want to convey it as clearly as possible. The clearer you are in what you want to say and how you express it, the more likely you will heard or understood. Share thoughts and feelings concisely. Avoid long explanations or repeating the same message over again. Speak in short sentences. Be specific and concrete. Make requests. Include brief examples only when relevant. Avoid mini lectures or lengthy speeches. Avoid being vague or too abstract. Do not hint at what you want or expect the other to mind read, and remain aware of any tendencies to do so. Effective communication is about feeling heard and understood, not how much you say, being right, proving the other wrong, etc.
4. Express your thoughts and feelings, slowly.
When it comes to relationships, slow is fast, and fast is slow. This applies to your communications as well. When you talk fast, your words tend to blurt out faster than your mind can think. You may also be speaking faster than the other’s mind can process. When you hurry your talking, you hurry your thinking, and indeed may not be thinking at all, you may be speaking from the part of the brain (the subconscious mind!) that contains old recorded programs and messages that are not real “thinking” at all. The more hurried you feel the less awareness you have of what is really going on inside you, that is, your thoughts, feelings, needs. In turn, the more pressure to get to your outcome, the longer it seems to take to reach the desired destination. Additionally, this puts you at risk of triggering defensive strategies, which are about as healthy to your relationship, as gulping down a greasy, starchy meal is to your body.
5. Share painful emotions assertively.
Communicate your frustrations in ways that let the other know you are in charge of your emotions, that you are relatively calm, confident and centered. First, this lets the other know that, regardless how upset you are about what they say or do, you are always in charge of your self and life because you are in charge of your emotions and body’s physiology. Second, it also tells them you believe in their capacity to do the same, to be in charge of their emotions and actions. Assertive communications include four essentials: (1) your thoughts or perspective; (2) your feelings; (3) your core needs or emotion-drives; and (4) at least one specific action-request. (This means you also avoid actions that trigger you, i.e., judging, fault-finding, blaming, attacking, complaining, etc.) When you express yourself assertively, you stand up for yourself in a way that honors your own and the other’s dignity. That is a powerful feel good. You each have a clear sense of your own responsibility in the matter. You feel safe enough to accept and thoughtfully process criticism from others without defensiveness. And, you know how and when to give apologies.
6. Are conscious of timing.
Timing can make a big difference. It can be just as important as how and what you say. For example, it is usually not a good idea to bring up sensitive issues right before a meal when blood sugar is low, or just before you or the other leave for work, or when one of you is not having a good day. It is also not a good idea to bring up issues in the heat of the moment, when you or the other is angry and hurt. Instead, schedule a good time for both. This itself conveys mutual respect and sets the stage for a productive discussion.
7. Are aware of meanings beneath what you communicate.
Your communications send both open and hidden messages. The open part consists of the words and content of what you say. The hidden part is what goes on beneath the words—the emotional undercurrent of what each person is instinctively yearning for in the interaction. The emotional message is much more powerful than the overt message because it goes to the heart of the matter, subconscious core yearnings, wants, interpretations, beliefs, expectations, and so on. What words you use and how you say them can carry emotional meanings that you may or may not want to send. It is important to become aware of these underlying meanings and the core emotional needs that interplay in all communications. Underlying messages can be either positive or negative.
8. Keep the message positive and upbeat.
Maintaining an upbeat overall attitude when discussing sensitive issues gives assurance, and instills hope, belief in each other and your relationship. You can convey a positive attitude by inserting statements such as the following in your conversation: “I/We can and will do better,” “We are a team,” “If I do my part, and you do yours, together we’re unbeatable,” “There’s no problem too big it can’t be solved,” “I believe in you, and want you to believe in me; we can do this!”
As a tool, conscious communication guides the energies we bring to our communications, so that, as we talk, we remain consciously aware of what is going on inside of us, our feelings, thoughts, what we want and need, etc., in ways that keep us empathically connected and fully present, rather than triggered, thus disconnected and defensive. When we feel safe enough to be present, we are more likely express ourself authentically, and thus more likely to be listened to, validated and valued in turn.
Clear communication is an inner driven focus to grow strong, mutually enriching relationships. Like giving and receiving, the effects of how you talk are inseparable from how you listen. They are intricately connected. Conscious-talking, however, is only half the equation in effective communication; the other half has to do with conscious-listening.
In Part 2, we discuss 5 attributes of conscious-listening.
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Last reviewed: 28 Feb 2013