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3 Key Communication Principles

You have good intentions, but sometimes communication hits roadblocks again and again. These roadblocks are often related to one of the following three key communication principles:  

1)  Choiceful for listening  

2)  Attunement  

3)  Awareness of impact

 

Choiceful Listening

Checking if someone is a willing listener meets needs for honor, choice, and effectiveness.  When you ask someone if they are willing to listen, before you share something you honor yourself.  Essentially you are saying, "I honor my own sharing by making sure it can be received."  You also honor the other person's choice.  In addition, when someone experiences respect for their choice, they can offer a greater quality of listening which then makes communication more effective.  

 

Often context answers the question of whether someone is a willing listener.  A quiet dinner with someone, for example, usually implies a desire for mutual conversation.  In less clear situations, taking fifteen seconds to ask if someone is willing to hear you is definitely worth the effort.  Some common situations in which explicitly asking for listening is particularly helpful include; transitions, approaching someone who's already engaged in task of their own, when you are expecting a certain kind of response, when you are about to share something vulnerable, complex, or tender, or when you are giving sensitive feedback.

 

Attunement

In attachment research attunement specifically refers to attending to someone for the purpose of offering care. Used more broadly, attunement in communication can be thought of as attending to a level of communication beyond words.  You are doing this unconsciously all the time. You read body language, tone of voice, eye contact, etc., continuously.  The task here is to make this a conscious process.  You can make this process more conscious by asking the following questions either of yourself or someone else (silently or aloud):

  • What is the purpose of the communication? In other words, what kind of response is expected?  What needs are up?  The most common mishap I see here is that one person shares a difficulty and is looking for empathy in return, but instead receives problem-solving or advice.

 
  • In what realm of experience is the communication occurring?  Are you or the other person coming from a mental, physical, emotional or spiritual place?  Most people have a default realm in which they spend most of their time. For example, if you are most often in an emotional realm of your own experience and your partner is most often in a cognitive realm, the two of you may experience a sense of missing each other again and again.  For instance, you are excited to celebrate an opportunity to travel for work to the Bahamas, and your partner responds with a list of the practical obstacles regarding that trip.  This is misattunement.

 

Awareness of Impact & Reception

A common assumption is that message sent is message received.  Depending too much on this assumption, means you are less likely to attend to the what is happening with the other person as you share something.  You don't see that the other person looked away while you spoke.  You don't see the emotion on their face.  Both of these could be indicators that your message didn't land as you intended.  When you miss these cues, you not only aren't being heard, if you keep talking, you are likely triggering disconnect or irritation, thus creating more communication difficulty.

 

You may have the habit of checking on reception, by asking, "Does that make sense?"  For simple things this might be fine.  For complex or emotional content, this usually isn't enough.  If the other person says yes, you still don't know what they heard.  It's more effective to ask specific questions about how your communication was received.  For example:

  • How did that land for you?

  • What comes up for you when I say that?

  • I am not sure I am clear, could tell me what you're getting from what I'm saying?

  • Could you tell me what you heard?  

 

When I work with folks that are attempting to create this habit, the most common mistake I see is that they share too much before they check on reception.  Sometimes this is a habit and sometimes they unconsciously track reactivity in the other person and then ramp up their communication with more words or a louder tone.  By the time they ask what the other person has heard, all remnants of the original message have been lost.  Essentially this ramping up is an attempt to take responsibility for the other person's reactivity.  That's a tiring job and one you can't do.  It's much easier to pause frequently and clear up misperceptions as they occur.

 

If you are experiencing difficulty, it's helpful to reflect on your communication using these three principles.  You may find that one area needs more of your attention and mindfulness.

 

Practice

Take a moment now to reflect on a relationship in which communication is going well.  Find a successful example of each of the three key principles named above.

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7 Responses

  1. Dec 16, 2016
    glenn franz

    LaShelle,

    How clearly expressed and so very useful. Now if I can just learn to practice it!
    thanks
    glenn

  2. Dec 16, 2016

    Thank you Glenn, good to hear from you :)

  3. Dec 19, 2016
    Donna McGeein

    During the last few days of Fall 2016 I am happy to see your email and invitation to sign up to twitter for a daily 2017 communication quote...!

    I am also responding to the 3 Keys. I am grateful to read about
    Choice full listening, Attunement, and Awareness of Impact
    Because I believe the depth of your writing supports my understanding.
    My current practice looks like:
    Asking "is this an ok time?" Or "when is time?"
    Checking energy? Sharing feelings.
    Regularly requesting "Would u tell me ur understanding of what u heard?"

    And sometimes I still find myself in a combative, blaming conversation withch blows my mind which I take away to a safe place and practice tonglen breathing. Blown mind in - together mind out.

    I am learning about staying in safe places and cannot answer the ? I have about why is this happening now.

    Just writing this to you is giving me clarity to utilize the 3 keys in asking the ? To my communication partner/million year husband.

    Happy Solstice, Donna

  4. Dec 20, 2016

    Thank you Donna, very happy to hear of your practice!

  5. Dec 21, 2016
    Mark

    Enjoyed your sharing LaShelle as always, thank you for your work. In my experience, there's a 4th offering, really a responsibility to the Space which, if we are fortunate, has opened for both our speaking and our own listening. I find that it lives in this part here and if not done properly, easily finds itself with its own destructive assumptions: "I honor my own sharing by making sure it can be received."

    Often times when these words are spoken or inferred, what we are looking for is, as you say, no direct feedback, we are looking for consideration, empathy. That space, of course, is a wonderful landscape to share from and into. There is a coupled responsibility though which would make up number 4 in that we not interpret the meeting of that request, the space itself, with validation.

    Often I've seen people walk away from having the experience of speaking into a space of beautiful consideration and empathy thinking "Oh, she/he must have agreed with me, that's good, I knew I was right about that.... etc." This way of being upon emerging from a space such as we are describing is as destructive to good discourse and listening as (the other) not being willing to listen in the first place.

    There's an interesting perspective here in that just as we are in essence looking to speak into a space of a certain nature and there are techniques for doing so, there is value in our, at the very same time, providing an equally careful listening to that space, one which does not look to validate one's own thoughts at the cost of invalidating another's. Just as there is an art with which we place our speaking into the Space there is an art in not taking from the Space.

  6. Dec 21, 2016
    Mark

    Enjoyed your sharing LaShelle as always, thank you for your work. In my experience, there's a 4th offering, really a responsibility to the Space which, if we are fortunate, has opened for both our speaking and our own listening. I find that it lives in this part here and if not done properly, easily finds itself with its own destructive assumptions: "I honor my own sharing by making sure it can be received."

    Often times when these words are spoken or inferred, what we are looking for is, as you say, no direct feedback, we are looking for consideration, empathy. That space, of course, is a wonderful landscape to share from and into. There is a coupled responsibility though which would make up number 4 in that we not interpret the meeting of that request, the space itself, with validation.

    Often I've seen people walk away from having the experience of speaking into a space of beautiful consideration and empathy thinking "Oh, she/he must have agreed with me, that's good, I knew I was right about that.... etc." This way of being upon emerging from a space such as we are describing is as destructive to good discourse and listening as (the other) not being willing to listen in the first place.

    There's an interesting perspective here in that just as we are in essence looking to speak into a space of a certain nature and there are techniques for doing so, there is value in our, at the very same time, providing an equally careful listening to that space, one which does not look to validate one's own thoughts at the cost of invalidating another's. Just as there is an art with which we place our speaking into the Space there is an art in not taking from the Space.

  7. Feb 06, 2017

    Thank you for your thoughts Mark. I appreciate your dedication to seeing the nuance of relating.

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