Speaking and listening are major bridges between our inner and outer worlds. Yet, we are most often totally unconscious in how we speak, connect, and relate to others, often times causing unnecessary conflict and misunderstanding.
Communication is a beautiful opportunity to share a genuine part of ourselves with someone else. Listening is an opportunity to receive and embrace someone else’s message. Harnessing awareness toward how we choose to express and interpret communication allows for increased sincerity, honor, and compassion toward ourselves and our relationships.
By being conscious of how we give and receive messages, we take accountability for our own emotional and mental experiences and learn from our internal reactions, rather than spiraling into patterns of blame and misunderstanding. We are better able to understand and express viewpoints, feelings, and needs of ourselves and others.
Is there a relationship in your life you can envision revitalized through a new way of communicating? The concepts below are good to practice with a partner who is also willing to dive into conscious exploration. You can even consider the ways in which your inner voice speaks to your Self.
1) Balancing Speech and Space
Have you ever been in a conversation where you are unable to get a word in? A proper balance between giving and receiving is key to creating a healthy environment for communication.
Do you tend to be overly talkative? Try speaking less, and giving more space for your partner to share. Allow spaces for silence to occur. Talk slower and more thoughtfully.
Or, do you feel often that you are timid and unable to share? Try speaking more, with less self-consciousness. Allow your words and feelings to flow freely and speak up if you feel the dynamic is out of balance!
2) Taking Accountability
Using “I” statements takes accountability for your internal experience and allows you to say what you really mean.
- Using “I” instead of “we” statements keeps us from projecting our experiences onto others.
- Rather than saying “We should go see a movie,” try “I would like to go see a movie with you.”
- Rather than saying “It is weird seeing you here,” try “I feel weird seeing you here.”
- Rather than saying “People are awkward when they have to speak in public,” try “”I feel awkward when I have to speak in public.”
- Using “I” statements instead of “this” statements keeps us from avoiding our authentic feelings.
- Rather than saying “This is a stressful year,” try “I feel stressed.”
- Rather than saying “Do you like the way I made that soup?” try “Do you like the soup I made?"
- Using “I” statements without qualifiers that soften the reality of our experience. Qualifiers include; “I guess,” “kind of,” “sort of,” “perhaps,” “maybe,” “just," and “probably."
- Rather than saying “I guess I kind of feel a bit angry,” try “I feel angry.”
- Rather than saying “I’m probably just sad,” try “I feel sad.”
- Using “I” statements rather than nullifiers to embrace self responsibility.
- Rather than saying “I should run more often,” try “I could run more often.”
- Rather than saying “I have to go to work because I need to support myself,” try “I choose to go to work because I want to support myself.”
3) Reflective Co-Listening
This practice allows us to hear what is being communicated rather than what is being said. When we release our inner filter that distorts messages into our personal context, we are able to hear more fully. This is a practice of listening for full messages in the speakers context rather than your own, compassionately and non-judgmentally.
In Reflective Co-Listening, the listener does nothing but listen, with full attention, to who is speaking, without replying or responding in any way until the speaker is totally complete. The listener remains a non-judgmental witness for the speaker and remains in their own experience of listening. Just like a meditation, the listener notices when they are distracted but other thoughts or stimuli and brings their awareness back to the speaker’s message and voice. The listener allows the speaker to finish speaking entirely before moving into a the next step.
Once the speaker is finished sharing, the listener repeats their main points either internally or externally. For example, if the speaker shares that they feel upset when you eat their leftovers, you would respond "I hear that you feel upset when I eat your leftovers." Allow the speaker to clarify if you have missed or distorted their message in any way.
4) Authentic, Whole, Messages
- This technique includes the practice of Reflective Co-Listening as a foundational starting point. Even if the person you are speaking to is unaware of conscious communication techniques and is coming from a defensive standpoint, practice listening fully and reflecting back what you heard.
- Listen fully to the person’s message and verbal/non-verbal communications. When someone feels fully listened to, conflict can be resolved much quicker and more smoothly.
- When resolving conflict, begin your interaction by finding out if it is a good time for the other person to talk, stating an intention for more peace and harmony between you and the person, and thank the person for their openness to talking.
- To communicate messages effectively, and in a way that enables you to be heard, you can practice speaking with the following Whole, Authentic Message Template:
1. When you… state an observable behavior and avoid any judgement statements
2. I feel… state your emotional feelings, i.e “...sad”, “...happy”, “...jealous”, etc.
3. I imagine… state any assumptions you may have about the situation, i.e. “...that you do not want to be my friend”, etc.
4. Which creates in me… state your internal and external responses, i.e. “... a feeling of sadness”, “a desire to cling”, etc.
5. What I need… insert a primary need of yours, i.e. “... more time alone”, etc.
6. I ask… state a reasonable request, i.e. “... that you respect my privacy”, etc.
7. Finish your interaction by saying “thank you” to the other person.
Extra Tip: Consider Non-Verbal Communication.
Consider how you hold your body when you speak and listen.
- Are you facing your partner when you speak or turning away? We become more involved in listening when we stand square towards the speaker.
- Are you fidgeting, "mm-ing", moving your eyes, or nodding? Try being still and using ass 5-senses to listen and speak fully.
- Are you holding onto hidden tension? When our body tenses, so does our mind. To increase relaxed conversation (and public speaking skills) soften your jaw, gaze, abdomen, hips, and shoulders as you speak.