Reactive vs Responsive Communication  Heart Talk Communication Series

Welcome back to my blog series on responsive communication. I call it CPR: Conscious Purposeful Responding, and it helps in any conflict situation

Reactive communication involves blaming, judging, bullying or controlling, manipulating, coercing, making assumptions, name calling, criticizing, discriminating, using “right and wrong” language, and using defensiveness.

Responsive communication on the other hand involves, speaking for self- using “I” language, respectful tone and manner, listening for the intent to understand rather than change someone’s mind, making specific requests rather than demands, stating facts and observations in a neutral and honest manner, respecting differences, sharing authentically.

The manner in which we speak to one another matters a great deal. We communicate daily with everyone we come into contact with—our values and beliefs—our influence on others, our children, our partners, our loved ones, and our communities are all affected by how we speak to one another.

From being self aware to practicing nonviolent and responsive communication, let’s all make a better effort to do so from the heart: with honesty, clarity and positive intentions. If we do, the world will certainly become a better place to live. It is one small act that will have a profound influence on you and those you love. And care for.

I’ll be listening for you!

Good Communication Starts with Self Awareness Healthy Communication

Welcome back to my blog series on responsive, healthy communication.

Healthy communication actually begins before you utter a word…isn’t that funny? But If you are going to speak purposefully from the heart; you have to start by thinking about what you want to say first. It might sound simple but that’s not where many of us start.

We blurt out all kinds of things before we have time to think about them….and that can lead to misunderstandings and confusion as well as hurt and broken relationships.

So if we can slow down a bit, take a beat and begin to self reflect before we speak,  I promise that things will go much better.

How many of us take the time to look inside and ask ourselves and see what is actually going on here?
What assumptions am I making?  What values and beliefs are associated with this situation? What do I want and need here?

It’s not selfish to ask yourself what you need and want in life. It’s essential  to creating a life worth living. As the old song says, “We can’t always get what we want but if we try sometime we just might find, we get what we need.”

The tool I use is called the Awareness Wheel.

awareness wheel

We start with observations, by asking yourself, “what am I experiencing in this moment right now?” We do this a lot in therapy; we ask clients to tune into their experience in the here and now.

  • What are you sensing and observing? Start by going inward. Using your five senses to ask yourself,
    “What do I hear? What do I see? What do I feel? What is my intuition telling me?

”  It’s a perfect grounding exercise when you are feeling anxious or hyped up or in a flurry of mixed up thoughts. Just stop and stay in the moment.

The next step is the “meaning-making” portion of our experience or the story we tell ourselves.

  • What meaning am I making from what i just observed? Those meaning making moments are essential to making sure we are reading the situation accurately.  
Ask yourself, ”Am I making up a story here? Did I check out my assumptions?”

Then we can tune into our feelings.

Feelings are just our bodies way of telling us what’s going on under the hood so to speak. Feelings are not good or bad, right or wrong; they just are. And the way to tell the difference between a thought and a feeling is: that a feeling is just one word, ie: happy or sad or mad or frustrated or confused. So for example, “I feel like you’re not listening to me” is NOT a feeling…it’s an assumption based on an observation.

More accurately, the observations along with the interpretation makes the feeling happen, so it’s really “When you don’t look at me when I talk to you, I make up a story that you aren’t listening and I feel hurt.” This is an example of Heart Talk.

Simply stated: We have positive feelings when things we want happen and  uncomfortable feelings when they don’t.

Feelings give us important information about whether our needs are being met or not. And when we use them in that manner, they can help us find a way forward.

Next it’s time to access our needs and wants in the situation.

  • Just ask yourself, “What do I want in this situation? What’s important to me here and why?”

This taps into our values and beliefs, ie: the things that mean something to us.

I always use a relationship lens when asking myself this question because for me, relationships are my highest value and priority. When I look from that perspective, I can usually figure out what I want for me as well as “us.” Whether that is my partner, my sons, friends, or colleagues and communicate that in an attachment framework.

For example, in a work situation I might say, “Because our relationship is important to me,  and because I value transparency, I want us both to have a clear understanding of our working agreement and expectations so I’ve written them down here.”

And finally we can move to our actions.

This is where boundaries come in: what’s OK and what’s not OK; what we will and will not do.

It’s also the time to think about our “request for change” or what we want to ask for from our partners/children/employee (the others) in our world.

When we add a request for change along with our complaint, things can move forward without defensiveness.

So it  might sound like this, “When I walk into the kitchen and see dirty dishes on the counter, I get frustrated because I like a clean kitchen. Would you be willing to put them in the dishwasher when you are done with them?”

“Would you be willing” along with any request is sure to diminish defensiveness and provide a much greater chance for your needs to be met.

Read on for the next heart talk blog on non-violent communication: how to talk so people will listen and listen so people can understand.

I’ll be talking to you soon!

Meet Cynthia Benge

A therapist for over 20 years, I guide people from their own “stuck” places to a life full of adventure, meaning and satisfying relationships.

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