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.
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.
I’ll be talking to you soon!