Healthy communication requires compassionate and attentive listening and a willingness to let go of being right.
We must empty our minds and hear what people are really saying, and ultimately connect with what they need, rather than argue, defend or justify our opinions.
In his book, Rosenberg writes, “When we combine observation with evaluation, others are apt to hear criticism.” It’s highly necessary to suspend our tendency to judge or make the other person wrong, or worst, try to change them. It’s so much more beneficial to respond to other people’s accusations, criticism, opinion, ideas… with curiosity and care, even and especially when we don’t agree.
Listening And The Leap of Faith
Listening is a practice of fully engaging with what others are communicating by reflecting what they have said, which is hearing word-for-word, or slightly paraphrasing.
Paraphrasing is a way of guessing at the observation that we’re making about what the other person is expressing.
Hearing word-for-word allows us to not react, and to simply slow down and be attentive. Paraphrasing or asking a question helps others better express and articulate their feelings. I call this the leap of faith. Guessing allows for compassionate inquiry.
The 6-step Communication Practice:
Observe what is occurring in the moment. Really listen to what other’s are expressing. Notice their words, gestures, physical posture, as well as your own body sensations.
Notice if you’re beginning to react. You may have the tendency to try to fix or change the person’s experience or your own. Breathe and take a moment to slow down, so that you can suspend your reaction: self-defense, explaining or justify your position, or trying to change the other person’s point of view.
For example, if the person is raising his/her voice, you can say, “As you speak to me, I notice that your voice is getting louder.” … “When you speak in a loud voice I notice that my chest is tightening.”
I think, assume, believe, interpret, imagine
Express your perception and belief.
Example: “I think that you’re angry.” … “I imagine that you’re upset with me.” … “I assume that you didn’t understand me.”
Sadness, anger, hurt, fear, joy/excitement
Distinguish feelings from thoughts. Example: “I feel sad, overwhelmed or embarrassed, and I think that I’m a failure”. One doesn’t feel life a failure – that’s a thought-based statement, not an emotion.
Example: Observation, perception and feeling statement : “When you criticism me, I think that I’m a failure and I feel discouraged.”
Verify if your perception is true. Examples: “Are you really angry?” … “Did you really mean that?” … “I heard you say… is that what you meant.”
Disclose your intention, which is the reason that you are communicating your observation, thoughts and feelings. Ask for what you need. Examples: “I am saying this to you because I need to understand your actions.” … ” I would like for you to tell me how you feel.” … “I want to establish an intimate connection with you.”
In a work related situation, your communication may be more specific, such as, “I am bringing this up because it’s an issue that is undermining my work performance. I want to establish a better working relationship.”
It’s important to acknowledge the ways other people actions actually do fulfill our needs. Examples: “It meets my need for intimacy when you tell me how you feel.” … “I appreciated that you drove me to the airport; I feel relieved and taken care of.”
Practice: Example One
OBSERVATION: When you raise your voice
PERCEPTION: I think that you are angry with me
FEELING: And I feel scared
CHECK IN: Are you really angry with me?
INTENT/REQUEST: I need for you to speak more gently.
AFFIRMATION: When you lower your voice, I feel more connected with you.
Practice: Example Two
OBSERVATION: When you don’t follow up with what you say you’re going to do
PERCEPTION: I assume that it’s not important to you.
FEELING: I feel hurt and discouraged.
INTENT/REQUEST: I would like to rely on you.
CHECK-IN: Can I rely on you?
Dialogue: Example One
OBSERVATION: When you look away after I have shared my thoughts
PERCEPTION: I get the impression that you’re not interested in what I have to say.
CHECK-IN: Is that true?
RESPONSE: I didn’t mean to look away.
OBSERVATION: When you say that you didn’t mean to look away,
PERCEPTION: I don’t know if that means that you are interested in what I just shared with you.
FEELING: I feeling uncertain and annoyed.
INTENT/REQUEST: I want you to pay attention to what I’m saying and to show interest.
HEARING: I hear that you want me to be attentive to what you are sharing with me.
CHECK-IN: Do I understand correctly?
RESPONSE: Yes, that’s exactly it.
OBSERVATION: When you hear me
PERCEPTION: I sense your interest and concern.
FEELING: I feel respected and important in your life.
INTENT: This is the kind of connection I need.
Dialogue: Example Two
OBSERVATION: When you don’t call me
PERCEPTION: I imagine that you don’t care about me
CHECK-IN: Is this true?
RESPONSE: Oh I’m super busy these days, you know with work and everything.
OBSERVATION: When you tell me that you are too busy
PERCEPTION: I assume that other people are more important than me.
FEELING: I feel hurt and confused.
INTENT/REQUEST: I want to be important in your life.
REACTION: You’re really taking this too personally. I’ve just been busy.
CHECK-IN: Are you saying that you think I’m too sensitive?
RESPONSE: No. I just want you to not be so worried.
GUESSING: So you think that I’m too worried?
REACTION: Well obviously.
OBSERVATION: When you believe that I worry too much
PERCEPTION: I think that you’re avoiding my concern.
FEELING: I still feel hurt and disappointed.
INTENT/REQUEST: I want you to call me to stay in-touch with me.
HEARING: I hear that you want me to stay in-touch with you.
PERCEPTION: I have a concern that I can’t meet your need.
FEELING: I feel defensive and anxious.
INTENT/REQUEST: I would like for you to trust that you’re important to me even when I don’t call you for a week.
OBSERVATION & CHECK-IN: Are you saying that I’m important to you?
RESPONSE: I’m saying that you’re important to me
INTENT/REQUEST: and I need for you to trust me.
HEARING: I hear that you need for me to trust you.
PERCEPTION: I find it hard to trust you
OBSERVATION: when you don’t call me.
FEELING: I’m uncomfortable and feel insecure.
INTENT/REQUEST: When you know that you’re going to be busy please let me know, or when you are busy please take a moment to let me know, even if it’s just a short message.
LEAP OF FAITH: (Guessing what may be going on for Person A) It seems that you have been deeply hurt in your life and that you have been let down.
CHECK-IN: Is this true?
RESPONSE & OBSERVATION: Yes. My father left when I was a child, and throughout my adult life people have ignored me.
PERCEPTION: I experienced a significant level of abandonment.
FEELING: I feel rejected and apprehensive.
INTENT/REQUEST: I would like to feel more secure in my relationships.
HEARING: I hear that you want to be more secure in relationship with me.
FEELING: I’m afraid that I will disappoint you again
PERCEPTION: because I have a tendency to need some space and autonomy.
OBSERVATION: Your need for more security
FEELING: frightens me.
INTENT/REQUEST: I’m going to be sensitive to your need. Please be patient with me if I falter.
OBSERVATION/LISTENING: I hear that you need your own space and that you’re afraid of disappointing me.
INTENT/REQUEST: I want to respect your need for your own space, and also maintain my need for reassurance. Is it ok if I remind you to call me in case you forget?
RESPONSE: Yes, that would be helpful.
AFFIRMATION: I appreciate that you’re considering my needs and that you’re respectful of your needs.
Affirmation Example One:
OBSERVATION: When you place your hand on my arm when I’m crying
PERCEPTION: I sense your love.
FEELING: I feel reassured.
INTENT: This meets my need for intimacy and connection.
Affirmation Example Two:
OBSERVATION: When you reflect back what I say
PERCEPTION: it gives me the impression that you’re really listening.
FEELING: I feel secure and optimistic
INTENT: I appreciate your support.
Are you struggling to express yourself?
Do you want to connect with what you’re really trying to say?
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