… is a bit important for human beings; it is an activity that demonstrates humans are social creatures and it casts light on how they go about being ‘social’. It is an activity, pastime or ritual that sustains the bonds between individuals and within groups. It’s a key way we have to make meaning in an often confusing world. It is a route on which we can start telling lies to ourselves, especially if others are keen to help us do that.
An example I have used elsewhere is found in this cartoon:
When I was teaching within various medical schools, I was relieved to see the focus on health professional’s communication skills getting sharper. Now I am older, I am saddened to notice decreasing ability to communicate within some professional circles.
There are a number of small, safe experiments to emerge from a study of communication styles. One approach sees them in six categories; I have added a seventh. Can you find even more categories that make sense to you; if so, let me know.
Some communication-based safe experiments
This website is filled with information on communication. That does not make it an example of ‘good’ communication. There are other individual pages on the topic. It was not easy for me to select useful leads. I leave you with a lot of choice, maybe too much – as well as a lot of reading around the topic.
You may find my suggestions lead you to judge the site as a good, bad or indifferent example of communication. You can help me improve things by communicating with me (see contact form, below):
- about some of the less helpful communications I am offering to you.
- about the small victories you achieve from some of my better examples.
…. and that may help us build a more personal relationship.
So let’s start with ….. RELATIONSHIP
The Three P’s
‘Good’ communication, whatever that is, cannot happen unless a RELATIONSHIP has been created. A ‘good’ relationship one may develop if the Three P’s are agreed between you and another. The three P’s require:
Permission to express yourself without criticism, and without any pretence;
Protection when making ourselves vulnerable, one to another;
Potency: when it is OK for all involved to use their power and energy to advance some commonly-agreed objective.
Sadly, ‘bad’ communication can arise within certain relationships; often when the Three P’s are not in place. For instance, I have mentioned competitive symbioses elsewhere. I’ll highlight the Special Time experiment here as it can play a large part in re-shaping relationships.
Too often the key to building relationships is subtle; it is less about the words we use and more about non-verbal signals we give off. In my ‘trade’, some small, safe experiments here are termed ‘active listening’; that is, developing the ability to use few words and match our words with our body movements.
For instance, I can confuse some-one if I nod my head from side-to-side when I utter words that are encouraging and positive. Can you see how this comes about? If you do this, then a small safe experiment is completed that takes very little time. It is one that may help you to practise powerful cues and just notice the impact of them.
Once a relationship is in place, it is more likely that you – and any partner – will know their own starting point. How can you define a joint ‘starting point’ if you do not know where you, as an individual, are coming from!
Once a good working relationship is in place it is feasible to find out what your partner(s) want from it. If you are explicit about your own intentions, and they are roughly the same, then you can work together to identify the CHOICES available to both of you. Once some choices are established in your head, it is possible to ask another to develop some joint options as an important preliminary to negotiated decision-making. The ‘best’ choice to select rather assumes you have the widest range of options available and that TWO or people have agreed to identify and own.
The effective development of those choices in order to decide on a choice, requires A to talk to B – and vice versa – in a particular way.
Deliberation is conversation around the choices, possibilities and the actions to follow. Deliberation requires the ability to share the pros and cons without getting into too much argument! Again, Special Time is an invaluable safe experiment, but what about experiments you can do. These include editing, owning what you say by reducing levels of threat in yourself – and other people – by careful use of language and body posture?
There is a flip side to all this – rumination. It involves repeated attention to the same issue without necessarily reaching a conclusion or agreement. This is not generally a helpful communication and there are safe experiments that may help reduce the volume on rumination. Often it is something we do alone; a conversation within our own head.
… does not require choices or actions. It can be a review of things completed, or about to be completed. More importantly it gives space to less rational communications; the Body Scan invites you to reflect; that is, to identify feelings and sensations as a preliminary to doing something about them! Just Noticing is a small, safe experiment in reflection.
…. involves deciding on one or two courses of action; not a whole load (hence my health warning, above). It is possible to forgot that taking no decision is still a decision. Non-actions, and procrastination, are forms of action. It may be a wise move or it may be passive, leaving it to the fates to resolve. Indeed, there are a number of decisions we make that might be overlooked. Too often that outcome is a small defeat when we are surprised or hurt by the result.
Review and re-negotiate
This element in our communication needs to be in our sights from the start. It is easy to give a sigh of relief when something has been decided, and acted on. However, like all safe experiments, if you do not notice the outcome, usually by recording, then there is no small, safe experiment. Limited material is absorbed or acknowledged to help you decide on what small thing can be done differently.
There is some subtle stuff that is too easy to miss.
So a review is not a standalone or an add-on.
There is a ‘special’ case of communication and that is concerned with intimate relationships. The languages involved here are The Love Languages and you may find that specific page useful in shaping some of your own safe experiments.
Finally, for now, Transactional Analysis (TA) has another way to view styles of communication. It is based on a perspective that sees how our own internal conversations, between Ego States, shapes or communication with other people in the outside world. I will leave you to explore – or not – this perspective.
Here is a way to do this.