Seven Tips for Successful Communication

1. Clarify definitions - When something is not clear or you are in a disagreement, clarify definitions. Many times we use a word in a conversation thinking it means the same thing to the other person and it does not. Example: A wife once said “I’m not in love with my husband anymore” in one of our sessions. I asked her to explain what it meant to not be in love with him anymore. She said “I don’t feel connected to him right now.” To the husband it meant something entirely different. To him it meant that she would never love him beyond a friendship level again, which caused him to feel very hurt & defensive. Once he understood the difference in their definitions, he was able to understand her meaning better and admit he felt the same way, which put them on the same page rather than feeling separate. Definitions of words can be very different for each person and it is beneficial to check in from time to time, you’d be surprised what can happen when clarifications take place, it can diffuse an argument right away.

2. Defensiveness - Ask yourself before you respond “Am I starting to defend myself because I feel attacked or triggered by something the other person has said or am I truly hearing their point of view and responding to it without defense?” This one is very important because when people get into the practice of defending themselves each time the someone person says something, they are soon in a verbal ping-pong match and that never solves anything because at some point someone has to lose in ping-pong! It’s important to acknowledge what another person has to say even if you do not agree with it. Example: Wife says to husband he isn’t spending enough quality time with her. If husband starts to defend himself that he is doing it, where has that taken the couple? To a place of going back and forth to decide who is right. Reality is wife has a certain perception of what is enough quality time to her and husband has his own perception as well. The key to this type of situation is negotiation – understanding how much she needs and how much he wants to give and then finding a middle ground so both are happy rather than one person “winning” and being right. This creates a win-win environment for both parties and can be used in all levels of communication.

3. Listening - Really, truly listen to the person speaking. If you catch yourself thinking of your response while the other person is talking, in truth, you are not fully listening, you are simply waiting to get your point across. You can mirror back to someone what you heard being said so as to clarify understanding and then once you get the agreement that you truly heard what was said, you can respond.

4. Taking a Break - If things are getting heated, take a break and come back to it at a later agreed upon time. I hear from people a lot that this feels like they are walking away from a fight when in reality a fight will ensue should the discussion continue at an angry level because when adrenaline is rushing, things are said that cannot be taken back, Ultimately this can cause more damage to the relationship and damper future communication as well as create trust issues. The key here is to come back to it at an agreed upon time rather than simply walk away never to return to the discussion.

5. Start-Up - If things are starting down a bad path right from the start of a conversation, ask what it is that upset the other person and see if it had to do with the initial approach. If so, see how you can modify the approach to have it better received. Some people think the other person is being controlling because of having to re-approach it in a way it can be received. Truth is in order to be in a healthy relationship of any kind, we must consider the way another receives what we are saying and how we are coming across otherwise it becomes about someone just wanting things their way rather than working through and truly relating to their the other person’s wants and needs. If both people do the same in the relationship, it leads to more respect and trust.

6. Empathy - Acknowledge the person in the matter by giving a level of empathy. Giving empathy means truly working to understand another’s experience even if you don’t agree with it, it’s the put yourself in his/her shoes scenario. A key to this is repeating back what you heard and clarifying a true understanding of it and then acknowledging that you understand this is his/her experience. This one is a challenge at times for some people but it is crucial to healthy relationships.

7. Curiosity – come from a place of curiosity. Rather than assuming something based on what you heard, ask further questions. Example: Husband says to wife “I don’t want to pick the kids up today”.  Wife initially wants to start a disagreement because he doesn’t want to pick up the kids but she hasn’t gone to a place of trying to understand yet. The starting place is curiosity to understand the reasons first prior to having a reaction. Curiosity alone has prevented many disagreements from happening as one question changed the entire view of the situation.

Eight Words to Begin to Release

There are words we can steer away from in our vocabulary as much as possible in order to raise the energetic vibration of our communication.  In my experience, there is an energy associated with words.  Certain words carry an quality that have a tendency to draw energy down and can be considered negative in nature as well as put others on the defense when we use those words during communication.  It takes time to change a habit, so this shift will not happen overnight.  Be patient with yourself and in time you will see gradual changes in your communications as these words are slowly released from your vocabulary.

Before I list the words to release, I’ll first talk briefly about how change takes place.  There is a natural process of change and various stages we go through for the change to occur.  Once you are consciously aware of something and actively working to change it, it will take time to completely disappear and will diminish over time.  To remove words from our vocabulary, it takes commitment to the process of change.  We start with this commitment by paying careful attention to our thoughts in order to identify the words we are currently using.   It’s helpful to begin with a specific word and practice the process of identification and release for a 21-day period.  Once you have reached the end of the 21 days and actively participated in the change process, the use of the word will be greatly reduced.  It’s important to remain aware of your thoughts during the process as well as offer yourself some flexibility to release it slowly.  

Here is a list of the common words we use that are beneficial to release from our vocabulary.  

1. Always - always indicates black & white thinking.  When we use the word always we are saying there has never been an exception and it happens 100% of the time.  Example: “He is always angry with me”.  I would venture to guess this isn’t the case and there are times when this isn’t true.

2. Never - goes along the same lines as always.  Example: “I never win”.  Again, I’d venture to guess there has been at least 1 time the person has won.

3. But - this word generally negates the part of the sentence prior to the but.  Example:  “I want to lose weight, but it is going to be hard”.  The mind tends to steer itself to the 2nd part of the sentence.

4. Can’t - this implies an inability to do something.  Example: “I can’t let that betrayal go”.  The truth is we usually have a choice.  You can let the betrayal go.  It may take commitment and work on the practice of forgiveness, but it can be done if you choose to do so.

5. Try - this usually indicates a lack of commitment or desire.  “I’ll try to make it on Saturday”.  This generally means the person won’t be there or doesn’t want to because something else may take priority.  Change this one to I will or I will not and if it is a case where you are prefer to do something else first, put it out there as I will based on those circumstances as that indicates a clear choice you are making. 

6. Maybe - this is very similar to try.  Maybe indicates doubt or uncertainty.  Again, use I will or I will not dependent upon circumstances.  

7. Should - this can be a strong word on self and others.  “I should have done it this way” or “you should have said no”.  The thing about should is it implies that a person knew what would happen before a choice was made.  Most times in life, we make choices based on the best information at the time and only after the event do we uncover a more effective way of doing something or handling a situation.  Give yourself some leeway on this one.

8. Need - I believe needs are more about necessities versus desires.  Example: “I need to go to the store today”.  The question becomes is this a necessity, do I have to do this or there will be serious consequences that will cause survival issues if I don’t do it?  Sometimes, the word need pressures us to get something done.  I question if the pressure of the word need is necessary?  I believe that in order to own our personal power fully, we are best when decisions are made based on choice and we leave the word “need” to the true circumstances of survival.

I have found these words most powerful in our vocabulary and worthy to start releasing.  When we utilize our minds fully to release these words, it is an act of personal power and an act of making more consciously clear choices.  Some of the words being released will help build confidence and help relationships function more effectively and improve communication because of the subconscious meanings that lie just under the surface.  

Seven Tips for Fair Fighting

1. Keep it private - It is important to keep it private.  Do not fight in front of others, especially children.  If there are children involved, it can scar them emotionally.  Contain your emotions until you have the opportunity to fight in private.

2. Keep it relevant - It is crucial to stick to the argument at hand.  Do not bring up old grudges or sore points when they are not part of the current argument.  Ensure boundaries are put up around the subject matter so that the fight doesn’t move into a free-for-all argument.

3. Keep it real - Deal with the issue at hand, not with a symptom of the problem.  Many times during arguments people will fight about something as simple as the garbage being taken out.  The fight isn’t really about the garbage; it is about the deeper message when the garbage doesn’t get taken out “you don’t care about me”.  Be real about what is bothering you.

4. Avoid character assassination - Stay focused on the issue, rather than taking it to the point of attacking on a personal level – I consider this below-the-belt fighting.  Do not under any circumstances resort to name-calling.

5. Allow the other person to retreat with dignity - How an argument ends is crucial.  Be aware of when someone is giving an apology and do your best to accept the apology in order to end the disagreement.

6. Be proportional in your intensity - Everything you argue about will not be the worst argument; so don’t make it worse than it is.  This is about picking what’s important so to speak.  You don’t need to get angry every time you have the right to be.  

7. There’s a time limit - Arguments should be temporary, so don’t let them get out of hand and carry on for longer than necessary.  In other words, don’t let the argument continue on indefinitely.    

What Purpose are Your Emotions Serving for You?

Emotions can be so confusing at times and many of us want to immediately be rid of what we are feeling, especially when those emotions become overwhelming.  As part of the human race we experience emotions and our emotions really do serve a purpose for us.  They serve a purpose in our lives, our relationships, our jobs, our families and they even keep us safe in certain situations, so we want to be able to feel those emotions and learn from them.  The challenge is to not get locked up in the emotions or to be so focused on them that the emotions take over our very being.  The primary definition that explains emotions best for me is this: “A mental state that arises spontaneously rather than through conscious effort and is often accompanied by physiological changes; a feeling: the emotions of joy, sorrow, reverence, hate, and love.”  I like to define words often so as to ensure everyone is on the same page as different words mean different things to different people.  Now that I’ve clarified what emotions are, the question is how do they truly serve us?  And can we get rid of them?  I’ll first start with how our emotions serve us and then discuss releasing them.  

Emotions provide us pertinent information in our lives.  If someone is experiencing guilt for example, I pose the question to that person “What purpose is guilt serving for you?”  Generally speaking, the answer comes back that the person is feeling guilty about what they did so they know not to do it again.  Perfect.  Guilt served its purpose to teach that person where they stand on a specific issue and guilt is speaking to say please do not repeat that behavior again, it has consequences you don’t like.  Now, once the person has come to realize the purpose for the feeling, does it serve a purpose to feel those feelings any longer?  I say no.  At the point one learns the reason for the feeling, he/she can choose to let it go and release it.  It may come back from time to time on that particular issue as a reminder, but there is no real reason to keep holding on to it.  If the person cannot let it go, there is more to be learned about those feelings of guilt.  I would ask the person to delve deeper to discover the reason he/she is holding onto that guilt.  Asking yourself questions is crucial to uncovering what purpose an emotion is serving or why you are holding on to it.  

Ultimately, if there is no need to hold onto it, we can choose in our minds to release it.  

If using the mind is not working effectively to release the emotion, there is somatic work we can do to help release it further.  We can breathe deeply through our nose, hold for a few seconds, and exhale out our nose slowly.  We can repeat this exercise over and over and allow the feeling to be present and let it slowly dissipate out of our being.  If there is still a remnant of the feeling, we can sit with it quietly and let it be there without fighting it.  Fighting our feelings creates a counterforce and makes the feelings come on stronger, so sitting with those feelings helps to take away some or all of the power away from our feelings.  

A final exercise that I personally use is a powerful exercise that I found through Eckhart Tolle’s work.  It truly helps to keep me in the present moment and focusing on the now.  You use your mind to put your attention first on your feet and hold your attention there for 5-15 seconds then move up the body to the ankles for 5-15 seconds, then to the lower legs for 5-15 seconds and continually move up the body doing this pattern until you reach the head and focused there for 5-15 seconds.  In most cases, the attention has been moved to our bodies and we have become so relaxed that the feeling has passed and served its full purpose. 

There are cases where the emotions we are feeling are much larger than what is being discussed here, grief for example, which requires we talk to someone and do much deeper work in order to manage through those particular emotions.   Grief is not intended to move out of our lives so quickly and much more work needs to be done around letting go of grief and sadness.  

One can use all of the techniques I’ve mentioned time and again as different emotions surface.  Be patient through the process as some emotions have more to teach us than others and won’t go away until we delve deep enough to learn what they are trying to teach us.