You need a communication key. It’s true. And so many people say it when they come to me for help.
But lots of people think communication means more words. And usually it means exactly the opposite.
Use fewer words; say more.
Here’s how this works.
Listen, you already know the words you say are a small percentage of what you communicate (no matter the context of relationship. This goes for that texting conversation too.)
Energy, body language, tone, timing. It all matters. Plus, it communicates so much… way more than the actual words you choose.
It allows and invites and incites inference. (You’re smart, so you already know this.)
It’s how you interpret what the other is going to say next and how conversations become a patterned dance you repeat over and over and over and over.
I’ve invited many of you to do this. Okay, for some of you , I’ve invited you to stop talking so much. You’re wearing your partner out and giving them WAY too many rabbit trails to follow on your “verbal processing fest.” Honestly, there’s just too much for one person to track sometimes when you’re going at it like that.
One thing at a time, grasshopper.
Ever heard of single-tasking? It actually takes more concentration than multi-tasking. It requires focus, showing up and paying attention. The speaker must practice conscious presence.
This is a GOOD THING.
Doing a verbal dump on your partner (or anyone else for that matter) is a little disrespectful anyway and a lot self-serving. So, literally, stop talking.
It’s hard, right?
Good. It should be a little hard. You’re doing something different than you’re used to. And now that you’ve closed your mouth, go the next step and really listen.
Get curious about what the other person is saying. Not like “why are you saying that?” or “why does he think like that?!” but curious like, literally, “hmmmmmm, that’s interesting.” And then think about it instead of plan the response. That kind of curious.
Become a quiet observer.
Sometimes what you’re observing is what’s going on with you. Notice this. (You are super interesting.)
Are you feeling defensive? Is something else rising up in you? Are you noticing you want to argue? Do you want to show what you know?
Just notice that. And let it be. Go back to listening.
I know you have a point to make.
And I know you think it’s super important and it’s THE THING that is going to make the difference and that THIS TIME the other person HAS TO HEAR what you are saying and UNDERSTAND you for once.
But they aren’t going to. So get over that. Breathe. Go back to listening.
Someone wise once said
“I never learn anything new by hearing myself talk.”
After all, it’s stuff you already know. So, take a weird risk and actually get quiet. See what happens.
Yes. People worry all the time about talking about those super important issues. There ARE really important topics and hard conversations to have sometimes. Don’t worry.
You will talk about the important stuff.
Most of you don’t have the skill to handle that right now. You’re too entrenched in your usual patterned dance, your regular, tired way of seeing things.
Listen, you’re stubborn for very good reason.
It makes PERFECT sense to you. And it’s very logical for the way you’re made, the way you think, and the way you move through the world.
you think some things that aren’t exactly true or at least something that isn’t exactly serving you right now. Maybe it’s not healthy…and it’s certainly not HELPFUL.
Those beliefs (we call them limiting beliefs) are not easy for you to spot all by yourself. You might want the help of a qualified and trained specialist. (I’m one, in case you forgot… and there are others too. You might like to spend more time with one of us.)
Find someone who can help you clarify your message.
You want minimum verbage, and maximum inpact. Low potential for arguing or for “trigger language,” for escalating conflict, for taking the conversation out of productive zone and into the fight zone.
You also want to say the very important thing. This includes telling the truth, your truth. Laying it on the line. Really revealing yourself. Getting open and vulnerable.
No one likes that, right?
It feels risky.
You might feel exposed when you actually tell the truth. There’s no telling how the other person will respond, right?
That is the nature or risk, by the way. You step out. You do your thing. No telling what will happen next.
That’s good. It’s a start.
I have couples (in particular) all the time who want to talk through the hard stuff but they have proven that they have no skill, no means, no history of success talking through the hard stuff. But they insist on doing it. If not in my office, then definitely away from my office.
And they usually have “some productive conversation” and very little real movement.
They have just enough “productive” in the conversation to keep them coming back to do the same old dance. Don’t keep doing that.
Tell the truth.
See if you can boil your point down to the very gist of it, the core, the most important and central, integral, bottom-line expression. See if it can be ONE thing that fits this format:
1. I feel… (and ONE emotion word.)
2. I want (or I don’t want) in ONE sentence. Form it without using the word “you” and let it be about what you want or don’t want in your own life and experience.
Get to the bottom line. Go to the heart of every matter.
And make it actually TRUE.
Here are some true and hard things people are actually dying to say to one another:
I feel scared. I don’t want to lose relationship.
I feel anxious. I want to please my mate. I don’t want to feel rejected or disappointing.
I feel overwhelmed. I don’t want to get 10 years down the road and regret staying together.
I feel petrified. I don’t want to have to forgive something I thought I’d never face.
I feel ashamed. I don’t want to live with the weight of what I’ve done.
There’s a lot of power in telling the truth.
Most of us want to fix it. But don’t. For now. Just let the truth (your truth) be the thing. And listen while the other tries to express theirs. See if you can hear the feeling and the want or don’t want in all the words they’re using.
It’s a start. It’s not the only thing, but it’s the first thing.
And let me know how it’s going.