Part 2: Building Blocks of Satisfying Communication
Satisfying communication starts with the premise that we are willing to make agreements about how we communicate, and that we will collaborate as we go.
It takes two conscious, deliberate people working together to create a new language of communication, one that is reciprocal, respectful, and mutually honoring and supportive. Both must agree to speak the new language, and both must work hard to deliberately use it until it becomes comfortable.
There are a number of tried and true agreements couples can choose to make that are respectful, safe, mutual, and that create a spirit of good will. Some of these are the following:
Each partner agrees to:
-speak to each other one at a time
-discuss only one issue at a time
-discontinue any negative communication approaches
(as in the list described earlier)
-“signal their intention” before addressing any difficult subject
(to clarify what they are about to talk about and why, to reassure, and to defuse potential triggers)
-recognize the Two Truth* Principle,
and work to say, hear, and honor both truths
-negotiate until they reach a Win-Win*
-understand and honor the Three Gardens*
(in order to balance separateness and connection, and honor boundaries)
-strive to reduce dramatic and traumatic dynamics
-treat each other as equals
-not tell each other what to do,
-not parent each other,
-treat each as a responsible, accountable adult
-encourage each other to set boundaries and groundrules*
-build bridges when setting a boundary*
-seek to understand their own and the other’s triggers*
-recognize that triggered reactions are the result of pain, and respond with empathy
-work to defuse the intensity of triggers consciously
-settle on a specific time to discuss important issues
-act and treat each other as empowered persons, and not as victims
-develop specialized roles and division of labor
-share the “microphone” 50-50
(consciously balance talking and listening)
-use and support Time-Outs with Caring Plan to Reconnect (CPR)*
-take responsibility for their own feelings
-express anger while still showing respect (and not to threaten, damage, yell, intimidate, frighten, indict, etc.)
-prioritize the well-being of the relationship over all other aspects of life
(except self care), but including work, friends, hobbies, even children
-talk about loaded issues in a matter-of-fact way
-commit to saying what’s true to each other
-hearing and allowing each other’s truth
-take each other at face value
-move ahead in a way that pays attention to what’s true for both partners
-treat each other as equals
-offer frequent verbal and physical expressions of caring and respect
-choose to deliberately connect in a meaningful way on a regular, reliable basis
-make requests based on what each feels and needs,
rather than on a demand or order, or criticism of the behavior of their partner.
Many other potential agreements could be added to this list. Agreements like these tend to be very consciously made, followed through on deliberately, are respectful, mutually honoring, responsible, accountable, and most of all, collaborative. The comfort is in the commitment each partner makes to supporting each other actively and with an ever deepening awareness of “skillful means” of communicating, and to support the co-creation of a growing and thriving relationship.
There are several other aspects that exist in relationships that have satisfying communication:
-Partners regularly greet and acknowledge and appreciate each other, in words and deeds.
-They say things to each other to make their partner feel better, not worse. They tend to make half full rather than half empty statements.
-Each partner tries to clarify and share what is true for them at the feeling level, and to let each other know what is going on “inside” their skin, as well as their reactions to circumstances, people, and event that are “outside” their skin.
-Each partner takes full responsibility for their own well-being. They take responsibility for their own self care and self growth (in mind, heart, body and spirit).
-Partners tend to focus on the present and the future (not on the past), and they will talk about what they prefer or imagine or desire for the present or the future, rather than citing the lacks anddisappointments of the past.
-Partners tend to seek joyful and positive circumstances and experiences, and to avoid aspects of life that aredistracting from their goals and desires, or carry a lot of negative emotions.
-They tend to avoid expressing themselves in negative ways, and instead seek to find positive, affirming, andrespectful ways of expressing themselves.
-Partners focus on their own individual growth, consciousness, evolving, learning, on creative possibilities, andsupport each other in each other’s own pursuits, and together they focus on these same goals for the relationship.
-They are present and future oriented, motivated by creativity, joy, collaboration, teamwork, andinterested in their continued personal and partnership growing and becoming.
-They are conscious and present. They are not complacent or compliant, and they are not unaware or passive. They are not concerned only for themselves, but as well for their partner (and the other people in their lives).
-They tend to communicate in bridging ways, asking a question or otherwise inviting the other to respond andshare. They are attentive to “think together” as they move through a subject, and work to assure reciprocity in their conversations
-They strive to be kind and respectful 24/7, regardless of provocations.
-They respect the confidentiality of the relationship and of each other.
-They live in a way that honors themselves and their partners.
A relationship like we have been describing can be one of the top rewarding experiences we can have as humans. What seems like work can in reality be a vehicle for ease, delight, excitement, and joy. But it is a choice. It is a new language. It is a deliberate, conscious, and intentional work of art that we can choose to create and create together.
Getting to a place where we experience regular satisfying communication involves two strategies: 1) conscious and deliberate determination to eliminate negative forms of communicating, and 2) proactively imagining, creating, and co-creating a thriving, honoring, new language of communication.
Each step we take along the way offers its own reward. May we have many!
*This idea is discussed further elsewhere on this site in the Relationship Tools section.