A Communication Process
I have found this process, which I have adapted from Marshall Goldberg’s, Non-Violient Communication – also known as the Clear Communication or Collaborative Communication model – an essential and valuable tool for resolving conflict and being able to communicate when it’s easier not to! It is a remarkable process and I urge you to try it.!
“Better out than in.” A young mother talking about her 3-month-old after a projectile vomit. The image below shows what the warm and positive after effects might look like.
The same goes for communication – particularly the difficult ones.
This process is designed to enable you to express yourself and for the other person to really hear what is going on for you so that you may both reach a common understanding and appreciation of where you are in your relationship. This maybe the first time you have actually expressed how you feel to another human being in a way that is safe for you.
Most of what gets us annoyed, angry or frustrated in our relationships with others it’s not what they do, or say, but what we don’t say or do.
Here is the process in 7 steps.
By way of an example I will use the following:
You are deeply frustrated, angry and saddened by the state of the relationship with your significant other. You have gone for years not communicating clearly, lovingly courageously and openly with each other. You have had enough.
There is no benefit in pointing our fingers at the other person because this exercise is about personal responsibility, looking at our own behaviour, actions and words and expressing ourselves.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Remember to speak in ‘I’ statements, not ‘you’ or ‘we’ statements. E.g. I feel frustrated and angry. Not, you make me feel frustrated and angry.
Step 1: Request
I would like to have around 20 minutes with you so that I can communicate my thoughts feelings and experiences and some recent events. It is really important for me to express myself and I would appreciate you giving me the time. (Don’t make it ‘heavy’ or ‘significant’.)
Step 2: Agreement/ contract
In essence, there are two reasons that relationships breakdown: 1. There was no agreement, or 2. There was an agreement, but it wasn’t clear, or structured wasn’t paid attention to, so it fell apart at the seams.
Without agreements, life simply does not work, yet we somehow convince ourselves that we can get by without making them or keeping to them. (See separate module on ‘being your word.’)
I request please that you do nothing but listen from beginning to end as I go through these points without interruption. When I come to the end please feel free to ask any questions to clarify what I have said nothing more at that point. When the process is complete, I would be very happy to exchange rolls either right after I have done this or a day or a few days later If you would like to.
This is where you relate to the other person the data/facts/what happened and there is strictly no emotion or story involved in this part. The power of doing this is that the data is immutable and clear for both parties to see, even if one party doesn’t like what they hear, the facts are the facts! All too often a source of breakdown in our relationships is because we go to story, drama or emotion. It becomes very hard for each other to see each other and to appreciate where the other is because we are too busy defending our own version of the story.
There have been several things you have said that I would like to talk about, for example. we agreed after we got married that we would wait for a year before we started our own family. But then on the plane to Mauritius you decided unilaterally that you were ready to fall pregnant.
Step 4: Feelings
The importance of sharing feelings cannot be stressed enough. If we do not express our feelings, we run the risk of becoming ill, angry, frustrated and resigned. We do not need hours of therapy we just need to share what those feelings are.
Feelings fall into five basic categories:
- Mad (anger, frustration, intolerance, confusion, uncertainty etc.)
- Bad (Shame, guilt, embarrassment etc.)
- Sad (sorrow etc.)
- Glad (happiness, joy, elation, love etc.)
- Afraid (fear, scared etc.)
Initially when you said you wanted to start a family right away, I was confused as it was something different to what we agreed. I take responsibility for not at least challenging you on this and coming to an agreement that work for us both. Instead I just let it go and I allowed my anger and frustration to build.
Step 5: Needs
This is where you express your needs. It is surprisingly clear and easy for us to tap into our needs and yet we make it very complicated because we have tried in the past or become resigned and cynical to what is possible in our lives and come ‘from the past’ rather than listening to our hearts, gut or intuition, which never lies.
The power and beauty of expressing our needs is that we get to express ourselves. It doesn’t matter whether the other person can grant you those needs or not the most important thing is to express your needs.
I need to be able to communicate and connect with intimacy and courage in our relationship, free from feeling like I am being judged or having to defend myself.
Step 6: Requests
This is where you in “seal the deal” and make a request for what you want.
I would like to draw a line in the sand in our relationship and make a new start. What this looks like is having an agreement about what we are committing to and then carrying through on those commitments. Too often we have made agreements and then broken them. On the plane, you made a unilateral decision and I didn’t have the courage to challenge you on it. I want this to change so that we can work together and collaborate and have the wonderful partnership that I believe we can.
Specifically, I would lie to request that each of us on a piece of paper write down what we want for ourselves in our relationship and what we want for the other person and that we bring those together and create a loving contract together. I would like to do this within the week. Do you accept my request? This last question is very important.
Step 7: Appreciation
All being well you have made it to the space where the other person has listened to you and how you feel possibly for the first time. It is important to acknowledge and appreciate their willingness to listen and not interact and defend their position. It’s important to be generous in your appreciation to really feel it from your heart to guys.
Thank you for listening to me. I’m grateful that you have had me as it takes enormous courage to do that when one hears Is not always easy. I hope that I can return the favour for you and that we can create something magical going forward.
You can now invite them to do the process for themselves and you can give them some guidance in terms of the headings of how they can prepare for themselves and suggest that you make a diary appointment to do that in a few days’ time.