The Art Of Communication

This week a lot of friends have seemed to have had their share of communication breakdowns – on their side, or on the part of another person….parents, children, instructors, training partners. . .and it prompted me to think about it.  You’d think Mercury was in retrograde! (Don’t worry, it isn’t for some weeks 😉 ) 

It never ceases to amaze me, though, how similar situations can be, even when involving vastly different topics, completely different areas of Life, and totally different players.  Communication, however, is the underlying thread weaving it all together. . .

Communication isn’t relegated to one type of relationship, nor to specific people – it isn’t just about friendship, or marriage, or work, or family. . .  Communication is what sets us apart – it’s what binds our species, allows us to function at high levels, to accomplish collective goals, to learn, to love, and to live. Communication isn’t in and of itself horribly complicated, but humans ARE. . .and that’s where it gets tricky. (Modern life does bring a few challenges as well…)

shoeboxblog.com Chuck & Beans

Emotions, preconceived notions, previous experiences and conditioning. . .it all plays a part in how we respond to stimulus.  While humans are capable of incredible strength, that doesn’t mean we aren’t also highly sensitive (I know I am!) – the way in which we communicate is therefore as important as the words we are using.  Words, keep in mind are defined differently, even among those were are most similar to – in this case, the nonverbal, the tone, and the delivery makes a difference.

A HUGE one.

 

Everyone has had their fair share of “stuff” – we’ve all been marred by life’s rough edges, nature’s unpredictability, and lessons we needed to struggle through in order to fully learn (I’m still learning quite a few, including the topic at hand.)  As a result, most of us walk around with what I call “walls-at-the-ready” – we are kind of like collapsible fortresses just waiting for the moment to erect our barricades, and employ our moats.  

Seriously…

So communication then can become a very delicate – and powerful – affair.  

There is a true art to navigating what could easily become choppy seas (at our own hands – or our chosen communication.) There are tons of articles, books, seminars out there (such as this one) but no matter which relationships they are intended to better, they speak to the same key principles.  So it doesn’t matter if it’s your child, a new co-worker, a parent, a friend, a spouse, a sibling – the keys to communicating well focus on the same fundamental ideas, and can apply across the board.

LISTEN

Listening matters – listening with the intent to reply is not the same thing.  We need to listen to hear and understand from the other person’s perspective. Whether or not we agree, feelings are just that – as such, they are valid even if we don’t “get it.” 

EMPATHIZE

Everyone wants empathy and to be understood – no matter how much you may disagree, recognizing that the person speaking has a valid and true reality – for them – helps to bring them down a notch. Or several. 

MAINTAIN CALM CONVERSATION

People are open and responsive to calm conversation – the second the heat of anger is turned up, or promise of threat implied . . .POOF! . . .Barricades!

AVOID ATTACKING, BLAMING, SHAMING

People are (at least generally) open and responsive to discussion provided they aren’t in a corner – the slightest attack, criticism, blame, there go those walls again.  What you want to convey will be shut out like an enemy coming in full force. No bueno, as they say…

STAY FOCUSED

Keeping the focus on the issue at hand makes for a cleaner conversation – muddling the mix with outlying topics that really have no part to play make a mess, quickly.  Not to mention a full suit of armor on the other side!

Usually communication is only difficult when it’s controversial – when it may cause discomfort (like embarrassment, anxiety, self doubt etc), when it’s about a touchy subject, (embarrassment, shame, etc), or it provokes a fear-based response (as in “fright or flight” – resulting from directed anger, frustration, for example.) At those times, that’s when we LEAST want to be gentle and “follow guidelines of effective communication”!!  

But, as they say, a moment of patience can make a lifetime’s worth of difference.

Adorable! Seven Deadly Sins Cartoon: Anger
Written by Bearman Cartoons

Listen to the other person and, whether you agree or not, make the effort to recognize their view.  Keep yourself calm, avoid blame and attacking, and stick to discussion mode – people will be far more able (and willing!) to receive, and are less likely to block you out. If you feel like you can’t contain the disappointment, anger, frustration etc, do something else until you can be calm. 

People are complicated, and so is Life.  Even your best friends and closest family members meet discord from time to time (if they didn’t they wouldn’t be breathing!) that’s okay – it happens!  We aren’t always going to see eye to eye, we aren’t always going to define terms the same way, and people aren’t always going to behave exactly the way we want all the time.

You say you’re a Martial Artist and I might take you at your “word.” (schoolofdisney.com image)

One of my favorite expressions is “how important is it?” It’s one I heard growing up, and it’s one I hear frequently today.  As spoken at a dear friend’s wedding recently – in fact, by a very wise and learned woman – you can be right, or you can be happy.  Again, this applies to all areas of life, and to all kinds of relationships…

For example, I’ve seen a marked change in my own relationships with family members over the years, and every so often I catch myself really thinking about how our interactions have (or haven’t!) evolved since childhood – sometimes it’s difficult, sometimes it feels down-right painful. . .but Life doesn’t stop because I don’t agree with something, or I feel hurt. 

The more I can communicate effectively and in a kind way, the healthier all my interactions will be, and the better I – and others – will feel.  That means learning to do things that maybe I’m not so great at, or challenging my mood at that moment, or, even tougher, changing things I’ve done my whole life – sometimes what used to work for us doesn’t anymore! I know I’m a work in progress…but I am working at it, because there are areas in which I know I can do better.

I loved this excerpt, read by a friend recently, as it captures the essence of the idea perfectly:

” Today being aware of the words I use, I am learning to communicate more responsibly.  I not only share in a more straightforward manner, but I also argue in a healthier way.  There are better was to express myself than to say ‘you did such and such to me.’ I can talk about myself and my feelings.  I can explain the way I experienced something rather than telling the person how he or she made me feel… 

“…We learn in time that it is not the subjects which are controversial, but the manner in which we communicate about them and the elements of personal blame we add to them in anger.”

CTC by AFG p 176.

Effective, healthy, and happy communication can be accomplished, but it does take a little work.  We are thrown to the wolves in many ways, and learn to swim in the deep end by trial and error – there aren’t structured courses in school about interpersonal relationships, and workplaces don’t exactly help you along either! Unless we seek out our own kind of learning, it feels a lot like a shot in the dark, especially when we meet new people, are navigating a new job etc… Even when it comes to parents and children who’ve been together for a lifetime – life changes!  I recently was reflecting on how I could do a better job of understanding, as well as responding to a parent differently.

If things aren’t being communicated as smoothly as you’d like, or you feel it’s complicated and overwhelming, know it is NOT a lost cause. The phrase “DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE DONE TO YOU” works really nicely – that’s basically the gist of it.  So if all else fails, just think about how you’d want to hear criticism, or how you would want someone to convey some tough news.  When we are in that kind of a mindset, we usually are off to a great start.

Here’s to the journey of Life! ❤ 

 

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WWMD – Surround Yourself With Strange

What would Morticia do…? 

Surround herself with strange, obviously! The company we keep not only speaks volumes about us, but is also our support structure.  Surrounding oneself with humdrums, naysayers, or negative conformists is as damaging as it gets. . .so choose your inner circle wisely.

@dailywitch

Normal is such a drag anyway, and no one likes to be bored.

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!

Much that I love language I find that I’m often stumped when feeling profoundly, as words lack enough “oomph!” to accurately capture what I’m feeling. To quantify the gratitude I have for both my parents is – also – nigh impossible, because neither is there an appropriate measure.  

I wouldn’t be where I am if not for both of them – no matter the crazy, quirky, dark or dreary, offbeat, or downright terrible things I’ve done along the way, they supported me wholly (sometimes they even join in – as evidenced below. 🙂 )  

They embrace and love me no matter what, and have demonstrated the ultimate selflessness time and time…and time…again in doing whatever they could to help me achieve my dreams…

They’ve taught me so many valuable lessons, allowed me the space to learn my own (equally as vital!), and instilled a sense of strength that has helped me through some horribly challenging times.


Not a day goes by that I don’t appreciate what they have done, still do for me, and how much they accept and value who I am. I feel blessed and thankful that both myself and my husband can have such a close and happy relationship with them, and that we get a chance to see one another despite all moving on in life.  

Blessed and beyond. ❤

 

No Better Way To Say It

If you want results, you have to work – it really is that simple.  

It doesn’t matter if you are speaking about your career, your hobbies, your weak links / areas for improvement, your family… Whatever arena of life you choose, it takes work to create the life you want, need, and (frankly) deserve.  Moseying along at “mediocre” means staying in the same rut your whole life, minus the success and growth that “could” be.

Don’t lose heart, though – because of the hard work you put in across the board, the results have the power to be mind-blowing.  You are more incredible than you think – put your all into whatever aspect it is, and be prepared to amaze yourself.

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Strategies To Stay Sane, And Other Holiday Shares…

I’m partly surprised by the influx of inbox articles about surviving holiday negativity…and also, in part (and sadly) expecting it.  The GREAT news is, the articles are positive in nature, (though I’m still sorry to know that the sentiment is so widespread.  Seemingly more so in 2016.)  That said, I suppose it is more than evident in retail parking lots from December 1 through the 24th. . .

Thankfully, there is support – and commiseration – being shared to help you, your families, whomsoever needs it, to cope.

From Tiny Buddha, 7 Strategies To Stay Sane This Holiday Season, by Bridgid Elsken Galloway.

From Daily OM, The Gift Of A Positive Image, by Madisyn Taylor.

From Esteemology (great for Empaths and ESPs), Surviving the Dysfunctional Christmas: Savannah’s Holiday Survival Tips, by Savannah Grey.

Healthy, happy, safe…and sane!…holiday to all! 

What Christmas ISN’T

I saw this posted today, and I smiled for two reasons…

For one thing, I’ve always been a HUGE Grinch fan – anything of the monster-ish ilk was up my alley even early on.  I insisted we watch this each Christmas, and never seemed to tire even of the “fahoo forays, yahoo dorays.” 

As for second part, the Suess-ie blurb speaks to something that I really believe in – a reminder I want to shout from the Grinch-inhabited hilltops whenever December rolls around. Or maybe just in overcrowded, emotionally-charged retail parking lots. . .

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I’m a “giver” so I get the idea of wanting to share with others – it’s a wonderful feeling to give something that we know a person wants or. . .better!…truly needs.

At the same time, though…it is not NOT NoT about the gifts.  Everyone gets CRAZY around Christmastime.  WHY?! People have this immense pressure to buy, buy more, buy again…to wrap and deliver.  But that’s not what it’s is about…  I feel like I’m always left so baffled.

There are of course layers of religious meanings and importance surrounding mid-December (through to early January) depending on the culture and beliefs.  But I’m not even talking about THAT (far too great a topic, far too weighty!)

I just mean that this time of year isn’t about throwing material things around, so much as true, sincere giving.  I’m not saying I didn’t get gifts as a kid…or that I still don’t.  For children, especially, it’s exciting.  There are generally rituals built around Christmas morning, and I love seeing happy faces.  But there really DOES have to be a point at which it goes overboard.  

My favorite gift – the one I looked forward to every year – was my red snow shovel.  My parents didn’t know that for a long time, but it was the ONE THING I absolutely LOVED getting.  I would use it to help my father shovel the driveway…and to me, it therefore well transcended the “material.”  It was such a fun event, despite the work involved – the “shovel” represented time we’d spend together, outside, enjoying the snow and fresh air. 

As we got older there were years where my parents would have us all choose a charity and give to each one instead of getting each other things we wouldn’t use.  (I think the whole “wouldn’t use” part tends to happens far too often as we pass into teen and adulthood. And frankly, I don’t think there’s anything I CAN get my family and loved ones that they really want – we all kind of get what we want and need anyway!)

I don’t think gifts are a “bad” thing, don’t get me wrong.  It means a lot to some people to give, and in that way denouncing the whole thing would be denying them something that makes them feel great.  What I think is important, though, is that people don’t feel obligated and pressured to buy things.  Certainly not “BIG” things.  

The “holiday spirit” is more about the thoughtfulness above and beyond anything else.  And I’ve gotten to a point where time and connection with loved ones, HAPPY loved ones, and health for all of us, is – * yes, really * – all I want.  Those things are far more precious to me. The little things, like a random “I love you,” lights up my world with a brilliance no material item could.  Life is precious.

So even if gifts are part of the holiday “thing”…just remember that you don’t have to stress out about getting the latest and greatest.  There are ways to give, to share, to receive, without having to go crazy (no one needs an extra car accident, or angry retail exchange!) 

Enjoy the essence of the holidays while they are here – the gathering of those we love, and the blessings we already have.   Generally speaking, those in your circle will be happy no matter what. . .and if you want to reach out to those in need (people, animals alike!), there’s plenty room there too. ❤

 

Thanksgiving 2016

I’m not a huge “holiday person” (save for Halloween, which I daresay is highly evident given my posts!), but it’s always a treat to be with family…and to be forced to relax (admittedly hard for me BUT…much needed.)

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I’m grateful for so much, but of those many things…I’m especially thankful for those closest to me.  Food-centric gatherings are not really my thing – I am incredibly boring with my nutrition (though I enjoy my foods immensely!) so there is always extra care involved.  

My husband always makes sure that I have things I’ll like – always.  He’s never not aware , and will make certain clean foods are available for me (believe it or not, finding someone who wouldn’t think I was crazy for the way eat (like a zoo animal!) was a major source of anxiety for me.  For a decade at least!)  This year he made lobster and he made a few extra for me with nothing on them – at all.  Super clean, and wildly delicious! 😀

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As for the rest, we always have yummy sides – I have a few intolerances, so I stick to what I know works…and it never disappoints. 🙂  Once upon a time I had a really difficult time portioning, and feeling obligated to have everything – after a few bouts of making myself sick in the past, I’ve learned NOT to do that! *LOL*

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It was a wonderful few days…as I hope it was for everyone. ❤