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the 3 Strikes of Communication

Conscious Communication: bringing communication up from "auto-pilot" and reactive, to thoughtful, responsive, and above all, intentional.


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The 3 Strikes of Communication
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Virtually every verbal misunderstanding can be linked to three missteps in communication: assumptions, projections, and avoidance. With some awareness and attention on your communication, you can take control, and enjoy richer, more productive relationships at home and at work.

Each of these missteps have numerous origins, yet they work together as a system to prevent us from communicating effectively. To overcome them, we need to look more closely at each part.

1. Assumptions

Assumptions take the place of real and important information. When we don’t have information, we tend to fill in the blanks with assumptions that we make up in our heads. This precludes finding out that information, because we already have an “answer” in place, regardless of how wrong it may be. This is very different from a hunch, because with a hunch or a hypothesis we investigate to see if we’re right.

To catch yourself, remind yourself to say, “I don’t know.” When you position yourself as not knowing something, you position yourself to check in with the other person: the only way to get that missing information. You ask questions, enabling you to more fully share the other person’s experience.

We make projections when we don’t know or understand another person’s experience. We put our own experience in the blank space rather than finding out theirs. We take our internal “story,” project it on the other person, and then extrapolate what they’re feeling or what their motivations are. The truth is we do similar things for different reasons as often as we do different things for the same reasons. Behavior tells us nothing about motivation.

The way we see the world, or the lens through which we take in and sort information, determines our motivations. It’s highly unlikely another person sees through the same lens that you see through, or experiences what you do in the same circumstances. We miss out on finding out what their experience was, because we filled up the blank space with our own. This is different from empathy or compassion where we try to understand where someone is coming from by “putting ourselves in their place.” That's at best a starting point showing how they “might” be feeling, as we still don’t know. When we take it to the realm of thinking we “know” their motivation without asking them about it, it's pure projection.

To overcome this stumbling block, be a little introspective. If you feel as though you understand why someone is doing what they’re doing, and you haven’t asked them about it, you’re probably projecting. When someone pauses after being asked out to dinner, do you know why they paused or would you project your own feelings and think “they obviously don’t want to go!” Rather than telling someone what their motivation is (a clear projection on your part) share your own experience with them, and ask what theirs is. This way, you both share each other’s experience, and nobody feels unheard.

3. Avoidance

Avoidance encompasses all the ways in which we don’t pursue missing information from the other person. The reasons we use avoidance usually follow the different lenses through which we view the world.

You could avoid checking in because:

1. you feel that it's prying or being too personal.
2. you don't want to hear something negative, making you feel "separated."
3. you're too busy to worry about details like that.
4. you assume you already know.
5. it feels like breaching boundaries to ask questions.
6. you think it might get the other person mad at you.
7. you think you'll get criticized.
8. you don't really care.
9. you don't want to cause conflict.

Overcoming avoidance requires a tiny shift in your thinking. First, remember that in conscious communication you're always solving a problem: truly hearing and being heard. No problem is solved by avoiding it, and almost all problems are actually worsened. Regardless of the reason for avoiding listed above, you can see that none of those issues compare to the problems caused by miscommunicating, and most of those are made up in our heads.

Rather than assume someone is too busy to take your call, dial the phone and find out. Rather than project your own discomfort about the sales meeting on the client, ask them how they feel. Rather than ensuring feeling badly by avoiding the possibility that you might feel badly - check in. You’ll be glad you did!

If you want to reach higher altitudes; catapulting your communication and relationship skills, give me a call or email me. We can design a tailored program to fit your needs and desired outcomes. There's no limit to how high you can fly.

     - Ian J. Blei


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Quick Communication Tip:
Check in, no matter what

Regardless of how things go, checking in, with authentic curiosity and desire to understand the other person will work out better than assuming or projecting.

If the other person reacts irrationally, that has nothing to do with you; your intentions were clear and up front. Most often, you'll discover that it wasn't "about you" at all.


Ian J. Blei


Resource Links:

Conscious Communication - the podcast series

KG Stiles: "Conversations that Enlighten and Heal"
Ian Blei on Kind Ambition and the
Integram (TM)

Kind Ambition - 2nd Edition

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The Optimizer
Ian Blei,
Director of the
Institute for Integral Enneagram Studies and
President of
Optimized Results



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Kind Ambition:
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Kind Ambition is about you having the tools to slide over to the driver’s seat of your own life.  Circumstances will always be changing, seemingly thwarting our plans, but we don’t have to be  thrown around by them. You can be in charge of your choices and actions more than you might imagine - yet.


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