Conscious Communication: bringing communication
up from "auto-pilot" and reactive, to thoughtful, responsive, and above
in the background while you file, exercise, ride to work, etc.
Quick Communication Tip
Motivation Informs / Behavior Confuses
One of the most common
things to block our ability to connect with each other starts with
trying to explain “why” by observing “what” people do.
Observing behavior can be done with very little interaction or
commitment. There’s a sense of safety and self-protection served by not
getting into the mix with someone. You don’t need to be involved to
merely observe. You get to avoid uncertainties and emotions, and you
don’t have to expose yourself either.
On closer inspection this means that the image you want to portray is
interacting with the image that they want to portray, and neither of you
is really present. It’s a blind “Punch and Judy” puppet show, which
isn’t the most effective way to communicate.
If it works at all, it’s pretty much by accident. Nevertheless, like a
bad habit, we continue to do this detached observation, to avoid the
potential discomfort of being exposed or having to deal with another
person’s issues. Somehow we convince ourselves that we’re getting better
results than we actually are.
Aside from the lack of real information this process produces, a form of
conflict gets built-in to the interaction. This conflict is the battle
of perspectives masquerading as empirical truths.
"What We See" on
the Outside Doesn't Equal
"Why We Do It" from the Inside
Some things work both directions and some don’t. Our behavior is driven
by our motivations, but our motivations are not driven by our actions.
The motivations come first, and behavior follows. The order of events is
very important when we look at a process.
Let’s look at each event in the order they take place to better
understand our process. First, we take in the world around us through
our perspectives, or to put it in colloquial terms, “where we’re at.”
Those perspectives are directly linked to our motivations and our focus
of attention. Our perspectives, motivations, and focus of attention
define who we are, and that’s what steers our behavior.
This means we could do the same things given different motivations as
easily as we could do different things given the same motivation. This
is really important, so it bears repeating: we could do the same things
given different motivations as easily as we could do different
things given the same motivation. So our behaviors can’t define who we
are; they’re just too many steps removed from the “why.”
Motivation, perspective, and focus of attention are what define who you
are. If all I work with is observing what you do, I can’t possibly
understand you, because I don’t know “why?” If I can’t understand you,
how can I expect to interact or work with you effectively.
What people do actually only tells you about their survival strategies;
by definition their most defended positions. These are learned
strategies that are more about circumstances, and have nothing to do
with who the person really is. Trying to work with that defended
behavior is basically communication’s version of storming the walls; not
the most effective approach.
Unfortunately it’s an extremely common approach. So many people are
looking for better ways to storm the walls; more effective weapons,
better armor, and so on.
“How can I get them to do what I want?” is almost a catch-phrase in
management. The short answer of course is that you can’t “get” them to
do what you want. At least you can’t do it in any kind of sustainable
way. Being whipped, cajoled, or manipulated into action usually results
in most of the person’s energy being expended toward escaping to
You can, however work with people to a common goal. By understanding
their motivations, you can join with them on their side of the wall
without conflict. You can present the goal to them in a way that appeals
to their motivations, rather than just your own. Truly understanding
your own motivations is necessary as well. You need to be able to
recognize them and see where they might be getting in
Understanding Over Frustration
Trying to predict future behavior based on observing past behavior is at
best a gamble. Even if you occasionally guess correctly, you still don’t
understand what makes that person tick, which puts you in a position of
judgment, frustration, and confusion.
You can’t understand motivation through observed behavior. You can
however understand behavior when you know the motivation. Understanding
the behavior beats observing it without understanding any day. That
understanding gives you something real to work with. That understanding
puts you on the same team with the other person, rather than at odds
with them. Which do you think will be
Quick Communication Tip
"If That Were Me"
One of the
most insidious phrases in our lives consists of those four little words.
That phrase opens the door to a world of inaccurate assumptions
and projections. When we try to extrapolate why someone is saying or
doing what they're saying or doing from "why we would," we're doing
everyone a great disservice. First of all, the odds that the other
person shares your perspectives, life experiences, parental upbringing,
and even biology are pretty small. Since all of those things are why you
would say or do that, what are the odds that the other person is saying
or doing it for the same reasons you would?
So the next time you hear those four words at the beginning of a
projected explanation for someone else's behavior, catch yourself and
stop. Remind yourself that you have absolutely no idea why they are
saying that or doing that unless you ask them. Then if you can, ask
them. If you can't ask them why, at least give them the benefit of the
doubt, because you really don't know, and pretending to have an answer
is just a placeholder that blocks real information.
Want to learn more about how your communication can hold you back or
catapult you forward? Come visit the
or better yet,
contact me and see how we can design a program to fit your needs and desired outcomes.
- the podcast series
KG Stiles: "Conversations that Enlighten and Heal"
Ian Blei on Kind Ambition and the
Personal Life Media -
"Coaching the Life Coach:"
Communication Excellence (full interview)
for Evolutionary Radio w/ J. McClain
2nd Edition now available
visit the Blog.
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