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Early Reflections
and Feedback Loops

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

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Early Reflections and Feedback Loops
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Early reflections and feedback loops are a noise problem in recording that can be a nightmare for recording engineers. Interestingly enough, they’re a pretty accurate metaphor for the noise in our heads. Sound bounces off of different surfaces at different rates, with different amounts of absorption or reflection. Sometimes things resonate harmonically with objects, and the sound waves get multiplied out of control; just like in our heads.

We actually embody several voices; some in direct conflict, and some out of sync with one another. Our life experience and upbringing, influence the relative strength or volume of any one of these voices. We’re rarely aware of them as separate from one another; and unless we consciously clarify and distinguish them, we just hear the noise. When we communicate with someone else, our voices combine with theirs, and it gets even more complicated.

In fact each of these voices represent certain perspectives that need to be balanced and integrated to make sense. The unconscious interplay is a mess of reflections and cascading feedback loops; and we cope with the noise more than we see resources to draw on. However, if we approach this with a conscious process, we can solve multiple issues with a single solution: an Integral solution.

Voices and Dandelions
Whenever a single solution goes to the core of an issue, and solves multiple issues, it’s just elegantly efficient. A great way to look at this is another metaphor: dandelions. Yes, I’ve been wearing this metaphor out for years, but it’s really accurate, and it ain’t broke, so why fix it? We can run around attacking each dandelion as it appears, and spend our lives chasing them, or pull the roots, and they go away altogether. That’s an Integral solution.

Going to the core or root of an issue usually means reverse engineering to where that issue begins. So if we look at the issue of our interactions with one another it begins with language. We relate to one another (and ourselves) primarily through language (both interpersonal and internal). So language is our root to reverse engineer.

It Starts in Your Head
What we’re usually unaware of, is how we talk to ourselves, and how that directly impacts how we talk with one another. Visualize a pebble thrown into a pond (the words in your head) with ripples going outward (your words going outward). If I drive myself to excellence, and get really mad at myself when I make a mistake, doesn’t it follow that there’s a good chance I do that to others? Holding ourselves to rigid standards has some nasty side-effects when we’re not consciously aware of how it sounds in our own heads.

Try some of the pattern interruption from [last month’s issue] the previous chapter. Catch yourself when you’re about to rip into yourself, and re-frame your language as if you were talking to a small child. Feel the difference inside you. Let yourself have that compassion; it’s contagious.

Bad Mirror!  Bad, Bad Mirror!
Have you ever heard the expression, “exactly what attracts you to someone will end up driving you crazy?” When we have a perspective living within us that we haven’t entirely come to understand or integrate, we’re both attracted to it and repelled by it as it shows up in others. Again, this is usually under our radar, so we mostly just get a “feeling” we don’t like. When these voices and perspectives aren’t identified and recognized for who they are, they’re nebulous and vague. We don’t know why we feel this way, or what’s really bothering us, we just react.

When we do know where these voices or perspectives are coming from, we can un-hook ourselves from merely reacting. We can see that there’s a part of our self that we’re afraid is flaky, and it looks just like that part of our friend who’s fun and spontaneous. We hear the critical voice in our head that we can’t stand, when a friend embodies a rigidly uncompromising point of view. We hear our own anxiety when someone expresses worry. We cringe over someone else’s competitiveness, when maybe it just hit too close to home.

Unhooking Yourself
So what can you do to un-hook yourself from reacting to reflections, give your relationships a boost, and meet others in their experience with such depth and clarity that they feel totally “heard?” It’s pretty simple, but not always easy.

First you need to know your own voices and perspectives, so you can recognize when you’re seeing reflections of them. Then you need to use what is called the “Empty Cup” from an old Zen story. If you aren’t familiar with this story, I’ll do my best not to butcher it while greatly abbreviating.

A student brimming with all he’d learned was visiting his master for tea, and was insisting that he was ready to be a master himself. He wanted the rest of the knowledge he needed right then and there. The master was filling the student’s teacup until it was overflowing, and the student cried out for him to stop as no more would fit. The master pointed out that the student was also too full for anything more to fit, and suggested returning another time with an empty cup.

Our own voices, perspectives, assumptions, presumptions, and projections are the “tea” filling our tea cup. The person you’re communicating with has their cup full of their own “tea” as well. When you know your own tea, as you approach an interaction, you can empty your cup first, allowing room for their tea. Without all the voices, reflections, and feedback loops, communication is much quieter and more defined. Confusion is replaced with clarity.


Quick Communication Tip

Triple Bottom Line of Communication
When we’re addressing a single person, we can assess their core perspective by listening to their language choices and the organization of their arguments. There will be a central theme of identity, rightness, or safety, that shapes and organizes their thoughts and feelings and they will express this. When we’re really listening, we can pick up on this, and organize our “argument” in their form of organizing. This is very similar to speaking the language of another people when visiting their land.

Addressing a group is in some ways trickier, and in some ways simpler. We don’t have the advantage of listening to them express their perspectives, but we can be pretty sure that there will be a mixture of all three types represented. This means developing a way of expressing what we want to convey with a kind of triple bottom line approach. When we talk about the new program being introduced, we need to address how it will affect people from their perspective of identity and social position, as well as safety, security, and not creating anxiety. Furthermore, we need to show how it is the “right thing to do,” from a perspective of ethics. When we cover all three processing centers in our approach, we’re more likely to reach everyone.

Want to learn more about how your communication can hold you back or catapult you forward?  Come visit the web site, or better yet, contact me and see how we can design a program to fit your needs and desired outcomes.


Resource Links:

Conscious Communication - the podcast series

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

Personal Life Media - "Coaching the Life Coach:"
Communication Excellence (Podcast Snippets)
Communication Excellence (full interview)

Interview Podcast for Evolutionary Radio w/ J. McClain

Kind Ambition -
2nd Edition now available

Got Blog? c
ome visit the Blog.

Character Driven - Ever want to create characters that were so believable, that people forgot they were characters?



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The Optimizer
Ian Blei,
Director of the
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