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
is Not Reality
There's an old expression that masters of illusion love to
use: "perception is reality." Actually, in the cold light of day we find
that perception is not reality. Perception is what we react to, as if it
was reality. Perception is a kind of story, made up of filtered
memories, projections, assumptions, and most importantly interpretations
of stimuli. We can perceive what is not present, or not perceive what is
present. We see what we expect to see, don't see what is "off our
radar," and emphasize or minimize in accordance with our beliefs and
upbringing. What causes trouble is simply that perception gets promoted
to "Truth," and we fall into the trap of defending it as such.
It's almost too cliché to bring up the familiar car accident witnessed
by five people, each of whom sees a different accident, except that this
example works so well to illustrate the concept. Witness statements are
always vulnerable to cross-examination because our ability to perceive
is not objective, as if through a camera lens. The interpretive aspect
of our perceptions makes them very subjective. Where your grandmother
might perceive you driving too fast, you might perceive her as driving
too slowly. In addition, we can only perceive a piece of any situation,
so we tend to fill in the blanks with assumptions, and then again,
promote the whole story to a truth. Somebody swerves, and we think
they're driving badly. Especially when we didn't see the puppy run into
the road in front of them. Something is not invalidated just because
it's outside of our perception. And yet, when we rise to defend this
"truth," it doesn't occur to us that we're actually defending an
One of the most influential aspects of our perception is our
perspective. This is the place from where we’re perceiving; both in
physical space, and our internal filters. So the result is almost
entirely an interpretation. Depending on where you sit, you’ll see some
things that somebody else might not, and vice versa. Knowing that we can
change our perspective, it follows that the perception will change along
with it. Thus, perception is far from a fixed truth; perceptions are
constantly in change and flux.
A Moving Target
Along with perceiving visual information, perception enters our
communication on a regular basis. We are after all conveying our
interpretation of events, feelings, or thoughts. The words we choose,
the imagery we choose, and certainly the metaphors that make sense to
us, are all dependent on our perception, which is in turn dependent on
our changing perspectives.
Were we infallible recording devices, we'd have far fewer arguments, but
we're not. We remember what we think we heard, and think we saw. There's
also a little bit of a "Fudge Factor" in how we fill in blanks and gaps,
as our memories tamper with objective truth. The other person's words
can create a story more in-line with our own interpretations, changing
all-important context and without checking in, we assume we understand
what they meant.
A great example of this would be where someone's perspective is rooted
in a lack of faith in themselves or others. This perspective tends to
have an expectation of being disappointed or rejected. When that
expectation is in place, the listener tends to hear rejection where
there is none. The speaker having no idea that this is happening finds
the listener's upset reaction to be illogical or irrational, and either
dismisses it, or argues; either way fanning flames that are not helping
clarify the communication.
Another common example is where we project our own negative feelings
about ourselves on the other person, thinking or feeling that they have
this negative opinion about us. That shapes how we hear what they are
saying, and certainly not in an accurate way. We make their words fit
our interpretation; twisting, omitting or adding entire phrases to
change the intended meaning, and make us "right."
You've probably heard jokes about the exchange that goes, "you look
really great today." "So what you're really saying is I look terrible
the rest of the time?!" Unfortunately this is all too common. The
receiver's self doubts obliterate the intended compliment.
All of these situations generally
escalate rapidly and get so out of proportion that it's difficult to
rein them in. I've seen business relationships disintegrate and people
stop speaking to one another when the initial flare-up was completely
avoidable. The solution is once again that extra time and care that goes
into Conscious Communication.
When we truly know ourselves, we can see where our triggers are. Being
told what to do, criticism, self-esteem issues, or any of a number of
factors become filters when we're listening to someone. When we're aware
of those filters, we can remember the effect they have on us, and catch
ourselves before we react.
That's where the rubber meets the road. Stopping ourselves when we
recognize our filters interpreting someone's words is very powerful in
communication. This combined with the always important "check-in" can
short-circuit the bomb before the timer even starts ticking. Once we're
aware of our own context filters, it's easier to understand others
reacting to our words as well.
Quick Communication Tip
Own Your Perception
Arguments have their value. By presenting
different points of view, more overall light is shed on a topic, and
both parties get a more complete picture.
Useless arguments ensue when people demand that another person abandons
their own perspective to take on that of the other person. This is
usually in the form of defending “truths” that are actually perceptions.
By promoting a perception to a “truth,” we invalidate the other person’s
perception, causing a reaction and a desire to defend.
The simple solution is to own your perception as a perception. This
doesn’t make it less valid. It leaves room for the other person’s
perception to be concurrent, and not invalidated. Merely by starting
your sentence, “it seems to me” or “I feel like” or “I think,” or even
“what if” we make enough room for multiple perspectives, which in fact
gets us much closer to truth.
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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