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Clipping the Wire to
the PLAY Button

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

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Quick Communication Tip

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Clipping the Wire to the PLAY Button
(click for podcast)


It often seems that certain people or situations really trigger us. Then we either we have a knee-jerk reaction, or we stop in our tracks, trying not to have a reaction at all. This is like "not thinking about a pink elephant," and we know how well that works.

The only way to really separate the trigger from the reaction is clipping the wire, or re-wiring the triggers themselves. This is totally within our abilities, and with a little practice, we can get quite good at it. The process is all about using language more consciously. So, let's look at how words and language affect triggers or become triggers in themselves, and what we can do to minimize conflict and maximize effective communication.

Low Hanging Fruit
Some verbal triggers are pretty obvious and common to the general public. Starting with these will make the process clear. For the most part, people are pretty focused on themselves (I hope I'm not shocking anyone here) and regardless of how it seems, a great deal of what we take personally is absolutely not about us. You see, we as a people tend toward projection (again, I hope this isn’t a surprise.) Rather than stepping outside the comfort zone of our own minds to check in with another person on their experience, we simply make up a passable form of reality to plug into place. So what can we do?

Whenever someone accuses you of something (their words dripping with judgment) you can pretty much be assured that they’re telling you exactly what they can’t stand about themselves. This is an extension of the old “if that were me” projection.

For example, someone says, “you can’t make it as an artist!” Rather than reacting to whether or not you feel you can, or you want their support, or any of the other roads you could go down, the most likely meaning of their statement was: “I don’t think I could make it as an artist.” Their motivation for trying to dissuade you is a whole other conversation. What you need to do is remember to not take it personally, and listen to their “confession of anxiety” in their accusation or judgment.

When you recognize that they’re indeed confessing their own anxieties, it’s much easier to feel compassion toward them, rather than be triggered into defenses or arguments.

The Other Side - Their Triggers
As communication is very much a two-way street, there are also things that you may say that can trigger the other person. This is a far more difficult situation to avoid (unless you know them and their triggers well). You can have the most innocent of intentions, and it’s almost shocking when they blow up at you, or withdraw and disappear.

Again, let’s look at an example. Let’s say you’re trying to connect with someone, and you share a common ailment or issue with them, with the intention that this commonality will bring you closer together. If the other person has not reconciled or come to terms with this issue, your intention could be completely lost on them, and all they hear is you pointing out the very thing they’re miserable about.

This pushes their trigger, and they go reactive. There’s not a lot you can do here, except to apologize for pushing their button, and probably back off. Trying to “correct their perception” will rarely work in the moment, because they’re too consumed with their own reaction. They’ll put the motivation born of their own reaction on you, and close their ears. The play button has been pushed on their internal CD player, and there’s no room for input.

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.

Linguistic Triggers
There are also very specific triggers that are primarily semantic in nature, and these can be dealt with using conscious communication. As our view of the world shapes the words, images, and metaphors of our language, you can reverse engineer from the words back to a person’s perspective.

If someone sees the world in very qualitative ways, with many possibilities and contingencies, speaking in absolutistic terms can trigger them into reactive behavior. The opposite is of course just as true, and an absolutistic person is very triggered by qualifying language. “It is or it isn’t!!” “Give me a yes or a no answer!”

Being able to recognize the linguistic cues that people give you, so that you can match them in their communication style gives you the ability to create much faster rapport with them. Being able to create rapport may be the single most important skillset you can develop for your business and personal relationships.

The reason people buy from you, listen to you, hire you, or want to date you, is how easily they feel they can connect with you, and most importantly of all, how much they feel that you “get them” and their experience. We all want to be heard or seen, and when you can give someone that, you’re immediately on their team.


Quick Communication Tip

Prepping the Surface

When painting, the more we prep the surface, the better our finished product will be. This takes a little extra time in the beginning, but serves us well in to the future with more long-lasting and better looking results.

In de-fusing a situation that is headed into a defensive, non-productive area, questions can feel less attacking than statements. These questions must be more designed to prep the surface than to probe it. Probing can be interpreted as attacking as well, so we need to be cautious here. Asking “what the heck is wrong with you?” is not likely to disperse a forming conflict. Asking “is something bothering you?” is much more likely to place you on the same side as the other person, building rapport and “team” dynamics.

When you perceive an attack, ask the other person for clarification in the most innocuous and genuinely interested manner. You might find out that there is no attack. You might get clarification on why they feel the need to attack you. Either way, you learn more about what’d in their hand than they learn about yours. That’s how you play to win.

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
Institute for Integral Enneagram Studies and
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