Getting Derailed Communication Back on Track, part II
Conscious Communication: bringing communication up from "auto-pilot" and reactive, to thoughtful, responsive, and above all, intentional.
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Getting Derailed Communication Back On Track, part II
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Adventures in the Third Dimension
In Getting Derailed Communication Back On Track, part I we introduced two different areas where our perspectives split off in different directions. First there are the Translational differences, which are described by our “flat” model of people sitting in a circle. We’re each seeing a different view based on where we’re sitting, which is a metaphor or model of our individual processing centers or lenses.
Remember, these processing centers - how we take in and organize information - shape our translation of the world around us. Do I translate something as it affects who I am in the world? Do I see it as affecting safety? Do I translate it through how I think things should be? Those perspectives are part of a “flat” model, because everyone is at the same general level of consciousness development.
Also mentioned in part I, we find that while sitting in that circle facing each other, it would seem silly to assert one perspective as being “right,” making others be “wrong.” This realization is the first step to a higher stage of consciousness. Now we can see that we may not have the “whole truth” individually, but that we have a more accurate perspective and a more complete picture together. This higher level of consciousness is a Transformational perspective, rather than a Translational one. All the different lenses translate differently once again from this new level or altitude. Just what we needed: more complexity, right?
To make this model more immediately useful, we can simplify this three-dimensional part a bit. If we look at even two major levels of altitude, you’ll get a clear picture of how Transformational perspectives affect how we understand the world around us, including each other. As our consciousness evolves or develops, it steps beyond the basics of survival and self-preservation. Survival in its most basic form is a “you or me” proposition. We’ll call this level Tier I Consciousness, which is a somewhat primitive and limited approach. The assumption is one of scarcity (not enough for both of us) and black-and-white thinking (no room for nuance). It’s a normal stage of development in children, often called the “I, me, mine” way of seeing things, and hopefully we grow beyond it as adults.
As we develop, our consciousness can understand that “we and us” is a superior approach to survival, as having each others’ backs is even safer than being alone. This is called Tier II Consciousness, and it’s what prompts us to form our communities, our tribes, and our societies. If we all developed in the same way, we’d start out having everyone orbiting around us (us being children with needs) and then when we turn thirteen or fourteen years old, we’d automatically step from the center of our universe to become a contributing member of our tribe. Unfortunately, stress and unconscious reactive living push our consciousness down into the “I, me, mine” level. We may regress and come from that perspective as adults.
Knowledge Isn't Power Unless You Use It
This altitude difference is a huge area of potential communication breakdown and conflict, so understanding it (thus not being pushed around by it) puts a lot of power back in your hands. Let’s look at this Transformational perspective shift in a way that will improve interactions and communication.
Moving beyond the mere Translational perspective, we understand that we don’t have the one True perspective, and the other person isn’t necessarily wrong. We want to learn where the other person is coming from, and understand the issue from their Translation. However, when the motivation of a person at one altitude meets the motivation of a person at a different altitude, the breakdown can be more confusing than Translation, because we can use the same language with completely different intentions. Even the expression “having each others’ backs” has a different meaning at each level. In Tier I, it is about what you do for me, or I do for you. In Tier II, it’s about what we do for us.
This is where any interaction, between a couple, a boss and subordinate, or even peers can go off track in a hurry. For example, when Joe is convinced that he must do what he must do to survive, he takes actions that may utterly ignore his relationship. When his wife sees the same circumstances through a Transformational Stage that prioritizes the “We” over the “Me,” Joe’s actions are a slap in the face, or a complete betrayal of their relationship. Meanwhile, Joe doesn’t see this at all, as his Transformational Stage doesn’t include “We” in its survival picture. Even trying to “talk it over” doesn’t work, because their definitions of “how to survive” are on different altitudes of consciousness. For him it’s about what does he need to do for her. For her, it’s not about doing the dishes; it’s about contributing to the relationship – the “us.”
A great example of these different altitudes showing up in language use would be two different approaches to facing a challenge. In Tier I, the language might be, “I will fight for you” (or even with you). We’re separated: I’m here and you’re there. Furthermore, fighting is seen as how to meet a challenge. This is that black-or-white, simplistic and scarcity-centered approach. In Tier II, the language might be, “together we can build something.” There’s an underlying assumption of “Us together” having a better chance of facing a challenge than either one of us alone. Furthermore, building is usually a sign of a higher level of consciousness than fighting.
Being able to recognize when someone is coming from Tier I or Tier II is incredibly helpful when getting communication back on track. If you can see how sitting around that circle by the beach describing our perspectives becomes a whole other proposition when some of us are on the beach and some of us are at 15,000 feet, you’re on the right track. This is not about being judgmental or superior, but understanding that since it’s about development, it’s a one-way street. When you’re at Tier II consciousness, you can understand Tier I, because you’ve been there. It will be very different for someone at Tier I consciousness to make any sense out of Tier II. It’s just “crazy” to them because it’s so far outside of their reality. It’s a similar phenomenon to the story of Native Americans not seeing the European ships on the horizon. When something is far outside of our reality, we can’t see it.
When you recognize someone’s perspective being not only from a different angle of the circle, but at a different altitude as well, you can make the necessary adjustments to your own communication. You can meet them on their level, as well as from their processing center. It can be very painful or frustrating reaching up or down levels of consciousness, and this in itself is common enough to have been explored by everyone from Star Trek’s Gene Roddenberry (Errand of Mercy) to Ken Wilber calling the conflict “rug burns” (On Fixing Others Video).
It is our task to meet each other where we can, rather than railing against people being where they are. Using Conscious Communication in this way, we can reduce the conflict, and increase understanding.
Triple Bottom Line of Communication
A very simple, yet powerful approach to better interaction with everyone (including ourselves) is what I call the “Law of Allowance.” All it says is: Allow whoever to be who they are. Just allow it. Everything else will flow differently from that point. When we stop trying to make people be different, they stop defending and resisting. When they stop defending and resisting we can have open dialogues. When we have open dialogues, we can address the behaviors or issues that we wanted to be different in the first place.
Most people skip a step, and assume that the only way to get someone to stop or start doing something differently is to change them. This is an enormous assumption, and almost always wrong. When what we really want to change is a behavior or issue, we must address that directly. Stepping away from judgment, ego, and everything irrelevant to the issue at hand is incredibly freeing, and gives us the space to talk about the thing bothering us, rather than sticking the other person with it as a part of their being. This one shift in our communication can change every relationship we have.
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.
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