Conscious Communication in times of uncertainty

Be it with ourselves, with one another at work or in our own private lives, being conscious of how we communicate is key to our own wellbeing and it leads to more genuine relationships by understanding each other better.
June 29, 2021

Be it with ourselves, with one another at work or in our own private lives, being conscious of how we communicate is key to our own wellbeing and it leads to more genuine relationships by understanding each other better. 

Emotional wellbeing is one of the fundamental pillars of health. It's just as important as nutrition, restful sleep, mindful movement and living in harmony with our natural rhythms. 

Much of the emotional turbulence we experience today comes from the way we communicate, especially in times of uncertainty.

If we're not comfortable with conflict, we may shy away from speaking our truth, and by doing so we push our feelings and needs down. Suppressing them may lead to resentment, rumination about what we should have said instead.

On the other hand, if we are comfortable with expressing our needs and how we feel, we might just do it bluntly, without considering who is on the other side and what our message might be doing to them.

As you can see, whether communication might be the just the transmission of a message, how we do it can be affected by several aspects: our emotional state, the medium used to communicate, cultural aspects, how comfortable we are with dealing with conflict, our awareness and knowledge of the person or group we are communicating with. 

Conscious means operating from a place of awareness; not only of the message we intend to transmit, but also of the language we use. 

How can we ensure we act from our compassionate nature in the event of an emotional upset?

Dr Marshall Rosenberg has done extensive work in the field of Non Violent Communication (NVC), which has been widely used in Peace Processes all over the world. 

His book, with the same name, starts by posing the question: 

"Believing that it's our nature to enjoy giving and receiving in a compassionate manner, what happens that disconnects us from our compassionate nature that leads us to behave violently, in unbecoming ways?" 

And then continues by asking "what allows some people to stay connected to their compassionate nature, even under the most trying of circumstances?"

In other words, how can we move from merely reacting to responding with awareness?

How can we communicate as authentically as we can in the event of an emotional upset?

In the event of an emotional upset, it is important to gain clarity about how we feel, identify what we need, and take responsibility for communicating our feelings and needs to another person. Here's a powerful practice based on his work:

  1. Observe and recap. What happened? As objectively as we can, as if we were detectives stating facts. This tool slows the pace of conversation, and helps us reflect and clarify.
  2. Describe emotions. What am I feeling? In this description, favor words that describe core emotions (link) rather than words that reinforce a sense of blame or victimization (link).
  3. Identify your needs. What do I need that I am not receiving? Get clarity of what you need. The core emotions we experience when we are upset are connected to an unmet need, so consider the 4 fundamental needs: affection, attention, acceptance and appreciation.
  4. Make a request. What am I asking for? Identify the concrete action or specific behavior that would fulfill your needs and make your request, surrendering to the possibility of not receiving what you're asking for. A request is not a demand, but by using this approach, you will increase the likelihood that you will feel less emotional distress.

Bonus question: What is the gift of this situation? Regardless of the outcome, remember to look at the experience and consider what you've learned from engaging in the communication from a consciousness approach.

The more directly and consciously we communicate, the more likely we'll get our needs met and enjoy healthy, fulfilling relationships with others. Learning how to communicate with awareness and compassion will help us reduce stress and increase our emotional wellbeing. 

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