CONSCIOUS COMMUNICATION 

 

PLAN Council Alberta sees developing skills of communication as essential to the success of what we are creating in this province. To be successful in this transition, from where we are to where we want to be, we need to evolve the art of communication with each other.

The following intentional communication techniques are from Jack Reed author The Next Evolution and are shared here to help anyone wishing to develop their skills of communication and listening.

Development of Communication Skills  

We believe and have been taught that development of communication skills is a combination of consciously using ownership language and an equal dedication to effective listening. In our experience, the verbal communication techniques of “ownership language” are A) language that clearly labels your communication source and B) “effective listening” that combines asking quality questions with reflecting back what a person thinks they heard to confirm accuracy. As a path to more effectively developing our communication skills as a group, we advocate and practice combining these two skills in communication with each other (and the world) while consciously enrolling one another to remind us when we forget either of them.

Ownership Language: Labeling Our Communication 

 

If the desire is to be understood, we’ve found it extremely helpful for people to know where a person is coming from when communicating information. We believe intentional communication comes from both a loving attitude and choosing the appropriate words that ride on that attitude. One way to assist with communication that is more clear and authentic is through “ownership language,” or language that identifies the source of the information that is being shared. Often we tend to say something like, “This… is the way it is” when we may not really have that information. The following set of examples are provided to show how to improve communication skill simply by consciously practicing being clear on where the communication originated from:

  • “I think…”
  • “I read this in…”
  • “In my opinion…”
  • “My experience is…”
  • “This was someone else’s experience…”
  • “The information I have been taught on this subject is…”
  • “This is what I’ve been told, but it isn’t necessarily my experience…”
HEALTHY COMMUNICATION SKILLS AND CREATING SAFETY

Each of us can also take responsibility for creating a safe space to communicate. Even if we absolutely believe we are right, blaming or telling another person they are wrong usually creates mistrust and an unsafe atmosphere, undermining the communication process. Here are some examples of ways to help build a feeling of safety in communication by demonstrating ownership and understanding of how subjective your perspective is AND the subjective perspective about you that may be occurring in a conversation as well:

  • “May I check this out for you?”
  • “This is a guess and it may be wrong…”
  • “The way I feel about that is…and I may not be seeing it accurately.”
  • “I’m aware that I…” (This is an excellent tool for toning emotional energy.)
  • “I think (or my opinion is)… and this may not be true.”
  • “What I’m suggesting is…”
  • “Up until now….”

If you think you may be in disagreement with someone, remember that communication can be very inexact. One approach for how to improve communication in these circumstances would be to seek deeper understanding. Here are some examples of language that would do this:

  • “I’m confused. Could you please clarify your point of view?”
  • “Yes, I hear what you’re saying about… What I feel is true for me is…”
  • “I hear you saying… My experience is different from yours, it’s…”

And, if you’re really not in a good place to talk, take ownership for that too and make time later:

  • “This is not a good time for me to talk about this.”

 

 

ACTIVE LISTENING

Active listening skills in communication are arguably a foundation of every effective communication strategy.  There are two reasons for this A) Drawing out information so that you as a communicator are not assuming things and B) expressing genuine interest. To help facilitate effective communication try these processes:

1. Use “minimal” encouragers (short phrases that stimulate more conversation)

  • “I’d like to be sure I understand you; would you say a bit more about that?”
  • “Can you give me an example of what you mean?”
  • “Could you expand on that?”
  • “I can see that”
  • “I understand.”
  • “Uh, huh.”

2. Ask open-ended questions (questions that do not have a yes, no’ or one word answer) versus closed questions

  • “Were you angry?” (Closed) vs. “How did you feel when that happened?” (Open)
  • “Do you think they just didn’t care?” (Closed) vs. “What do you think brought that about?” (Open)
  • “What are the important considerations to keep in mind?” (Open)
Reflective Listening and Perception Checking

Equally as important as active listening skills of communication are the reflective listening skills and perception checking in communication. The purpose of reflective listening skills and perception checking are to:

  • Acknowledge the person’s experience and/or feelings about what they are communicating
  • To demonstrate understanding of the person’s feelings about what they are communicating
  • And to “reflect back” to the speaker your deeper level of understanding of their message
  • When appropriate, create a “verbal contract of agreements” or summary of action steps

Here is the reflective listening process:

1. Restate what you have heard the speaker say and check any feeling level that you perceive

  • “It seems to me that you are feeling……….Is that accurate?”
  • “I’m seeing a lot of enthusiasm in your description of your new project. Is this something you’re excited about?”
2. Listen to how the person says what they say as well as what they say.

Here is the perception checking process:

1. Paraphrase or summarize your understanding of the speaker’s message.

  • “I heard you say this and that, Is that accurate?”
  • “If I’m understanding you correctly, you mean this? Does that fit?”
  • “Do you mean….?”
  • “So you’d like me to ____ by ____, and set up a time to meet after that?”

Note: Do not try to be a mind-reader:

  • “I heard you say this and that and that means such and such.”
  • “It seems to me what’s going on for you is…..”