(Continued from Part 2.)
There are three steps I like to take with my own process of communication to skirt the pitfalls of a force-based communicational style.
- I own my communication.
- I state the status of my knowledge.
- I identify the principle upon which I base the communication.
Owning My Communication
So often I state something as factual which is not factual. I imply that “This is the way things are” when what I really mean is that “This is the say I see things.”
The difference between the two is that, if my communicational partner accepts the first kind of statement, they’ve implicitly accepted a viewpoint as a fact. And that can grate and cause discomfort.
So the first thing I need to do is to put myself in the picture by owning the statements I make. I need to remove the statement from the realm of the absolute (“This is the way it is”) and re-anchor it in the relative (“This is the way I see it”). I need to show that I’m aware that I’m seeing the matter from this vantage point, that it may show up differently when seen from another vantage point.
To do that, I say:“I see the matter this way,” “according to my point of view,” “in my opinion,” etc.
I need to insert myself into my communications, own them, and identify myself as the source of my own authority for saying what I do.
Stating the Status of My Knowledge
A second matter is related. It also takes communication out of the realm of the absolute and re-anchors it in the relative and that is to state the status of my knowledge.
Am I in touch with God and know what I say as an absolute truth, given to me by God, who is standing right there in front of me (can’t you see her?) and telling me what’s so? Probably not.
If this isn’t the case, how do I know what I say I know? Well, usually I don’t and I make that plainer by saying what the exact status of my statement is.
I heard this. I intuited that. I feel this. I believe that. I don’t know. I just have a hunch about this other thing. I’d be very surprised if this other matter were not true, but I don’t know for sure.
Most fights begin with “How do you know that?” People I listen to don’t like to hear statements made as absolute fact when they have a huge suspicion that they’re no such thing.
For me, then, it’s necessary give the status of my knowledge: I think, I feel, I hear, I sense, I know.
If I did not accurately state the status of my knowledge in the refugee hearing room (which was always taped for the record) and in my decisions, if I put out as fact what was really conjecture on my part, that could be grounds for the Federal Court overturning my decision on appeal.
When I had my vision experience in 1987, I was left saying “the purpose of life is enlightenment.” I was also left knowing for sure that there was only one thing I knew at that moment and that that statement (“the purpose of life is enlightenment”) was the one and only thing I knew. But I knew I knew. But just that one thing.
All the rest was beliefs, conjectures, hunches, guesses, intuitions – all the rest! That was very humbling for me to see.
In my view, most communicational fights start with the statement “How do you know?” Someone has stated something as if it were factual and the other person does not accept the statement as factual.
They now want to know the status of the other person’s knowledge. We can reduce the number of fights we get into by stating the status of our knowledge at the outset.
Stating the Principle We Agree on
Agreeing on a principle that forms the basis or foundation of our conversation provides a sounder and stronger foundation for a successful communication than basing it on personalities. Basing it on the latter invites criticism and blame. It’s no longer a case of someone being greedy or uncaring. It’s a case of whether a demand or a statement is generous or compassionate. The focus and any conclusions or decisions reaches as a result of it are taken off the personal and onto the principle or divine quality.
Some people may say, well, in the first point you said to personalize the conversation and now you’re saying to depersonalize it. What gives?
I as the speaker own my communications but, when you and I disagree, we resolve our differences based on principle, not personalities. I give you the benefit of knowing where I stand but you respect my person by not opposing what I say on the ground of how you perceive my personality, but on how you perceive the principles that govern our negotiations.
Put another way, I’m honest about what I’m putting out, but, when you disagree with what I put out, you don’t make an ad hominem or personal attack; you direct your opposition to a principle which what I’m saying does not seem to accord with.
The conversation now is no longer person-based but principle-based. I find this brings the temperature down and focuses attention on a matter that we all have an inner sense of: a principle or divine quality.
If someone wanted me to point to a person who communicates in this way, I might offer Marianne Williamson or Jill Bolte-Taylor. Let me post Jill’s “Stroke of Insight” here to illustrate a masterful communicator.
(Concluded in Part 4.)