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This is one of the Web articles comprising
in this self-improvement Web site. Based on my 40 years' study of effective
interpersonal communication, it offers brief answers to common questions about
communicating, and provides links to more information.
This brief YouTube video provides perspective on what you'll find in this
My practical guidebook Satisfactions
(Xlibris.com, 2010, 2nd ed.) integrates the key Lesson-2 Web articles
and resources in this nonprofit Web site, and provides many useful
Before continuing, stop and reflect - why are you reading this -
what do you
Adults growing effective thinking and communication
together is a vital requisite for
families and relationships. Average adults and all kids lack these
skills, and endure significant frustrations and conflicts as
a result. These Q&A items assume you're
Lesson-1 concepts about personality subselves.Links below lead to brief answers on this page or other articles.
scan all these questions before following any links, to get a sense of
their scope Pause and notice what you think and feel after you've
scanned. Option: try answering each question out loud before
reading the answer here. Option: to raise your interest, try this
quiz on basic communication knowledge,
and return here.
Questions you should ask about effective communication
1) Is there an overview of communication basics
in this Web site? Yes
& Q8) What is "interpersonal communication,"
and Is it possible to
communicate with someone? Communication between people occurs when any perceived behavior or lack of
behavior in one person causes an emotional,
physical, mental, or spiritual change in another person. Because silence
("no response") is often assumed to mean something,
there is no such thing as "We
can't communicate" or "S/He didn't answer me."
What is "innerpersonal communication?" It
is the thought streams, images,
memories, hunches, intuitions, "senses," day and night dreams, fantasies,
physical and emotional feelings, and knowings that kids and adults
have all the time. These can be seen as communications among the different
subselves comprising our
body, and our spirit
or soul. Normal people (like you) have inner conversations
among their subselves all the time!
Q4)Why do we
communicate?Adults, kids, and infants try to fill two or more
of these needs by communicating:
To feel respectedby
ourselves and our
partners now and over time (a
constant); and to...
Give or get information(so we
can understand and make informed choices), and/or
we need to...
Cause change (and feel impactful, vs.
powerless) and/or to...
Vent - i.e. to feel
empathically understood and accepted) and/or we need to...
(avoid boredom and numbness); and/or to....
Avoid discomfort, like
a social silence, conflict, or a painful awareness.
Typically, people are unaware of their (and
others') communication needs, which hinders filling them. Our communication
needs aim to increase current emotional, physical, and spiritual comfort.
Personal and relationship problems are unfilled needs
Q6 & Q11)What
four messages do we
unconsciously decode from each other all the time? and
What is a
message," and why can it make or break
simultaneous messages we send and receive are: "Here and
myattitude about you and me is...
"1-up"(my current needs, feelings, and opinions are more
important than yours), or...
"1-down"(they're less important than
"=/=" (they're just as important as
The last one can be called an
R(espect)-message. It is often the most powerful of our four messages and
the least noticed, in shaping communication effectiveness and relationship
quality. When both partners get
=/= (mutual respect) R-messages,
communicationmay be effective.
Q9)What are the
concurrent ways ("channels") we all use to decode
"meaning" from each others' perceived behaviors?
channel - estimated to convey under 10% of the spoken meaning we
voice dynamics - (paraverbal
channel): voice tone, inflection, tempo, accent, intonation, pace, and
volume; estimated to provide ~25% of the meaning we decode;
(facial expression + body posture and movement + eye contact + touch +
smell) provide most
of the meaning we decode from face-to-face interpersonal communication. They provide
even more for pre-verbal kids!
In normal face-to-face conversation, we each unconsciously
decode meaning from each of these dynamic channels simultaneously. Few
of this complex exchange.
is adouble or
mixed message, and what causes them?
confusing communication occurs when we perceive that the meaning on one
channel (e.g. the words we hear) contradicts the meaning on another channel
(e.g. what we see). Example: "I love you!" / "Don't touch me."
Such self-contradicting messages leave us feeling
uncertain, uneasy, and doubting our own perceptions and/or the
sender's true feelings, intentions, and needs. Sending
messages is a sure sign of inherited psychological wounds and
Minimizing or denying double messages or joking about it are more signs.
Once aware of a double message, a useful response (a metacomment) can sound
like "(Name), you say your not upset, but you're frowning and you raised
your voice. I'm confused."
vague, ambivalent words and
phrases, like this thing, that, it, them, then, you know,those people,
stuff, issue, and avoiding...
"hand-grenade" words and
phrases which are emotionally "explosive" - like rape,
abuse, stupid, insensitive, childish, selfish, bigot, weak, chauvinist,
whore, Nigger, Kike, Raghead, Slant, Frog, fanatic, redneck, incompetent...);
and clear thinking uses awareness skill to avoid...
not focusing, and
defocusing (changing the subject before finishing the current topic).
Digging down below surface (secondary) "problems" (unfilled needs) to the primary
needs underneath them.
Metatalk - talking objectively and
factually together about
how we're communicating,
in order to identify current and chronic communication
more essential communication skills are...
Empathic listening - periodically summarizing what we perceive the sender thinks, feels, means,
and needs without
comments or questions. Doing this does not mean we
agree with the speaker!;
Assertion - (a) being clear on our personal
(b) stating our current needs and opinions clearly, directly, and
respectfully, in a way that our partner can hear,
and (c) handling expected resistances with
empathic listeningbefore firmly restating our needs or opinions; and...
Problem solving or conflict resolution - identifying each other's needs and brainstorming
mutually-satisfying (win-win) solutions as teammates.
Effectiveness at problem-solving grows with fluency with all six other skills
true Self steadily
Most people are unaware of win-win problem-solving, and unconsciously
Could you name these seven skills
before reading this? If not, you're probably not using them! Does "Most people don't know what they need to know about
communicating" seem more credible now?
practical inner-conflict resolution options, see
, like priorities, morals, attitudes, dignity, integrity, and preferences. Resolution can only be genuine mutual agreements to
disagree. The stressful alternative is to try and persuade the
other person to want to adopt your value, which risks them
violating their integrity.
Q14) What do most
people do instead of effective problem solving?
Because most of us weren't taught
effective-communication basics at home or
school, we're unaware of over two dozen common ways
block effective internal and social
communication. Instead of
problem-solving, most people fight or argue, postpone, withdraw
(flee), threaten, hint, repress, submit, numb out, lecture, explain,
interrogate, monolog, whine, joke, complain, defocus, and/or preach (see any
favorites?). Here's an example.
news: once you're aware of these blocks, you can
(a) reduce and avoid them and (b) help each other build your communication
strengths over time.
Q15) What causes my "mind-racing or churning," and can I reduce it?
Mind-racing, chattering, or churning
refers to spontaneous episodes of kaleidoscopic,
unfocused thoughts, images, feelings, and memories. It's the opposite of
focused, logical thinking (reasoning), and is probably caused by several
personality subselves all communicating at once. This happens when some active subselves don't trust your
to lead them.
meeting and harmonizing distrustful subselves via "parts
(inner-family therapy) can significantly reduce mind-churning and improve mental focusing over time. That raises your
Some kids and adults diagnosed with "Attention Deficit
(ADD) and "Hyperactivity Disorder" (HD) are probably really
suffering from a chaotic (leaderless)
inner family. Medication may
reduce behavioral symptoms, but won't cure
inner anarchy and chaos.
offers a better way.
Learning the skill of
metatalk (talking about
communicating), practicing it, and teaching it
to interested partners. Then ask them to use it to describe your nonverbal
behaviors that help or hinder shared communication. Return the favor if they
And you can...
Study and experiment with this framework for
giving effective verbal feedback, and
ask others to describe your nonverbal communication (behavioral) habits and
Q17) What's an
and how does it affect my communication effectiveness?
In this Web site, 'E-level"
describes the degree of emotional intensity in someone at some time (low to
When someone's E-level rises "above their ears," s/he usually can't
hear, empathize, or focus well, or maintain a two-personawareness bubble. Our E-levels shift quickly,
will usually drop a partner's E-level "below their ears" so they can hear
you again. Use the term E-level informationally vs. critically in
metatalk to improve your mutual communication
the difference between a request and a
and why should I care?
A request asks the receiving person to do something, where the sending
person can tolerate responses like "No," "Not now," "Not your way," and "I'm not sure."
A demand is a communication to which the only acceptable
responses are "Yes" or something like "Let's negotiate and/or problem-solve."
demands are types of normal
They work best (satisfy primary needs) if the sender and receiver share a genuine
mutual-respect attitude. That
depends on the sender having genuine self respect.
awareness to get clear on whether
you're making or receiving a request or a demand. Option - if in
doubt, ask your
partner "Is that a request or a demand?"). If either partner is
ruled by a
false self, perceived
imply "I'm 1-up,"
E-level to rise and
degrade or block their hearing.
Bill of Personal Rightsyou can really believe in, and practice
acting on it. Accord other people
equal rights, and expect "resistance" as you become more self-assured;
work toward a genuine
with each person in your
life. This often happens spontaneously if you choose to see vexing people
bad, stupid, dumb, selfish, deceitful, abusive, etc. Then...
Q22) What's the difference between
assertion and aggression?
Assertionis (a) being clear
about your rights as a dignified
(self-respecting) person, and (b) firmly requesting or demanding what you need now
respecting your and your partner's
dignity, worth, and current needs
assertion has been described as the skill of saying what you mean
or need in a way that your partner can hear (vs. agree with) you
demanding that your
partner satisfy your needs without respecting their current needs,
feelings, or dignity (implied R-message: "I'm 1-up
here.") Watch for
double messages - the words may sound respectful but aggressors' non-verbal
behaviors imply "My needs come first here."
are communication sequences
and patterns, and why are they important?
sequence is a
series of reciprocal events (e.g. I smile) and reactions (so do you) betweentwo or more
personality subselves or people - i.e. an action > reaction > reaction
Every sequence has a beginning event (Marla cleared her throat...), and
continues until someone designates an "ending" event (Jose walked
away / hung up / changed the subject / fell asleep...)
types of sequences are
resolution, (b) attack > defend > counterattack or withdraw, and (c) giving and receiving praise.
pattern is an
averaged set of sequences over time between two or more people or
subselves - e.g. "Here's the typical (action
> reaction) sequence you
and I follow when we discuss money (or whatever)." Identifying
important patterns as mutually-respectful partners (vs. opponents) can help
you (a) spot communication sequences
blocks that need improving,
and (b) assess any changes.
Every sequence has an outcome
- i.e. participants fill their current needs well enough or they
don't. When your and your partner's respective true Selves are
in charge, your awareness,
metatalk skills andthe
communication tool of
illuminate your important inner and social sequences and patterns.
Q30) What is a
"Be spontaneous!" paradox,
and why do
they harm relationships?
unintentionally hurt valued relationships by
expecting, requesting, or demanding that
a partner give you something that can only be given spontaneously -
liketrust, respect, love, interest, empathy,
enjoyment, patience, forgiveness, loyalty, and sexual desire.
These paradoxes are self-defeating communications.
Asking for or expecting these relationship prizes makes
it impossible for the receiver to give them; for if they try, the sender
will probably discount it as being motivated by fear, duty, or guilt, rather
than spontaneous ("genuine"). An appropriate meta-comment is
"You're asking me to want to give
you something that I can only give spontaneously."
Q31) What are my options with
an adult or child who won't tell me what
they think or feel?
may genuinely not know,
distracted to focus and disclose,
doesn't have the vocabulary to
express current thoughts, feelings, and needs well enough, and/or...
s/he feels uncomfortable
and doesn't want to hear her or his own description, and/or s/he...
doesn't feel safe disclosing
to you - in general, or right now.
You can only affect the last of these.
Options include (a) choosing a mutual-respect attitude, and
metatalk to ask
your partner if there's
something you've done or are doing, that causes them to feel unsafe in
confiding in you. Then (c) use
listening to ensure you hear their response clearly,
and (d) decide if you want to change something.
If your partner is
fear-based, s/he may
misperceive your reactions and judge you unsafe
- even though you're genuinely
interested in and accepting (uncritical) of their thoughts and feelings.
so, a helpful option is to give a respectful (vs. manipulative)
I-message on how your partner's silence affects you
- e.g. "When you need to
withhold your thoughts and feelings, I ____ (describe the specific effect on you
Q32) Why is it often harder to communicate
effectively with the
people who mean the most?
Peoplemayfind it easier to confide in (some) strangers than with
mates and/or some family members because the risk of rejection, criticism, and
misunderstanding (pain) is much
lower. Strangers are often more sympathetic and less disapproving, preachy,
and/or argumentative. They
usually don't bring unfinished relationship stressors ("old
baggage") to the
conversation, tho your venting may trigger unresolved issues with other people
in their lives.
In typical business
and professional relationships, people minimize anger,
disrespect, and dislike. They stress tact and pretended or genuine respect, so it may feel "safer to talk at work" than at home,
within some limits.
This is specially true in low-nurturance
(dysfunctional) homes and
families. A contributing factor is that most people don't know how to
assert their needs and
boundaries respectfully to make communicating
What are "self talk and "inner-voice dialogs," and why
are they valuable?
"Self talk" is
the constant stream of thoughts, memories, fantasies, and inner visions,
senses, and images we call "thinking."
are internal conversations, debates, negotiations, or screaming matches between different
personality - e.g.
"Voice" (subself) 1:
- Let's have a hot fudge sundae!"
"Voice" (subself) 2: "Are you
berserk? that's 900 calories and 15 laps around the block, fatso. I
don't think so!"
Becoming objectively aware of your self-talk and
which subselves are expressing themselves can help you decide if
you're ruled by a
false self or
true Self (capital "S") at crucial times.
See self-improvement Lesson 1.