Basic communication interventions,
continued from p. 1
illustrate, and model communication
Why? Clear understanding of these basic communication concepts is
needed to effectively
and improve communication effectiveness among subselves and people,
Describe and illustrate
the difference between what
clients communicate about (the subject or
they communicate about the subject (their communication
process). Then propose that a powerful way to improve family
communication is for the adults
to intentionally build the skill of being
i.e. being conscious how they're communicating
together in the present moment. The other half of this awareness is
knowledge of communication basics
& and how to avoid or reduce each of them.
Propose that any
communication process can be broken into identifiable sequences of behavior between participants. A sequence
starts when person A does something that causes person B to react.
Then A reacts to B's reaction, and B reacts to A's reaction, and (so
on). A communication sequence can have a clear ending ("Janice
clicked off her cell phone.") or an arbitrary one ("Carlos changed
the subject to dinner last night.").
Sequences can be brief ("Hi - how are you?" / Fine, thanks.") or
take several minutes, hours, or days. Whatever their length,
all communication sequences
- i.e. (a) each participant felt they got their main current
needs met well enough or not, (b) in a way that felt satisfying enough
or not. "Win-win" outcomes
& occur when all participants feel these
two conditions were clearly met.
Propose that over time,
most relationship partners develop unconscious sequences of
communication sequences, or
patterns. ("We begin to talk about money, we both get
upset, and generally you walk out and we don't speak for several
Propose that an effective way of improving family communications
is for adults to use
the learned skills of
to identify ineffective (lose / win, or lose / lose) sequences,
patterns, and outcomes together. This empowers them to
cooperatively identify and reduce chronic communication
and improve their communication outcomes (meet everyone's current
primary needs well enough.)
Option - review some or
all of these communication process (metatalk)
& with client adults,
and suggest that they intentionally learn to weave them into their vocabularies. This will help them be more
descriptive and aware in discussing
spotting and reducing process blocks.
Follow up as appropriate
to see if clients are motivated to experiment with identifying and
discussing effective and ineffective sequences and patterns. If not,
suspect one or more family adults are often controlled by a false
self. See Lesson-1
the client's current communication strengths
Why? To (a) teach clients how to identify and describe their
strengths, (b) have them experience the satisfaction of affirming their
set of strengths, (c) illustrate strengths they can help each other
and any kids develop, (d) strengthen their metatalk and awareness skills, and (e)
provide balance (+) for their communication blocks (-).
Propose that a
"communication strength" is any individual, joint, or
group (family) ability,
attitude, priority, knowledge, or behavior that usually promotes
effective thinking, communication, and problem-solving among
subselves and people.
Suggest that over time, client adults
have developed a set of personal and family communication
strengths, and ask if the adults can name them.
to raise their awareness and promote discussion.
Discuss what the adults learned from the inventory
(including new concepts and terms), and suggest
they help each other and other family members (a) stay aware of and
(b) verbally affirm their communication strengths as they help each
other to improve them.
(wounded) clients will
usually negate or discount their strengths. Noting this objectively in sessions can
promote Lesson 1
& and communication strengths as the work unfolds (e.g. "Are
you aware of how you've helped us stay focused on our topic, and
avoided distractions and interruptions here?"), and...
ask how that feels when
you do. Then...
suggest they affirm each other at home.
(i.e. their false selves) usually
won't follow through in doing this, tho they agree it would be
Refresh clients on
psychological wounds as
needed, and relate them to
Why? My clinical experience with over 1,000 typical clients shows
that most low-nurturance (Midwestern-US, Anglo) family adults are
significantly-wounded survivors of childhood neglect and trauma -
or GWCs. False-self (psychological)
prevent effective communication even among adults who are practiced at
most of the Lesson-2 basics and skills. Describing this connection adds
another incremental reason for wounded clients to
and commit to wound reduction
and protecting their descendents from wounds.
Review or present the
concept of personality subselves
& as needed (ref.
Lesson 1) and
check clients' acceptance of the concept. If they don't fully accept
it, use some
version of this letter and this safe
exercise to invite their
acceptance. Option - view ambivalence or reluctance to
accept the reality of personality subselves as normal well-meaning, distrustful
controlling the person without their awareness.
Clarify or review the
(capital "S") and
and check for client understanding and acceptance. Option -
review and discuss this comparison of common true Self / false self
Review or present the
concept of false-self
and check to see if clients
understand and accept the concept.
Review or present the
concept of communication-sequence
Optional terminology - lose-lose / lose-win / win-lose /
win-win (effective communication). Then ask for and objectively
discuss client illustrations of recent communication outcomes. Expect this to be a new concept to typical clients, so reinforce it
during subsequent sessions. Option -
provide a copy of this
of win-win process and outcomes, ask clients to discuss it and
relate it to their usual process, and follow up with them on their
when a person is controlled
it's often difficult or
impossible for them to achieve effective communication (win-win)
This is specially true if their current communication partner/s
also have a disabled Self. Explain and illustrate this as
needed - in general or using client examples.
ideally, client adults will want to help each
other work at Lesson 1 (reduce psychological wounds) and Lesson 2
(improve communication skills and effectiveness)
despite clients using the Lesson-2 skills, assume one or more partners is
controlled by a false self, and intervene accordingly.
illustrate, and model
and "Hearing Checks"
Why? These basic communication concepts significantly improve
people's ability to spot, discuss, and help each other correct
common communication-process blocks.
"On a scale of 1 to 10,
how often do you each feel
agreed with) well enough by your partner in important
conversations?" Often, family members don't feel
heard well enough by one or more other members. This is
specially true with kids and in conflicts and crises.
Ask that client "What do you usually
(e.g. frustrated, annoyed, and disrespected)
and (b) do when you
don't feel heard well enough? Typical (unconscious) strategies are to blame, name-call,
interrupt, talk more loudly, repress and numb out, and/or withdraw - none of which get partners'
Ask if clients agree
that kids' and adults' degree of current emotionality can shift
slowly or quickly from calm to
very intense ("got
upset, blew up, felt overwhelmed, lost it (my self control), had a
melt down," etc.) depending on physical and/or environmental events;
are like the mercury in a thermometer - rising and falling
in reaction to local conditions. Then propose that current E-levels
can be judged as "below or above the ears" - meaning the person may
or may not be able to hear a partner clearly because of their own
emotional intensity. Option - note that when E-levels are
"above the ears," usually people only have a one-person awareness
bubble - so effective communication isn't likely until the E-level/s
drop "below the ears."
Reality-check this: ask if clients can recall being so "upset" that
they could not really hear what another person was saying at the
time. Then ask them to recall a recent time where they felt unheard
because a partner's E-level was "above their ears." Ask if they can
recall how they reacted to this. Typically, people talk more
loudly, repeat, interrupt, get frustrated and/or angry, blame
the other person, and/or leave.
Define a "hearing check"
using a mutual-respect attitude and
intentionally put your own needs,
opinions, and agenda aside for the moment,
focus on your partner and use
skill to observe
without judgment what s/he seems
to be thinking, feeling, needing, and doing - and who controls
her or his personality now; and...
periodically summarize these
impressions (a) in your own words (b) with comfortable eye
contact, and then...
be quiet and note the other person's
reactions (e.g. nodding, agreeing, correcting you, repeating,
continuing...); and stay aware doing this.
Note that using empathic
listening this does not necessarily
mean you agree with what the other person is saying or doing!
- ask the clients to define empathy to help them
understand the label empathic listening. Thanks to
Stephen Covey for this
term, which I think is more descriptive than the traditional
labels active listening, reflective listening, and mirroring.
Propose that a powerful
option when a partner's E-level is too high is to do one or more
"hearing checks" if (a) your true Self is
your personality and
(b) your E-level s below your ears. Well-executed hearing checks will eventually bring the other
person's E-level "below their ears" so they can resume hearing you.
up to see if
clients are trying out hearing checks with family members - and if
so, what results they get (Do E-levels come down below the
ears?). Model hearing checks as the work proceeds, noting that
you're doing them, and asking clients how it feels. Encourage them
to use hearing checks during every session to grow their
understanding and habits.
(a) Note and illustrate the option of
any family member asking
for a hearing check when they're not feeling heard on an
important topic, and (b) contrast this with asking: "Did you hear
me?" Hearing checks demonstrate whether the listener
accurately got what their partner person wanted to send. Option
- ask the clients to try asking and responding in their own styles
to anchor this tool and provide experience.
illustrate, and model
perspective, see this.
Why? Because (a) few typical clients (or professionals) are
of this primal concept, and (b) awareness of it promotes effective
and win-win communication.
Watch for the clients to
illustrate an example of an ineffective bubble, and when it's
appropriate to shift the focus to these interventions, then...
effective-communication skill of awareness if/as appropriate,
and say you're about to demonstrate one useful aspet of it.
Use the analogy of an invisible, flexible bubble around each
person's head and chest (heart), and describe and illustrate
four possibilities: "Right now I'm aware of...
me only or you only (a 'one-person
you and me equally (a 'two-person
neither you nor me - e.g. you are and/or
I am focused on the past, the future, or something else."
Note that at any moment, each partner
has their own type of bubble, which can change quickly from one type
of..." as including the person's current thoughts +
emotions + body sensations + needs (discomforts) + non-verbal
behaviors. Give examples as needed.
Ask the clients if this concept makes
sense, and clarify any questions. Then propose that
communication is most likely in calm and conflictual situations if
each person wants to maintains a steady two-person (me + you)
awareness bubble. Ask clients if that makes sense, and
respond as appropriate.
Define, illustrate, and model
Why? To empower and motivate clients to spot and avoid or reduce
1-up and 1-down R-messages that frequently degrade their internal and
mutual communication outcomes.
the most fundamental
of six universal communication
is to feel
genuinely respected by
(a) yourself and (b) every communication partner. Confirm that clients agree
with this premise.
Ask clients to describe
(a) a recent instance where they felt disrespected by the
verbal and/or nonverbal behavior of an adult or child, and (b) how they responded to that.
Propose that when
clients feel disrespected by a communication partner, they're apt to
feel hurt and irritated or angry ("upset"), so (a) their false self
may take over, (b) their E(motion) level will
usually rise "above their ears", which (c) hinders their ability to hear the
other person well (include them in their awareness bubble).
or describe, illustrate, and discuss the concept of awareness "bubbles,"
and propose that objective awareness of them in important
communications enables partners to metatalk about, and
problem-solve, communication blocks effectively. most clients
appropriate, describe and illustrate mapping communication sequences to
help assess situational or chronic process-blocks.
2-14) Follow up on
and reinforce each of these items in future sessions.
Why? Because these concepts and techniques are new to typical
clients, and need repetitive reinforcement and affirmation until the
benefits become self evident and second-order changes stabilize.
You've just read 12 multi-step Lesson-2 interventions useful with all
individual, couple, and family clients, regardless of presenting
problems. Other interventions
build on these to promote any client learning to
understand and wanting to practice the seven
B) Communication Skill-building Interventions (with all clients)
The seven Lesson-2 skills build on each other, so the order of these
interventions matters. Effective use of each skill depends on (a)
knowledge of communication basics and (b) fluency with the prior skills. Effective clinicians will watch for chances
in each session to make these interventions strategically.
The most cost-effective way to
present and illustrate these concepts is in a seminar or class for a group of family adults
The most effective way to teach these skills is in a seminar, following
the foundation topics.
Numbering continues from the communication-founcation interventions above.
(a) Define "skill," and
(b) ask each
participating client to describe and illustrate how s/he learns new skills.
Why? To (a) clarify what a "skill" is, (b) validate that each
client already knows how to learn new skills, and to (c) provide context for learning the
Lesson-2 communication skills
Ask clients to say their
definition of "a skill" or "talent" out loud, and give several
examples of skills they have developed - e.g. planning a meal or
party, driving a vehicle, and how to use a telephone or PC. Reassure
them you're not asking in order to judge them, but to learn what
Refine their definition as needed
- e.g. shift from "Something you do real well" to "A learned or
instinctive behavior that is specially effective in filling
Pick one of their skills, and ask
something like "Tell me how you learned to be proficient at that."
Option - then ask if the client
agrees s/he already has the ability to learn new skills - like
communicating more effectively.
the seven communication
and their purpose
Why? To (a) provide clients with a conceptual framework for these seven
skill-building interventions, and (b) relate them to the
communication is an instinctive, learned animal behavior which
aims to fill current needs - i.e. to reduce current
discomforts and/or increase current pleasures.
Verbally summarize and illustrate
each of the skills and/or review them from a
handout one at a time.
Note that (a) the skills build on these
basic concepts, and (b) are hierarchical - i.e. each one uses the
prior skills in the set. For example, consistently-effective
problem-solving requires (a) the person's true Self to lead their
other subselves, (b) clear awareness of communication basics, and
(c) fluency in all six prior skills.
Ask the client if this concepts
make sense. Then ask if they've ever studied or practiced the seven
skills before. Expect "No." Option - note that our culture is
ignorant of effective-communication basics and skills, which -
coupled with widespread unseen psychological wounding - promotes a
wide range of personal and social "problems." One implication is
that client adults have a unique chance (and responsibility) to
teach their kids these basis and skills, because no one else will.
Option - note that the
is directly proportional to the adults' (a) true Selves
them, and (b) their shared abilities to communicate effectively -
i.e. to consistently practice, teach, and model these basics and
Option - illustrate and
discuss how the skills can reduce clients' communication
effectively, one at a time.
if they have questions about the skills
individually or together,
whether they've ever learned of them
before (Expect "No"),
how the skills compare to the
ways clients have been trying to satisfy their recent personal and social
needs - including their presenting problems, And ask them...
whether their minor kids know effective
versions of these skills yet (Expect "No.").
Options - ask...
if the client-adults' childhood caregivers and teachers were knew
and used these skills. Expect "No," and suggest that
unaware ancestors and the school system took communication for
granted, and were generally ignorant of these skills.
if divorcing clients feel that
unawareness of these skills might have contributed to their
relationship and other problems, and/or might significantly
contribute to current relationship problems with kids and
co-parenting ex mates;
if "learning to communicate effectively"
is among each adult's top current life priorities. Expect "No, " and
ask what it would take to change this.
Ask if client adults are willing to invest (vs. "spend") time
and money now in learning these skills. Note that the skills'
real benefits will become clear from practice, not studying
concepts. If clients seem ambivalent or dutiful vs. truly motivated
to learn, (a) suspect false selves are in charge, and consider (b)
empathically exploring the reasons for the ambivalence, or (c)
accepting this and just "planting seeds" for future learning.
+ + +
with more Lesson-2 communication skill-building