Calinda B: Maeve, last week we broached the topic of communication. Let’s continue the conversation with a talk about communication, shall we?
I was once an expert in the kind of communication that really messed up a relationship! I didn’t know how to be transparent and honest with myself. I therefore could not be honest with my partner. That led to all kinds of relationship disasters, including one extremely painful divorce.
Maeve : Calinda, what you are describing here is the kind of communication we all learned in the schools of family of origins, the graduate schools of movies and television, and the on-going night school of the advice of well-meaning friends. It doesn’t work.
It takes awareness, desire and good teachers to allow us to dive into the self-knowledge of who we are and what we are really feeling and wanting. It also takes courage to say the hard things, the vulnerable things. And it takes skill and tools to communicate so that our partners and friends can hear us without feeling attacked or demeaned, but heard and understood.
Calinda B: Oh, boy, you’ve got that right! In my second marriage, my husband and I learned how to be scathingly honest with one another. We went through a long period that spanned several years in which we faced one another with soul-baring honesty. The kinds of things we shared – I shared – were extremely difficult to say and feel. It was both painful and exhilarating.
The marriage ended but I wasn’t done dealing with my own dysfunction yet! After that, until I began to clean up my act and face myself, I had several guys who flat out lied to me about what they were up to. One would even tell me things right to my face that I knew weren’t true. When I’d confront him about it, he’d turn it around on me, stating that I was the problem! That was deeply painful and led to lots more heartbreak. Through these interactions, I learned about what not to do. I know first-hand what not telling the truth to my partner and being lied to can result in – a not very fulfilling relationship.
Maeve: That’s putting mildly, Calinda. It can be so painful, and have us feeling disconnected and resentful. That can be such a sad thing.
Calinda: At this point I find that being direct and honest in my committed partnership is the ticket to success. That really works for me and my partner. We’ve been together for 9 years now and it just keeps getting better thanks to our commitment to honesty.
Maeve: You and TOSP are great examples of what works, and what it takes.
Calinda: I have a friend whose communication style is to bury his head in the sand and not deal with issues. In fact, I know a couple of people like that. Another friend uses sarcasm and criticizes her husband to get her point across. You always have to guess at what she is really saying but you can bet that she is one pissed off gal in those moments!
Maeve: Ouch! And that is so common. I’m afraid that is what keeps my husband and I in business. But, nobody is intentionally destructive or mean. We just do what we learned. And, we really do the best we can.
Calinda: I know you and Orv teach classes in communication techniques. What are some of the core skills that you teach?
Maeve: We believe that really listening is 80% of good communication. Can you imagine really listening to your partner without preparing your defense while he or she is speaking?
Calinda: That’s something you do really well, Maeve. When I speak to you I can tell that you are just listening to me, not waiting to jump in with your thoughts like a wildcat waiting to pounce. I always feel seen and deeply heard by you. You’re good at that! It helps me shape my own communication style with others.
Maeve: Thank you. We teach the concept of Meta Communication, or the whole communication. It turns out that words are only 10-15% of the whole communication. Can you guess what the other components are? Also, we stress the idea of validation of feelings and thoughts, without necessarily having to agree. Every one of us is just dying to feel heard, understood and recognized.
There is so much more. Communication is the major issue our clients want help with. Remember, it’s not important who is wrong or right. We all just want to be understood.
When we understand deeply, then we are finally empowered to act appropriately for ourselves and in relation to another.
Orv and I practice every day. We always find opportunities to come out of ourselves and listen with compassion, especially in these stressful times. I know you understand.
Calinda: Can you say more about Meta Communication? I want our readers to “get” what you are referring to. I think of it like this: When TOSP and I are in the middle of sorting through an issue, I might be speaking the right words of love and understanding but my body might be tense with underlying emotion. No one is fooled in moments like this. We always go for what we call “the relaxed gut.” When both of our tummies are relaxed, we’ve reached the core issue and are then complete with the topic. Is that what you mean?
Maeve: I just love the “relaxed gut feeling” that lets both of you know that you’ve been heard and understood.
And yes, body language is the major part (40-50%) of the Meta Communication. This also includes behavior. So, a roll of the eyes, crossed arms, a facial expression, body posture such as turning away, or avoiding eye contact can tell us what the other person may be feeling. And behavior such as mixed messages, not keeping agreements or no communication at all is, in fact, a very loud communication.
Tone of voice is 15-20%. If I hear a certain sharpness or tension in Orv’s voice, I am immediately on the alert, as he is with me. We women are especially sensitive to tone.
Volume, also, is a big signal of what may be going on with your partner. Men seem to be much more comfortable with louder volumes. As women, we often call it “yelling.” Men simply don’t hear it that way. Think of a group of men just having a great time at the lake, or where ever. Boy, they can be loud! To me, it feels almost like a physical attack.
By the way, in a later article we can talk about tools men and women can use if we feel uncomfortable around the aspects of a meta-communication. Usually we are simply unaware that we are giving what we call an incongruent message. That is when the words are not congruent with the rest of the communication.
And what percentage do words have in the entire Meta-Communication? Only 10-15%. Amazing, isn’t it? But, hey, Meta-Communication is perfectly clear to dogs, cats and babies. We just forget to really listen with all our senses.
So, 85-90% of communication is NOT words! Wow!
I’m really looking forward to offering some simple, effective tools for understanding and diffusing potentially “chargy” situations.
Thanks, for asking, Calinda. I am so inspired by your continuing commitment to learning and having more in your relationship with TOSP, me and all your friends!
Maeve works with her husband Orv Fry in Grass Valley California. With over 15 years working together as a couple, they model what they teach! Believing that the most effective work is through experience, skill, compassion and transparency, they reveal their individual experiences and growth in a vulnerable, yet powerful manner. They do Individual and Couple Sessions, Individual and Couples Intensives, and Sex Education Sessions. These may be in person, on Skype or on the phone. To find out more visit www.ignitersoftheheart.com.
Calinda B is the author of the highly successful Wicked Series, an erotic paranormal romance series. She weaves her own courage, learning and relational wisdom into her entertaining paranormal reads with skill and magic. To find out more or to buy the books, visit www.calindab.com.