Effective and authentic communication takes a whole truckload of bravery and courage to practice regularly.
It’s easy to instead fall into making assumptions, projecting our fears, anxiety and shame onto others, and shielding ourselves from our own truth! This happens so easily because to see our truth would force us to go into our depths, and our depths can require great stamina and strength to swim in when we’re not used to it!
Its understandable, as human beings we often prefer the path of least resistance, to stay within the comfort zone, to avoid such scary situations.
It’s actually hard wired into our very DNA to stay away from danger.
However, our bodies really don’t know the difference between real danger and perceived danger and they just tell us to run and hide from the scary monster, even if the scary monster is just something we created in our minds!
Stress disorders, anxiety and depression all feed off this process. As Angela Grippo stated in Psychology Today…
“If we perceive something as stressful, our brains release hormones into the blood. These hormones change our behavior, mental experience, and physical functioning.” – Angela Grippo
That scary monster for many of us is truth, authenticity and personal integrity.
Why? Because we know that if we're completely honest with ourselves then…
- We'll always be pulling ourselves out of the comfort zone of denial, projection and responsibility avoidance.
- We won’t be able to ignore our own behavior and avoidance of dealing with the only person that we can control, ourselves.
- It will mean we'll need to be fully accountable.
We Can Face Our Fears and Honor Ourselves & Others
Once we realize that our relationships are directly influenced by our level of skill when it comes to communication, we will want to slay the demons and dragons of our own ‘shadow side’ so that we can truly have the connections with others that we crave.
Assumptions, lack of communication, false beliefs, insecurity, jealousy, and other low vibration emotions and feelings are weapons of great destruction to healthy relationships that thrive on authentic communication, honesty and most important of all – trust.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place” ~ George Bernard Shaw
So, how can we begin to plunge forward into that forest of perceived doom to get to the other side where truth, honesty and trust reside in our relationships?
There are some actions you can take immediately to start integrating the ‘practice’ of authentic communication. And yes… it does take practice, as it's a new way of connecting, both to yourself and to others, that you learn and master step by step. Practice makes Permanent.
Once you decide you want to learn, the doors will open, the monsters will shrink away into the shadows, and you’ll find your way to the land of positive and nourishing relationships.
6 Steps to Authentic Communication
1. Eliminate the minefield of assumptions from all your communications
Assumption is the practice of deciding what is in the heart and mind of another person without talking with them and finding out if what we believe is true.
It is as ludicrous as it sounds – how can we possibly know what another is thinking and feeling?
We don’t – the only way we will know is to have the respect and presence of mind and heart to ASK if our fears and beliefs are true – then, to have the courage to listen.
Most of the time we will be wrong, and this is something you want, isn’t it? You want to be wrong, to be free of the upsetting feelings due to your assumptions about this other person. But, as humans, we tend to like to find proof of the slights done to us in this world to justify our insecurities and shame that we feel within. Therefore, the journey inward is so important.
Don’t assume – ASK and be prepared to listen and let in what you hear.
2. Be honest with yourself!
To follow step number one, you will need to be completely honest with yourself.
- Have you assumed?
- Have you talked to the other person?
- Have you listened when they talked?
- OR are you more interested in proving to yourself that you are alone in this world and no one understands you?
Be honest, but also be gentle. This work can be alarming initially as we start to uncover our own sadness, shame and fear.
Discover your truth slowly, allow it to just be and don’t judge it.
Most often, we judge and make assumptions about others unconsciously because we are not aware of our own level of self judgement and shame. Look within with compassion. Your learned compassion for self will spread to those you relate with every day. Tell yourself the truth, and be gentle about it while you’re doing it.
3. Use your words to properly express your feelings
Communication can be hard. We must find the right words to explain feelings that can sometimes be so complex we don’t know where to begin. That's okay. Share your overwhelm, share your frustration with not having the right words. Not everyone is a word smith, and you will need to learn how to be honest with who you are and what you feel in every moment.
The practice of non-judgement will help here as well as you aim to speak out loud the process you are experiencing. This will allow others a window into your own discovery, and it will allow others to listen and hear you as you will not be judging them or making assumptions. You are taking responsibility for the only feelings and thoughts you have true knowledge of, your own. Communication isn’t about being perfect, it is about allowing your imperfection and trusting enough to share that with another.
4. Properly listen to yourself first, then you can listen to others
Listen to yourself first, so that you know how to listen to others.
The best way to start doing this is to integrate a daily meditation practice into your life. Connect to the quiet voice within. The intuition, the internal guidance.
Our insecurities and ego run the show most of the time, so when we allow ourselves to get still and just observe the craziness going on in our minds, we can access the wisdom we have within. Listening to yourself may cause spontaneous healing moments, joyful laughing fits or other releases of trapped emotion – this is all wonderful as it is just your body responding to the environment of trust and safety you have taken the time to give it.
Consistency to this self love practice will transform your ability to listen actively to others. Only when you listen will you become aware of your own projections on to others and assumptions you have made.
5. It’s not them it’s you!
Yes. It’s the truth.
If you find yourself blaming someone for your feelings but have taken no effort to reach out and talk to them, to share your own feelings and to listen to them and how they feel, you are projecting.
This is a common practice to avoid facing our own responsibility for the assumptions we are making to project how badly we feel with all our shame, insecurity and guilt on to someone else in a weak attempt to get it away from us.
Like with any substance we can abuse, or addiction – this will only work temporarily. Eventually you will need to do it more and more to feel any peace.
And the peace you think you feel is fleeting and then you need more of the thing to make it go away, and the cycle repeats. Owning your own perceptions and judgments is tough to do, because you will need to look at the feelings within that are so scary you’d rather throw them out to get rid of them. But, be patient.
If you listen to yourself, create a safe place for yourself, give yourself the time and compassion to explore your depths, you will learn more about yourself and you will begin to see the self-imposed obstacles in place to keep you from the happiness that is yours.
6. Respect yourself and respect others
With one comes the other. Respect is the ability to allow open and free communication. It is also the ability to instill boundaries where necessary. It is the ability to assess your own part in it and remove the victim mentality so that you can see the situation clearly.
If the other party is not able to communicate freely or makes assumptions without communicating with you, then it might be best to put in place boundaries and realize that you’ve done all you can. Perhaps the other person is not able to see the truth right this moment as they are grappling with their own demons. Have compassion now that you’ve learned how to do so and stay on your side of the net. Respect the others right to learn at their own pace, or never learn – that is their choice.
Respect yourself enough to not make assumptions, use your words, practice authenticity and truth always, and own what is yours to own.
If you practice these steps you will gracefully begin to move towards effective and respectful communication with those around you. You will also learn who you can and cannot communicate genuinely with. Most importantly, you will have learned how to have a dialogue with yourself so that you're no longer hiding in the bushes afraid to come out and see the monster. You will learn self respect and self love. As all communication starts from within, this will transform your relationships and your life.
“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen” ~ Brene Brown
Happy learning and exploring your depths! Come on in, the water is really nice once you get in here!
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Kaare Long is the Creative Director and CEO of a Cue Creative Marketing and Consulting Inc. and a top 30 mom blogger in Vancouver writing from the entrepreneur single mom perspective. She is also the founder of a local social movement #sayhitoastranger, a singer, performer, boat rocker and all around inspired woman of the world.