|What is Your Communication Saying About You?..by Kate Bares-Johnson|
There is nothing in our world, or our relationships, that is not affected by our communication. What we think, feel, need, want, believe, and expect are being communicated constantly, both verbally and non-verbally, consciously and unconsciously. We are communicating continuously with our thoughts and actions, fears and reactions…and getting results accordingly. Even those with healthy communication skills are often baffled by their results with others, when they themselves seem to be communicating “effectively”.
This is because WHAT we communicate is far more impactful than HOW we communicate…and it’s happening behind the scenes, in every moment. We are, in essence, either responding or reacting to everything in our environment, all the time. We respond or react to people, experiences, circumstances, stress, joy, pleasure, pain, disappointment, satisfaction, loss, gain, and the list goes on and on. We are sometimes tired, sometimes energized. Sometimes hopeful, sometimes discouraged…troubled, peaceful, excited, or frightened. You get the picture. This is real life, and we’re not going to get around our humanness, however, understanding what’s happening on deeper levels will go a long way in improving communication on the conscious level.
Let’s start by discerning between reacting and responding first. In laymen terms, reacting is acting again in the same emotional or physical way we have acted in the past when a similar situation or feeling occurred. If that past experience was painful, we may have learned to survive, defend, or protect ourselves in some way, which was probably appropriate at the time. However, if we are still surviving, defending or protecting ourselves, especially when circumstances don’t require it, we are re-acting. We are unconsciously reverting to a painful event or series of events in our past, as if it’s happening now. Our conscious mind may know it’s not, but at that moment, it’s not our conscious Self that’s communicating, and the pains of old wounds are flooding to the surface. That’s why we commonly call it OVER-reacting.
I like to use the analogy of a string of lights. When one bulb goes out, they all go out. The same is true in the opposite…if we replace the bulb, they all light up! This is similar to what happens when wounds and painful experiences of our past go unchecked…when we plug in that one bulb, ALL those similar painful experiences “light us up” in that moment. We will continue to do this again and again, until we address the original pain and heal it.
Responding on the other hand, is what happens when we are present in THIS moment, addressing the current situation without all the baggage of the past interfering. It is setting appropriate boundaries, taking care of ourselves responsibly, peacefully, and sometimes firmly, but with clarity and intention. It is communicating from Truth rather than Fear, and it is our response-ability to do so. We have a choice to respond or react in any given moment, although we sometimes do have to shift paradigms, learn new skills, and practice new behavior in order to get the hang of it.
Obviously, it takes more than just better communication skills to communicate better, which is where “WHAT we communicate” comes in. When conflicted internally or externally, what remains unhealed within us is what we communicate most loudly, regardless of the words we speak. It is crucial to our well being and our relationships to look honestly at our reactions and begin to connect the dots to our past experiences, so that we can diffuse the energy, allow old wounds to heal and current relationships to thrive.
Most of us are not aware of our triggers, so an easy exercise to begin the process is to track your communication with others for one or two full days…all your interactions with friends, strangers, children, parents, coworkers, partners, and even pets. Observe your reactions to others’ communications and choices, gestures, and even your annoyances and tolerations. Just observe, and when you find yourself reacting, even when it feels justified, check in with what emotion or pain is beneath your reaction. It might show up as disrespect, violation, fear, abandonment, not feeling appreciated or loved, or feeling out of control or unheard. Again, just observe without judgment. Keep a notebook handy so you can later see if there is a common thread of early experience(s) in your life. You may need support or guidance to help with the healing and release of energy around it, but it is well worth the excavation! Once the healing has commenced, you will likely begin to notice a difference in your interactions with others…and so will they…as you become more peaceful, grounded, and present in the here and now.
I’m always interested to hear how the practices work for you, so please feel free to email me with questions or comments, or for support and guidance through the process. Many blessings!