Lately, I’ve been reflecting on the tools we choose when we communicate with each other and what our goals might be. What is the most important? You? Me? or Us? Looking beneath that primary concern, our choice of tone of voice, amount of words and language all get selected from our goal in the communication at hand.
Here are some underlying forces to our language and tone selection.
The first (and my personal favorite) is the goal of “connecting” with one another. We choose a friendly tone and our body language is relaxed and inviting. The words are kind, respectful and can be playful or entertaining.
Our main focus is to connect on an emotional and/or spiritual level and comes from a place of respect and integrity of understanding and meeting each others needs. We look for common ground and seek peaceful co-existence.
The second one is easily spotted everywhere. This is the ego’s favorite approach: “competitiveness”. It lives with: I’m right – you’re wrong; someone has to win; I know more than you, etc…
If you have kids, this goal takes over a lot of communication and gives parents headaches.
It also exists in the work place where there is a sense of lack and where competition is rewarded, and power is celebrated more than true leadership. There are bosses with personality disorders (narcissistic or psychopathy) who use people to gain power and fame. That is when competition becomes problematic.
Connection is the last thing on their mind and they compete endlessly. As long you are a useful commodity, they’ll keep you around and every communication is weighted towards achieving something. This goal thinks love and kindness are for sissies and their body language, tone of voice, actions and words are used to manipulate or win.
The third is the one that can get ignored but can be quite destructive to relationships. It is the goal of “withdrawal”.
Sometimes we need to withdraw to recharge our batteries and there should be room for that in a healthy relationship.
When someone always withdraws and that having a conversation is a chore, if this is an important relationship, this could be a red flag. (Obviously, if you have a teenage boy at home, don’t despair, this is a developmental stage. Just take him out for donuts and let him talk without interrupting too much.)
If it is your spouse that withdraws, and worse, he/she gets angry at any attempts to connect and won’t commit to a conversation later, this can become problematic.
When 2 way dialogue stops: either – because someone feels a need to be right, competes and maybe becomes a bully – or withdraws and refuses to engage and discuss – those are the signs that it’s time to do something differently.
First of all, ask yourself this question: “is this relationship with this person important to me?” If the answer is yes, then learning a new way to communicate to get both of your needs met is the answer.
It doesn’t matter if the other person doesn’t buy into the process at first because it’s a skill we all need: at home and at work.
“Assumptions are the termites of relationships.” Henry Winkler (The Fonz)
As a former Family Life Educator and Crisis Interventionist, I started out my coaching years focusing on Family Life.