How to Master Peaceful, Effective and Successful Communication
(Time to read: ~ 5 min)
The coffee shop was relatively deserted on that mid-winter afternoon.
I’m not sure how John and I got onto the topic of honesty. We both agreed that it is essential to successful relationships.
But we also agreed that it’s not as straightforward as that might sound.
John had been part of a group that couldn’t sustain the amount of time necessary to process all the honesty that people wanted to share. Because there was also work to be done.
I was part of a leadership group that valued honesty. But some of that honesty had the effect of an explosion going off in the middle of the circle. And more than 10 years later, the group has not fully recovered.
What is Peaceful, Successful and Effective Communication?
Successful communication is communication that achieves its objective.
If you want your workload reduced to a level that you can manage in a reasonable number of hours a week, your communication is successful if you achieve that objective.
Effective communication is communication that uses the minimum resources necessary to achieve its objective.
So if you can achieve your “workload reduced” objective in one or two conversations, that’s more effective than if it takes four or five conversations.
Peaceful communication is communication that creates and maintains cooperative, collaborative connection between you and another person.
And restores that quality of connection as quickly as possible if it is lost or broken.
It stirs up no unnecessary “negative” emotions – either in you or in the other person.
Why is Peacefulness Important to Achieve Success?
If you stir up negative emotions in someone, you are likely to be seen (in that moment), as a threat.
They will feel they need to defend themselves from you and what you’re saying. Like a wall going up to block it.
Before you can even start to achieve your objective, you will need to dismantle that wall – just to allow your message to get through.
This takes more resources – so it is less effective. And because negative emotions are much easier to stimulate that to move on from, you run a much greater risk of not achieving your objective.
Whereas if you communicate in a way that stimulates positive emotions, the other person is much more likely to be open and interested in what you’re saying, and be willing to collaborate with you.
A Fantastic Foundation
So back in that coffee shop, I pulled a book out of my backpack and handed it to John.
It was Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life.
Both John and I consider that Marshall’s work provides a very powerful foundation for this type of communication.
But the Foundation Needs Walls and a Roof
The challenge is that most of us have as our “first language” something that is based in fear, judgment, separation and blame.
So I consistently find that people who try to learn and apply these principles on their own, without the ongoing support of a skilled and experienced mentor, unintentionally use Marshall’s new tools in old ways that
- create disconnection, rather than connection, and
- stir up negative emotions in others and themselves
especially in challenging situations. So they are not as peaceful, effective and successful as they could be.
John and I made this mistake
After that day in the coffee shop, we practiced for 5 months on our own, without effective mentor support.
And during this time, we essentially used these tools “on” each other – as a new way to make one another wrong.
It was only when we had the opportunity to get ongoing, individual support and feedback from more experienced trainers that we really started to “get” it, and our ways of thinking, hearing, and “seeing” situations started to change.
Because none of us can see our own blind spots. Those places where making a tiny change in what we’re doing can make a huge change in our success in achieving our objectives – in peaceful and effective ways.
Five Steps to Mastery
- Find yourself as highly skilled and experienced a mentor as you can – as soon as you can.
The longer you wait, the bigger the risk that you will inadvertently “turn off” the very people you want to collaborate with – by unintentionally inaccurate and unskillful use of Marshall’s principles.
The most effective mentor relationship is one in which there is opportunity for individualized support directly from the mentor.
- Practice in writing first.
Many people think that the way to master these skills is to start by trying to speak differently.
But before we can genuinely speak differently, we need to think differently.
And thinking differently takes… well… a lot of thought 🙂
More thought than we have time for in a usual conversation – there’s too much pressure to respond to what the other person has said.
So I’ve found that people make the most rapid progress when they take the time to really think through and write out how they might approach each key element in a conversation.
Elements like: what the objective of the conversation is, and what you’d like the other person to understand about your experience.
- Get your mentor’s insights.
People who work with me are consistently amazed at how much they learn every time we work with something they’ve written.
Their response is consistently “Oh! Now I get it!”
“I thought I understood, but it was only when I tried to apply it, and got your input, that I realized I hadn’t really understood the full implications.”
“This has changed my communications in so many ways and on so many levels!”
- Keep at it
I led many weekend workshops before I taught my first evening training program – where the same content was offered in 2-3 hour “chunks”, one evening a week for 6-8 weeks.
I was amazed at how much more skill people developed in the multi-session evening program – even though the amount of training time was the same.
So it is the frequency and consistency of your focus on applying these principles that will determine how long it takes to develop the mastery and skill you want.
- Learn in community – if you can
We can learn so much when we have the opportunity to learn with other people.
We learn from their questions, their situations, and their examples.
And we gain strength from being regularly reminded that we are not alone.
An Opportunity to Master These Skills
I’ve been trying to figure out for a while how to bring all 5 of the above elements into a small group mentoring program – and I’ve finally figured it out!
We’ll be starting in October – to give you time to settle into the fall “swing of things”.
More details are given in the next article.
If you’d like to join us, we’d like to know what days of the week and times work for you? Reply to this email or click here to tell us when you’d like to attend
We’ll do our best to find schedule the sessions so that everyone who wants to can attend.
I hope to connect with you there!