This site is an educational tool, put forth to
help individuals communicate more powerfully and effectively
by being attentive to the words you choose. The following are
suggestions. By following them, others have found that their
communication has been clearer, more honest and more effective
as a result.
Paradigms in Powerful Communication
1. We are always in choice. Always be aware that you are choosing
your actions, and reactions.
2. There is only I. The only thing we have any real control
over, and therefore responsibility for, is ourselves. This is
an extreme expression of the notion that we are ultimately only
responsible for our own words and actions.
3. The world isn't black or white, it's a million shades of
grey. Avoid absolutes particularly in interpersonal communication.
They are often innapropriate.
4. Be equals. Creating and enforcing a dynamic where one party
is subservient to the other is a recipe of resentment and miscommunication.
All attempts should be made to maintain an environment of equality
so each party feels respectful and respected.
5. Ask for your 100% and be ready to hear a "no".
Communicating anything less than your whole truth keeps you in
secrecy about something you desire and doesn't honour the listener
with the complete truth. Sometimes we withhold to protect ourselves,
sometimes the other person. In either case we are selling them
and ourselves short. We say "be ready to hear a no" because
it is equally important that we share our whole selves and that
we not be attached to outcomes. Which leads us to...
6. Don't be attached to outcome. Our responsibility as powerful,
and empowering communicators is to share our experience, our
truths, our 100%. The outcome of those sharings is in some ways
irrelevant. Experience has shown that communicating at this level
can be highly effective, and that still doesn't mean that we
can be attached to any particular outcome. Demand to be heard,
and nothing else.
7. You are your word. If you say you will do something, do it.
Integrity is of the utmost importance when communicating powerfully.
Regularly check in with yourself to see that the statements and
requests you make are in integrity. Do not request of others
that which you are unwilling to strive for in yourself. Do not
resent in others that which you are guilty of yourself. Do not
expect others to live to standards higher than those you keep
Methods for Powerful Communication
And not But
By replacing the word "but" with "and" most communications
have a more positive and powerful feel to them. But is a minimizing word, that
detracts from the statement before it. For example in the sentence "I went
to the market, but I forgot to get the milk." you have minimized the fact
that you went to the store, and got many other things. It sounds almost passive
aggressive. Whereas by replacing "but" with "and" you take
ownership of the fact that you forgot the milk, and therefore are still in a
position of power, Take a look and notice how different it feels to say both "I
went to the market and I forgot to get the milk.". We have yet to come across
an instance where this shift cannot be made while retaining the integrity of
Eliminate the word "just" from your vocabulary altogether. Just almost
always takes away from the words or ideas immediately following it. Furthermore,
in many cases "just" is frequently used in a very passive aggressive
way, by minimizing what comes next which in this scenario is typically something
critical, judgemental or otherwise hurtful. For example the statement "I
just forgot the milk." is meant to suggest that it's not very important
that the milk was forgotten, and to pull focus from the forgetting. It is more
powerful, and more honest to say "I forgot the milk.". As a form of
practice, attempt to include references to time in this shift. Instead of saying "I
just got back" be specific and say "I got back 3 minutes ago".
The word "just" has less of a minimizing effect in this instance, and
it's clearer to be more specific.
Shoulda Woulda Coulda
Instead of saying "should" "supposed to" or "have to" try
using "could" or "choose to" instead. This is an enforcer
of the paradigm that everyone is always in choice. Using "should" and "have
to" suggests that the speaker knows better, or is in a position of power
over the audience, or when speaking about ones self is derogatory. Whereas "could" or "I
choose to" gives the audience an option for an alternative outcome. For
the speaker and the audience this shift results in a more compassionate exchange
between parties. Again, notice how different it feels to say both "Next
time you should write a list" or "I have to go back to get the milk" and "Next
time you could write a list" or "I am going back to get the milk".
As another reminder of the "always in choice" paradigm, instead of
saying you "can't" do something, be clear and specific and say you
aren't going to do it, or you are choosing not to. The reality is, with very
few exceptions, we can do anything we set our minds to. Often we use "can't" as
a way to avoid the uncomfortable sharing that we can, and are choosing not to.
This is particulary true in social circumstances when being asked to do something
you don't really want to do. We might say "Yeah, I would love to...but I
can't that day" when the truth is "I appreciate your asking, and I
would rather not".
Me Me Me
Here we introduce the notion of "I" statements. When communicating
powerfully it is best to make statements only about that which is fact. For the
most part, the only thing we can speak of in such a definitive manner is our
own experience. With this in mind, attempt to change "you" statements
to "I" statements. For example, "You are so critical when I forget
things" could produce defensiveness and doesn't really communicate what
is occuring from the speakers perspective. It would be much clearer to say "When
I forget things and you react I feel criticized and ashamed."
Never ever ever?
Words like "always" and "never" are frequently misused and
inappropriate because the statements that include them are rarely true. For instance "You
always forget things" or "You never rememebr" are not likely to
be true statements. They would be more truthful and potentially more effective
phrased this way "The last three times you went to the store you forgot
something". This is (presumably) a statement of fact, which places the onus
on the listener to take responsibility for their actions. Perhaps it's even followed
by a supportive suggestion such as "next time I could make a list for you".
While it is important in certain sitautions that we all be aware of the things
expected of us, in interpersonal communication this is rarely an effective
tactic. Furthermore, setting expectations imposes a perceived hierarchy where
the person setting them is above the listener. Rather than stating expectations,
communicate hopes. For instance instead of saying "Next time I expect
you to remember the milk" try "Next time I hope you remember" or
even "Next time how can I support you to remember?".
The Blame Game
Rather than express fault or blame regarding a situation try communicating statements
about responsibility and accountability. For instance you could say "It's
your fault I didn't get the milk, you were supposed to make a list" which
would be blaming and evasive, both of which are not powerful positions to be
in. Instead, the same sentiment could be commmunicated in the statement "I
would like you to take responsibility for your part, I remember that you were
going to make me a shopping list". In the second example you are asking
for equality in the dialogue, and still accepting your share of the responsibility.
You Can't Make Me
Instead of "make" try to say something less forceful. No one and nothing
can "make" you do anything. Instead of "That makes me sad when
you forget milk" it's more truthful to say "when you forget the milk
I fee sad". No one made you feel sad, your sadness is a result of an action.
Hate is a very strong word and wildly overused. Rarely do we in fact "hate" the
thing we are talking about. For example "I hate when you are upset that
I forgot the milk". No you don't. And you're copping out of communicating
your feelings. It's much clearer to say "I feel uncomfortable and I go to
defensiveness when you get upset that I forgot the milk".