Updated: Sep 19, 2019
Emotional well-being flows from the ability to clearly communicate what you want in life. Even though we communicate all the time, for most of us, we have never received any training or education on how to communicate. We fumble our way through many messy conversations and relationships without the skills gleaned from being a student of conscious communication.This isn’t an inborn gift but a learn-able skill. If you’re not adept at expressing your needs, it’s because you learned from people who were not proficient.
Conscious communication is a way of talking and listening that is focused on growing strong, mutually enriching relationships. Since most relationship problems are rooted in communications that are either avoided, forced or misinterpreted, the purpose is to provide an emotional experience that allows each person to feel safe enough to grow a quality relationship in which key emotional needs are expressed, mutually valued — and met through natural giving.
The key principle of conscious communication is making it as easy as possible for another person to meet your need by asking for the specific you want in life. This isn’t an inborn gift but a learn-able skill.
Conscious communication offers us another approach. It begins with the assumption that everyone deserves to be treated respectfully because they are part of our human family. Regardless of whether we agree with their ideas or not, we can recognize that, like us, they have had a certain set of experiences that influence how they see the world. Their perspective is what forms their opinions. When we see someone as a person and not an opponent, it’s easier to wonder how they arrived at their opinions and beliefs. Instead of saying to ourselves with indignation, “How could they think that way?!”, we can ask, with a sincere desire to understand, “How did they come to think that way?” When we set aside our agenda of trying to change everyone and approach them with a curious mind and open heart, we are practicing conscious communication.
There are hundreds of things we have to communicate about on a daily basis. With all of that practice, you’d think we’d be expert communicators! Alas, it’s not always our strong suit. When complicated feelings get involved, expressing our emotions can be tricky. It’s one thing to simply express ourselves, it’s another to express ourselves in a way that’s clear, thoughtful, and authentic to how we truly feel. Practicing conscious communication is a way to take into account how we talk to ourselves and how we talk to others, making sure that we are communicating with a clear purpose and from a place of truth.
In any relationship, there will be moments of tension. It can be caused by something someone said, something a third party told us or even a simple misinterpretation. Whatever the catalyst, this friction creates a block in our relationship and affects our ability to communicate with that person. The longer we let the block go on, the more frustration occurs until it escalates and potentially ruins the relationship. Instead of letting the situation get to that point, conscious communication allows you to work through the problem in the early stages. This forces you to take responsibility for your feelings and ask for what you want.
Conscious communication means that you are communicating with your whole self, from deep within your soul. You are communicating with kindness, vulnerability and awareness. You are actively listening and not just hearing. When you consciously communicate with others, it is coming from a place of authenticity with a clear mind and pure heart. Elevating your communication skills to this level will expand your spirit and empower your relationships, creating a more powerful presence with the people you deal with on an everyday basis.
Setting a conscious intention refers to a choice you have at any moment to send messages to your self or the other that your bodies’ chemicals (subconscious mind) translate to a sense of safety and connection (rather than fear and disconnect). Expressing yourself in way that promotes overall feelings of safety and connection in self and another, for example, is going to produce radically different outcomes from feelings of insecurity and disconnect.
For me, I often retreat to my journal when something is bothering me, when I'm upset, or when I need to de-stress and deal with a problem. I tend to go into my room, get out my journal, and just let it all flow out. I find this to be a sort of cathartic release, and I am usually able to work through my anger and frustration or sadness in this way and move through to better feelings. This is how I've avoided many fights with friends, parents, and lovers throughout my life… by dealing with it on my own. But recently I have realized that this is not the best method for dealing with my problems. Because what it results in, is me avoiding to talk to the other person about the conflict. I end up working through it on my side, but the other person is never made aware of how I felt, or what caused me to feel upset, and they were never able to express their feelings either. So, even though I was working through things and avoiding conflict in the moment, the problems then keep rising and coming up more and more, because we never took the time to actually discuss the situation and work through it TOGETHER.
I see this lack of communication everywhere. This is something we all need to work on. Even with all the work I've been doing to actively improve and work on communication, I still see areas where more work needs to be done. I think this is one of those skills in life that you can never stop improving on, and working on improving it will never stop being helpful and beneficial.
Know what you need and want to say, and why.
Knowing what you want to say, and why, makes it more likely you will obtain the shared understanding and perhaps even resolution you desire. Patience really is the key to staying calm, staying centered, and staying clear-headed. It helps to deal and get through every situation you can think of. Especially when dealing with a conflict, it can help you stay in control of your emotions and not let anger or frustration take over and lead the conversation. Clarity allows you to avoid going around in circles, or getting addicted to problems or conflict, which are a waste of your time and energy. So, before discussing a sensitive issue, ask yourself: What do you need in the situation? What specific actions do you want from the other? What is the purpose of your communication? What do you want the other to understand? How do you want the other to respond to your communication? Whenever possible, it also helps to first write down what you want to say and revise it based on these and other guidelines for effective communication.
Identify the event that triggered your emotional upset.
Describe what happened, being as objective as possible. Just outline the facts as if you were an outside observer.
Be aware of your body language and behaviors.
It’s important to recognize nonverbal communication as a formidable force, carrying a larger punch than verbal. Your body conveys more information about you, and your intentions, than your words. One of the goals in conscious communication is to use your body language, in a conscious way, to let the other know you care and value them as persons. If you avoid eye contact, or turn your body away from the other, for example, this can signal disinterest or disregard, which blocks communication. Your nonverbal communication cues—the way you listen, look, move, and react—tell the person you’re communicating with whether or not you care, if you’re being truthful, and how well you’re listening. When your nonverbal signals match up with the words you’re saying, they increase trust, clarity, and rapport. When they don’t, they can generate tension, mistrust, and confusion.
Nonverbal communication is a rapidly flowing back-and-forth process that requires your full focus on the moment-to-moment experience. If you’re planning what you’re going to say next, checking your phone, or thinking about something else, you’re almost certain to miss nonverbal cues and not fully understand the subtleties of what’s being communicated. As well as being fully present, you can improve how you communicate non-verbally by learning to manage stress and developing your emotional awareness.
Share your thoughts and feelings, clearly.
We’re usually pretty good at being able to recognize when we feel “good” or when we feel “bad.” If you ask someone how they’re feeling today, they can usually at least use one of those words. But what do those words really mean?
When you’re feeling positively, try to avoid using the word “good” to describe it. Are you feeling content? joyful? satisfied? loved? appreciative?
Likewise, when you’re feeling negatively, try to use a more descriptive word than “bad.” Is it afraid? incompetent? confused? inadequate?
Allowing yourself time to build up an emotional vocabulary is a good step in being able to understand your feelings better.
The clearer you are in what you want to say and how you express it, the more likely you will heard or understood. Share thoughts and feelings concisely. Speak in short sentences. Be specific and concrete. Make requests. Include brief examples only when relevant. Effective communication is about feeling heard and understood, not how much you say, being right, proving the other wrong, etc.
Express your thoughts and feelings, slowly.
The more hurried you feel the less awareness you have of what is really going on inside you, that is, your thoughts, feelings, needs. In turn, the more pressure to get to your outcome, the longer it seems to take to reach the desired destination. Additionally, this puts you at risk of triggering defensive strategies, which are about as healthy to your relationship.
Sharing positive feelings solidifies relationships. Love, appreciation, gratitude, delight—sharing these feelings builds affectionate bonds.
At the same time, stresses occur in everyone's life, leaving them with sad, scared or mad feelings. In addition, differences and hurt feelings will occur from time to time between just about any two people who often interact. Sharing feelings enables you to talk through the situation that had caused the difficulty. That way you can figure out how the problem occurred and what to do to fix it. Problem-solving together makes negative feelings lift. Otherwise the problem may linger or get worse, negative feelings may fester, and both you and your relationship suffer.
Share painful emotions assertively.
Assertive communications include four essentials: (1) your thoughts or perspective; (2) your feelings; (3) your core needs or emotion-drives; and (4) at least one specific action-request. (This means you also avoid actions that trigger you, i.e., judging, fault-finding, blaming, attacking, complaining, etc.) When you express yourself assertively, you stand up for yourself in a way that honors your own and the other’s dignity. That is a powerful feel good. You each have a clear sense of your own responsibility in the matter. You feel safe enough to accept and thoughtfully process criticism from others without defensiveness. And, you know how and when to give apologies. Of course, it's not just what you say — your message — but also how you say it that's important. Assertive communication is direct and respectful. Being assertive gives you the best chance of successfully delivering your message. If you communicate in a way that's too passive or too aggressive, your message may get lost because people are too busy reacting to your delivery.
Listening without judgment
The key to listening without judgment is to listen empathetically. Empathetic listening means putting yourself in the shoes of the speaker. Parents and friends who listen empathetically are able to offer a sounding board for others, inviting more confidence and better communication. At its heart, empathetic or non-judgmental listening allows the person to really feel heard and valued. Active listening keeps your mind focused on what the speaker is saying. It prevents your mind from running ahead and coming up with solutions or judging the speaker. As an active listener, you look at the speaker and nod to show that she has your full attention. Restating shows the other person that you hear what he is saying. How you restate shows that you are not judging the speaker. When you restate, you repeat what the person says in a new way.
Be conscious of timing.
Timing can make a big difference. It can be just as important as how and what you say. For example, it is usually not a good idea to bring up sensitive issues right before a meal when blood sugar is low, or just before you or the other leave for work, or when one of you is not having a good day. It is also not a good idea to bring up issues in the heat of the moment, when you or the other is angry and hurt. Instead, schedule a good time for both. This itself conveys mutual respect and sets the stage for a productive discussion.
Be aware of meanings beneath what you communicate.
Your communications send both open and hidden messages. The open part consists of the words and content of what you say. The hidden part is what goes on beneath the words—the emotional undercurrent of what each person is instinctively yearning for in the interaction. The emotional message is much more powerful than the overt message because it goes to the heart of the matter, subconscious core yearnings, wants, interpretations, beliefs, expectations, and so on. What words you use and how you say them can carry emotional meanings that you may or may not want to send. It is important to become aware of these underlying meanings and the core emotional needs that interplay in all communications. Underlying messages can be either positive or negative.
Keep the message positive and upbeat.
Maintaining an upbeat overall attitude when discussing sensitive issues gives assurance, and instills hope, belief in each other and your relationship. You can convey a positive attitude by inserting statements such as the following in your conversation: “I/We can and will do better,” “We are a team,” “If I do my part, and you do yours, together we’re unbeatable,” “There’s no problem too big it can’t be solved,” “I believe in you, and want you to believe in me; we can do this!” Clear communication is an inner driven focus to grow strong, mutually enriching relationships. Like giving and receiving, the effects of how you talk are inseparable from how you listen. They are intricately connected. Conscious-talking, however, is only half the equation in effective communication; the other half has to do with conscious-listening.