The Four Elements of Communication

The Four Elements of Communication

If we spent as much time exercising our communication muscles as our abs, I’d probably be out of a job.  Without solid communication, you are building your relationship on sand.  Communication is more about listening than speaking.  We were given two ears but only one mouth.  This is because God knew listening was twice as hard as talking.  Sorry, enough with the bad jokes. 

Active listening.

It’s not “What can I do for this person?  Or even "How do I see this person” but rather “How does this person see themselves and their situation?”.

First, I’ll give you the textbook how to, then in my own words.

There are four components:

Empathy.  Acceptance.  Congruence.  Concreteness.

1. Empathy is the listener’s desire to understand the other’s internal frame of reference rather than from some external point of view.  Try to get inside her thoughts and feelings.  If you practice empathy, you are saying “I follow you,” “I’m with you,”  “I understand.”  It comes from a non-judgmental place.  Here’s the good news.  A person who sees that a listener is really trying to understand his or her meanings will be willing to explore his or her problems and self more deeply.  The reason why empathy is so difficult is because we tend to advice, tell, agree or disagree from our point of view, making it about us.  Not them.

2. Acceptance means having respect for a person for simply being a person.  Acceptance should be as unconditional as possible.  This means that the listener should avoid expressing agreement or disagreement with what the other person says.  This attitude encourages the other person to be less defensive and to explore aspects of self and the situation they might otherwise keep hidden.

3. Congruence.  Openness, frankness, and genuineness.  A congruent listener is in touch with themselves.  For example, if angry or irritated, a congruent listener will admit to having these feelings rather than pretending not to have it.  Maybe because they are trying to be accepting, once again making it about you and not them.  When one person comes out from behind the facade, the other is more likely to as well. 

4. Concreteness.  Focus on the specifics rather than the generalities.  For example, instead of agreeing with a statement like “You just can’t trust a manager.  They care about themselves first and you second”, you can ask what specific incident the speaker is referring to.

That was the wine.  Now here’s the shot glass.  My take.

Read subtext.  What she’s really trying to say.  What’s underneath the words.  “I don’t want you to do the dishes.  I want you to want to do the dishes”. 

Listen to her heart. 

If she knows you have the ability to read her heart, she will feel like you know her, not just understand what she’s saying. 

Get off the soapbox.

Don’t preach or give opinions.  She doesn’t want you to fix it, she just wants you to be there. 

Get it? 

Got it? 

Good.

- Angry

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