UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young
“The single, biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. – George Bernard Shaw
By the age of two, most humans are learning how to talk. However, some people can go a lifetime without ever learning to really communicate. Communication is one of the biggest problems between couples and between parents and teens. While there may be a lot of talking going on, it is often “talking at” rather than “talking with.”
The word communication comes from the word “commune,” which means to be in a state of intimate, heightened sensitivity and receptivity, as with one’s surroundings.
Humans are gifted with the ability to share meaning. This happens best when there is a heightened sensitivity and receptivity to what the other is saying. We see this during the honeymoon stage of a new relationship when both people hang on to each other’s every word and intimacy develops as each person shows real understanding of the other. To truly see and know another is the deepest of all intimacies.
Of course, it is ego that gets in the way. When it has its own agenda, it is not so interested in another’s point of view. Think how present and responsive we can be when listening to the trials of a friend. We have no real vested interest in how he or she views the situation or chooses to respond. We simply want to be there for them and lend support.
However, dealing with a spouse or teen when there is a difference of opinion is another matter entirely. The ability to listen with a supportive and receptive ear somehow disappears as ego is immediately on guard. Ready to attack or defend, there is no time for ego to take up the cause of the opponent.
Ego assumes power and what began as differing points of view becomes a win/lose contest. It is now about challenging the views of the other and making him or her wrong. Ego must do this for if the other is right, then ego is wrong and ego will not stand for that. Ego will argue for its “rightness” even in the face of evidence to the contrary. Fairness, respect and validation of the other go out the window.
Often, this is a long-standing pattern and two people will fall into it almost unconsciously without realizing it has happened. Interestingly, even though both are contributing to the negative process, each person will blame the other for being difficult. Unquestionably, the relationship suffers and the partners will not have the trust and closeness they undoubtedly both desire.
There is a way out, however. It requires a conscious shift and staying conscious regardless of what the other person says or does. It helps to set a goal of always making the relationship more important than the issue and to then establish an agreed upon process to use when discussing an issue. For example, the agreement might be that each person states his or her case without interruption or interrogation and the listener repeats back the essence of what was said to ensure accurate understanding.
Once both sides of the issue are understood, it is not about trying to convince the other to agree or give in. This will only lead back to arguing and the accompanying negativity. Rather, the next task is to work together to find a compromise or solution that will work. Whereas, in the old way, each person merely reiterated his viewpoint and perhaps denigrated the other with escalating intensity, in the new way, once each person has stated their case, there is a shift: having heard my way and your way, we now work as a team to find a “third way.”
This takes practice and mutual co-operation. If the process starts to derail, it needs a time out. Reminding each other that the relationship is more important than the issue and refusing to let ego jump in and take you out of integrity will assist in establishing a higher road.
Gwen Randall-Young is a psychotherapist in private practice and author ofGrowing Into Soul: The Next Step in Human Evolution. For articles and information about her books and “Deep Powerful Change” personal growth/hypnosis CDs, visit www.gwen.ca