We—Hannah and Jake Eagle—have continuously discovered, developed, and practiced methods to enhance our partnership for the past thirty years. The result is that our relating has become easier and lighter, yet more profound, humorous, and loving. At this point, it’s effortless. And the key is how we communicate. So, as we move into the New Year, we want to share with you nine communication tools to make your relating easier and more rewarding.
This article focuses on conversations between people who care about one another.
1) Before you begin any serious conversation, ask this question: “What will make this conversation feel valuable?” In other words, what are we trying to do? Are we trying to agree on something, listen to one another, acknowledge our differences, or change one another’s opinions? What is our measurement for a good conversation? If you state that upfront, it will influence the conversation. For us, our goal is to have civil conversations in which we witness each other, do our best to understand, and are kind and respectful.
2) Don’t focus on the outcome of the conversation. When most people have conversations, they focus on the outcome of the conversation. We don’t do that. Instead, we focus on the quality of the conversation. In other words, focus on the tone and feeling connected during the conversation. Speak to each other as if you care about one another– as if you are friends, and when the conversation is over, you can feel proud of the way you conducted yourself, regardless of the outcome.
3) If a conversation starts to feel difficult, stop and take the time to remind one another that you are friends, partners, or lovers. This is very calming to the nervous system. And the state of your nervous system plays a significant role in the quality of your conversations. When we don’t feel safe we’re much more likely to be reactive, so the goal is to do things that create a sense of safety.
4) If the conversation is not going well, stop! No point in continuing and running the risk of hurt feelings. Take a break. Try again later. And go back to point #1, above, and ask, “When we try this again, what can we do differently that will make this conversation feel more satisfying?”
5) Create boundaries—what’s acceptable, what’s unacceptable? There are certain things we never say. For example, we are never mean, rude, crass, or harsh when speaking to one another. We don’t tolerate such behaviors. There is NO excuse for treating each other poorly. None! People can control themselves, except at times when they are genuinely under threat of danger—and that is not the case when we’re having a conversation. It’s only a conversation—a process that continues.
6) Shift levels of consciousness: When you anticipate having a conversation that you think may be difficult, shift into heart consciousness before the conversation even begins. If you don’t know what that means, we have articles on our website describing the different consciousness levels. But the simple explanation is to access a state of appreciation before you have the conversation. Can you appreciate the other person being in your life, appreciate listening and being witnessed, and appreciate your ability to have mature conversations?
7) Be kind: Some people feel they are lovable; some don’t. There is a higher likelihood of being reactive during conversations for those who don’t feel lovable. One way to minimize reactivity is to be kind to the other person because when we’re kind, we feel more lovable and so will they..
8) Take turns speaking and listening. One of the most common mistakes people make sounds like this:
First person, “I was very uncomfortable with the tone you used with me last night.”
Second person, “Well, I didn’t like the tone you used with me.”
That kind of conversation will go in circles and get you nowhere. The only way to break the cycle of tit-for-tat conversations is for one person to speak. The other person listens and hopefully can understand—even if they disagree. After the first one is done speaking, take a pause to ascertain if you understand them, then switch places. After a short break, the person who was the “speaker” becomes the “listener.”
9) Try using Perception Language: You may not be familiar with Perception Language, but it is one of the pillars of Live Conscious. If you know how to use Perception Language, go back to the basics when you have a conversation that feels challenging. Be very explicit that you are only talking about your perception; you are not telling the other person about them, eliminate praise and blame, and stay focused on what you can do now—in the present moment—to make the conversation constructive.
If you don’t know Perception Language, there is some information on our website, or you can learn the basics by reading Jake’s book: Get Weird, Make the Most of Your Life.