It has been a while since I last shared anything from my Open Soul. There are few reasons for that! One – I’ve been working hard to become Dr. Dana, Two – I’ve been searching for like minded and other open souls to share information and Three – simply life has been happening, letting go of unhealthy relationships and starting new ones.
As this year comes to a close, I am excited to examine more aspects of effective communication in relationships and more effective ways to communicate in ALL relationships. More workshops: Open Soul Communication™ and Open Soul Painting™ are scheduled as well as more topics for the blog and the website My Open Soul.
Painting by Elena Kotliarke
The new year looks as vibrant as Elena Kotliarke’s painting – full of life, wonder, passion, and mystery.
Do people want to learn how to better communicate their emotions?
Last week I hosted the workshop “These are Feelings – not Facts:Communicating Emotions”, and as I prepared for the workshop I struggled with which would be the “best” pathway and theory to use as a lens for highlighting the information I wanted to share. I could have rested on what I teach in the classroom – but I didn’t want to come across as too academic. However, when I realized that I was looking for “pathways” “theories” and “lenses” I knew that my “framework” was going to be academic and I needed to change directions immediately!! So I got down to the basics and asked:
What is an emotion?
Jim Dine’s The Circus
The answers that I get when I ask this question are all over the place (which is why I decided to have the workshop). I would hear things like “Emotions are feelings” and “Emotions are things that happen to us” and “Emotions are those things that you can’t explain but you know about them.” So, how can we communicate our emotions effectivelyif we can’t define them? So what is an emotion? An emotion is really the result of a process that we experience which involves our perceptions, physical and social experiences, and language. All of these things work together to create the thing we call emotions. Let’s be honest, no one defines emotions this way in their personal relationships! We usually go for the the label of the emotion that we thinkwe are experiencing to define emotions. Stay with me here!
Which emotions are you experiencing?
Edvard Munch’s The Scream
Notice that I used the plural “emotions” in the question. This is intentional because when we are experiencing “some kind of feeling” it is usually multiple feelings or emotions and we tend to talk about the ONE we are most comfortable sharing. For us culturally, it is generally, “mad“, “sad“, or “happy” and then we throw in some additional descriptions that aren’t emotions at all like “good“, “fine“, “okay“, and “alright.” Going back to “What is an emotion” all of those components that go into the “process” of creating emotions, it is clear that these one word response are not accurate. How often do we respond with counterfeit labels to identify our emotions? Uh, very often!! How can we communicate our emotions effectively and appropriately if we are ignoring them? So once again, here is another reason for having the workshop!
Picasso’s Weeping Woman
Picasso’s painting gets at the point that I’m trying to make.
What emotions do you think she is experiencing? Take the poll below!
Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotion is a great place to start to understand how complex emotions are and to gain a broader vocabulary for the emotions that you are experiencing. For example, the emotion/feeling disappointment was an eye opener for me. Disappointment is the combination of feeling sad and surprised at the same time. Learning this made so much sense to me. If you are a parent, you have probably felt disappointed by some of the things your child or children have done. However, when you were in the moment of “catching that feeling” did you share it as being “mad”? Check out this article about the feeling of disappointment and raising children. And, check out this map of emotions…the hot and cool colors represent which parts of our bodies are activated when experiencing these emotions. I don’t know how true/valid the map is – but I can relate to Surprise because when I’m there, I feel like my head and chest are going to explode!
Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotion
Maps of bodily sensations associated with different emotions.
Tips for Commuicating your Emotions
So people do want to learn how to communicate their emotions! The participants at the workshop gained a better understanding of what it was that they were feeling and better labels to use to share the feelings. Here are few tips for communicating your emotions:
Identify your emotions
Choose the when, why, how and to whom you will share your emotions
Use “I” language when sharing your emotions
Be aware of what you’re telling yourself about what you are feeling
Respond to others how you want them to respond to you
If you want to vent your emotions,write about them… if you want to share your emotions, talk about them!
“Emotional Intelligence is more than understanding your own feelings. It also entails skill in expressing your feelings constructively.” Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence
This week is all about flexing our muscles when we battle time*. We have recently met with our friend, “Daylight Savings Time”. Well, friend to some, enemy to my students. They loathe changing the clock to “Spring Forward” because they “lose an hour” of sleep. My students don’t actually change their clocks (because they don’t really have them) their cell phones change automatically. I remind them on a Friday that time changes over the weekend (and they are stunned – every year!). And by Monday, some of them are still clueless and show up late. I can only ask myself,
“What is our relationship like with time?”
I met with three clients this week and each of them called out not having enough time to do the things they needed and wanted to do. Time was talked about as if it was a partner or friend that they were in bad relationships with and they had no way to end it. I immediately had to shift the session and talk about relationships with time and how we communicate about time.
As I worked with my clients, I asked them all, “What is their relationship like with time?” “How do they talk about that relationship?” I wasn’t surprised to hear that there was nothing positive to say about time. In fact, the things I heard were disturbing. Nothing that was said pointed to a loving, caring, and happy relationship with time. In fact, most of what was said suggested the need to destroy and conquer time. I had to know, if they spoke about any other relationship they had in this manner – after some time thinking, they said NO! So I asked, why don’t you break up with time?
Can we end our relationship with time?
I suggested to my clients to either “Spring Forward” or “Fall Backwards” in their relationship with time. Imagine either getting to the point in your relationship where ease it the driving force – think “retirement and time”. Or remember what your relationship with time was like before it turned bad – think “I don’t know how to tell time yet”. When they allowed themselves to change the way they thought about time, they immediately began to change the way the felt about time. Nothing magical happened in the sense that we created more time for them, however, when we viewed time as a relationship, the entire perspective changed. As with all of our relationships, we choose how we will participate in them – time is not an exception! Time will be a factor in lives, and we have more control than we think!
Time doesn’t need to be killed, managed, juggled, battled, wasted, or saved. We need to love, nurture, and respect our life partner… Time! We can make the relationship anything we want it to be…Why not make it positive?
This is the question that was addressed at yesterday’s workshop. How often do we ponder who we are? Minute-by-minute? Second-by second? With every significant event in life, we often find ourselves asking, Who am I? I often find that when asking this question, individuals want to know how to change who they are.
When I help clients and students attemptto answer this question, the first thing I tell then is “you are the sum total of all of your interactions up till this moment.” Most of them don’t like this response and press for something more concrete.There isn’t anything more concrete – who you are is directly connected to every interaction you have had and will have.
You don’t make yourself…others make you!
We don’t make ourselves. Almost everything you know about yourself is information that has been delivered by to you by someone other than you. Other people send us messages about who they want us to be, and we either accept or reject the messages. This is the formula of other people making us. In turn, we do the same thing to others – we send messages to them about who we want them to be and they either accept or reject the message…and the cycle continues. This doesn’t mean that you are not responsible for your decisions – YOU ARE, however the labels that you negotiate as you try to figure out who you are – those come from other people. And let me be clear here, those other people are generally significant people in your life. There are basically 3 ways that this (the creation of your self concept) happens:
We see ourselves the way that other people see us.
We spend enormous amounts of time comparing ourselves to and measuring ourselves against others.
We actively run our reflections through the vein of what would (fill in the blank) think.
I am not what I think I am.
I am not what you think I am.
I am what I think you think I am.
-Bleiberg & Leubling
When addressing the question Who am I, examine your attitudes, values, and beliefs. Take a close look at the things you surround yourself with, the values and beliefs that you hold, and most importantly the formal and informal relationships and interactions you have. We support and reinforce the messages that build our self concept through the environment that we build.
“Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are!”
As we grow in our understanding that the messages sent from others play a huge role in the construction of our self concept , we have more opportunities to exercise the power to accept or reject those messages. Who you are shouldn’t be about discovering what the past has hidden, it should be about discovering and realizing your hopes, dreams and goals.
Ask yourself these questions:
What goals and expectations do I have for myself?
What goals and expectations do my significant others have for me?
Which goals and expectations are you working towards?
Friends, Clients, and Family, lend ME your ears…I want to tell you something about listening!
Listening is the communicative act that we will participate in the most – yet it is the one that we are taught the least. You will learn more about effective writing and speaking than you will ever learn about effective listening. Let’s start with the basics – the difference between listening and hearing. Listening is an active choice and hearing is a passive behavior. We often get lulled into using “hearing” and “listening” interchangeably, as if they are the same thing – they are not! The often over quoted “He/She just wants to be heard” is incorrect – any animal with the ability to hear can hear us. We want more than to be heard – we want someone to LISTEN to us.
Listening is a process – which means that there are steps involved that must be present in order for the outcome (or the behavior) to be determined listening. Okay so what are the steps in the process of listening?
Being aware that a message is coming your way – We don’t generally listen to messages that we are unaware of…
Paying attention to the message that is coming your way – Let’s be honest here, are you listening to messages that you aren’t paying attention to??
Understanding the message that is coming your way –When we can no longer understand a message, we no longer listen to it (hopefully we ask for clarification and receive a brand new message that we do understand!)
Responding to the message that came your way- This is a crucial step, not for the listener so much but for the speaker. This is “that moment” when you let the speaker know that you are still with them with a simple nod of the head, or “uh huh” or any facial expression that indicates you are getting the message (and hopefully you mean it!!)
Remembering the message that came your way – And this is the test…Can you remember the main point of the message, if not…then you weren’t listening!
Sometimes when I have discussions with clients or students, I become painfully aware that they are not listening – even though they protest and can repeat the words that I said, when it comes to remembering the main point of the conversation — they are clueless. I don’t get too upset when this happens because listening is hard to do and honestly, no one ever really taught them how to listen effectively (actually most of learn ineffective listening skills) – so why would I expect them to know how?
“the” Truth about listening is that it is a process and all of the steps in the process must be present in order for the behavior to truly be listening. When one of the steps is missing in the process…you’re simply not listening!!
I spend a great amount of time teaching effective listening skills. The best part of teaching these skills is getting the feedback that relationships have changed and individuals feel acknowledged.
“Listening is the single most important way that we have to let others know that they exist” – DE
Knowing that effective listening is an important part of effective communication will also lead you to effective relationships!
Open Soul Communication
Effective Communication for Effective Relationships
I was at a conference this week and during a breakout session the question of authenticity came up. We were asked when could we be authentically ourselves. Uhhh… when can we not? During the open discussion, most of the attendees seemed to agree that we are lacking in relationships and opportunities where we can be authentic. I stood up and openly disagreed – and caught some flack for that.
Authentic implies that the contents of the thing in question correspond to the facts and are not imaginary.
Authentic Nature by Andre Wagner
My position is that being authentic doesn’t rest in a single experience or a single representation of your self. If you are choosing to display, share, or hide a part of you – then the act and process of making that choice is authentically you. Authenticity is multi-faceted…it is a system of parts all related to create a unique whole (in this case, a unique YOU!).
How many parts of you make the whole authentic you? Who gets to see or experience all of those parts? Why do we judge the “whole you” based on a small limited experienced part of you?
Communicating who you are is not always a complete reflection of all that you are. So this brings me to the notion of “being or acting fake.” I cringe when my students and clients refer to someone as being or acting fake. Taking this position implies that you KNOW all that there is to know about someone. How can this ever be possible? Our perception of others is rooted in the choices we make. We choose what we want to pay attention to – just like we get to choose which part of our authentic self we want to share with others.
There is a time and place for everything that you want to be. When I work students and clients, I choose which part of my authentic self to share with them and the same is true for when I work with my colleagues and spend time with friends and family. In each opportunity and relationship I am authentic and the beauty of all of this is that I get to define what that means for me.
Back to the conference…
I was openly challenged for my position and referred to as having an oppressed mind that is in the hand of my oppressors. Meaning that I am somehow letting “the system” define me and it is my duty (from their perspective) to behave in a way that they deemed authentic. Note to those individuals: THIS IS OPPRESSIVE! For me to stand up and disagree (by invitation) with the message being shared is authentically me.
Choosing to be all that you want to be is authentically you – who else would you be?
How your choices are communicated is also authentically you.
The question “Who are you?” can be read as “Who am I at this time?”
And if you’re concerned with whether you’re authentic or not…my position is that you are always authentically you!
Open Soul Communication
Effective Communication for Effective Relationships
I met with a young man yesterday that wanted guidance in defining his pathway in life. He had made many attempts to go to college only to drop out over and over again. He had experienced an illness early in life that forced him to miss a great deal of school. I should mention that this young man is very bright and so much of his identity is tied to his intellect and being “the smartest kid in school.” Needless to say he was devastated when he lost that status due to the illness. Thus his relationship with school went from loving and supportive to hateful and judgmental. Now that he is 22 years old, his relationship with school hasn’t changed which is why he participates in this approach-avoidance pattern with college.
I asked this young man to look at all of his relationships – including the relationship with himself – and tell me what he sees and how he felt. He revealed that his mother worked a great deal when he was young and he felt alone, being teased for being “the smartest boy in school” made him feel alone, when he got sick he felt alone, when he lost his status at school he felt alone, watching his friends and roommates succeed in college makes him feel alone, starting and stopping college makes him feel alone, and accepting that his mother is terminally ill makes him feel alone. Most importantly, the relationship with himself lacked love. He didn’t know how to tell the people around him that he was scared and lonely and didn’t understand why it was important to share how he was feeling.
How many of us are afraid to share that we feel alone?
Communicating what we feel and why we are feeling that way creates a pathway to healing wounds that have the potential to destroy everything we want for ourselves.
During his Open Soul Session, this young man allowed himself to be honest about his feelings and shed tears that he stuffed for 10 years. His fear began to subside and he understood that he was no longer alone.
How do you know if your relationship partner loves you? Do you rely on how you feel when the two of you are together? Do you know because you are told? What is the proof of love?
Often couples that I work with speak of knowing exactly when they fell in love and this knowing is frequently the reason for beginning a relationship. We knew as soon as (fill in the blank) that we were going to get married. Who doesn’t enjoy an amazing love story? And we know what happens next: there is a beautiful wedding, with beautiful pictures, funny stories to tell, and babies (although not in every situation and not necessarily in this order). Then reality kicks in.
A couple that I am working with has hit the wall of reality after 3 years of marriage. Finances, scheduling, work, and the end of the honeymoon have become real characters in their story of love. Like so many other couples, they are questioning if their story is coming to an end with statements like, “I don’t know if he still loves me” and “I can’t tell if she loves me anymore”… Even though they say, “I Love you” every day!
I tell this couple that Love is demonstrated through behavior. What do you do to demonstrate loving each other? What is the evidence that you love each other? In other words – Show me the Love in your story!!
What is the evidence to support your claim of love?
Surprisingly, they both had a difficult time answering these questions. When I asked for the evidence, I was told, “There is no evidence that I love her, but I do” and “ I can’t think of any evidence, but I’m sure it’s there.”
Picture this couple before a judge in a courtroom and their testimony is “ I love him/her, I just can’t prove it because I have no evidence.” In the courtroom of relationships, evidence proves your case. If you have nothing to show maybe you should rethink your claim!
If there is no proof – maybe it doesn’t exist!
Effective communication can lead to Effective demonstrations of love!
Last night I had an impromptu Soul Session with a young woman that is having a difficult time at her job. This was not the first time that we have addressed this topic of discussion. However, this was the first time that she was so emotionally distraught and feeling overwhelmed by her situation at work that she could not stop crying. Through her tears, she continually suggested that she wasn’t being treated fairly by her superiors. I asked her what she wanted from them and she announced that what she really wanted was to be acknowledged for doing a good job and told that she was appreciated.
This immediately sparked a thought and prompted these questions from me to her: Do you want something from them that they don’t know how to give to you? Have you told them what you needed? Have you considered that they don’t know how to praise you the way you need to be praised?
How should I love thee?
How often do we find ourselves in relationships with people that simply don’t know how to love us and respect us they way that we need to be loved and respected?
Demonstrations of love, respect, praise and appreciation are as unique to individuals as fingerprints, which means that one-size does not fit all. Effective communication requires a discussion about what you need in your relationship. Waiting for what you need to just show up without sharing what you need is a straightforward way to emotional distress and uncertainty in a relationship.
No one will ever know what you need/want or the best way to provide it for you unless you open up and say something.
Effective Communication promotes Effective Relationships!
“98% of success is support – I’ve got your back” – DE
So much energy is given to the HOW or process of communication …Don’t worry about that so much, focus on WHY we communicate. Before you ask, “How should I say (fill in the blank)”, ask, “Why should I say (fill in the blank)”. When we examine why we communicate, so much about ourselves and how we perceive others is revealed.
Here are 4 fundamental reasons why we communicate:
Why do we communicate?
The most basic answer to this question is – SURVIVAL! Without communication we would simply fail to survive. There would be no way for us to get our most basic needs met and without those needs being met…well you know what would happen, DEATH!! So, for the simple need to survive – it is mandatory that we communicate.
Why do we communicate?
Without communication, we would have no idea of WHO WE ARE! I often ask clients and students “Who are you” and I sit back and listen to them tell me all of the things people have told them about themselves…and they don’t realize how much of their identity comes from what other people have told them. We don’t make ourselves – other people make us and we make other people through communication(more about this in another blog!)
Why do we communicate?
How else do you make friends or start a family? You have to communicate!! We communicate to be SOCIAL!Let’s face it – we don’t do well living in isolation. Even people that live in some of the most remote places have invited reality TV crews to come spend time with them. We have an aching need to belong to something and we meet that that need by communicating.
Why do we communicate?
It is the most PRACTICALway to get things done. When we go out to eat, it is far more practical to tell the server what you want than it is to have him or her read your mind. And, when you find that you need anything, it is better to ask for what you need or want than to wait and hope that someone will figure it out.
Simple reflections like “Why do I want say this” or “Why did you say that” – help us understand so much more about ourselves and our relationships than if we asked “How did that message get sent”. So shift the perspective from How to Why.