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Extra Lessons: 5
4. Kickstart Clear Communication
Transcript of the video lesson:
During the interviews that Jordan and I conducted before creating the content of this course, we found that the biggest desire of most people was to learn how to communicate clearly. It is a super important topic indeed. Many lessons in the course will teach you more in-depth about different aspects of clear communication. But to give you something really valuable early on in the course already, we made this lesson to kickstart clear communication in your relationships. If you can’t immediately apply it all, don’t worry, more in-depth explanations and exercises will come in later lessons! For now: enjoy. This lesson can really kickstart clear communication and thus enhance your relationships.
In this lesson you will learn:
- To show what’s inside
- And not let things go unsaid
- Communicate your feelings
- Communicate your desires
- Communicate your no’s
- Communicate your triggers
- Working together in communication
Show what’s inside
Often we would like to see the other person show more of what’s inside. But you can only start with you. If you want the other person to communicate more clearly, leading by example is the best chance you have. Be as authentic and vulnerable as you can be. If that sounds super scary, just start with little steps. Some examples:
- Do you feel confused and sad because your date seemed so interested in you and then all of a sudden became more distant? Tell them about your feelings. Tell them you would like to know what changed.
- Do you feel irritated with a certain friend because they never seem to be on time when they have a meeting with you? Be authentic about it, share your feeling and perception.
- It’s your mother’s birthday and again, you’re not sure what to buy her, you believe you have to, but you would rather express your love by just showing up and giving her a long hug. Nothing weird about it. You are in your power to share all of that with her, instead of just reluctantly buying her something you think is not the right present anyway.
If you want to show more of what is inside of you, a fun thing to try out is to answer questions as authentic, vulnerable and open as you can. You might be afraid that people reject you if you give certain real and elaborate answers. I had a period in my life where I struggled with a lot of vaginal infections, and often I have answered the question how I was doing with: ‘I don’t feel so well today because I have a vaginal infection’, and so I can say from experience that honestly, most people love it when you dare to be vulnerable with them and it will make the relationship deeper and more connected. Ideally, your relationships involve only people who really want to know you, and so there is no ‘too much information’. If a friend doesn’t like you sharing about yourself, you’re in the wrong friendship and finding that out is a great first step to start looking for friends with whom you are more compatible.
Talk, talk, talk
The point is really to talk, talk, talk. In most relationships, too many things go unsaid.
Again I would like to relate a personal story, to show how valuable it is to speak your heart. There have been two men in my life whom I really loved and who both left their physical bodies early. One was a friend of mine during high school, I was in love with him for some years and at the moment of him committing suicide, I had still never dared to really speak my heart. And I wish I had. The other person was Jordan. In my relationship with Jordan I have often pushed myself a little bit to share whatever I felt ashamed of, or confused by, or guilty for, or scared of. Whenever there was something in between us, we talked about it until it was resolved. In this relationship, I always spoke my heart. And when I received the news of his death, the very first thought that flashed through my mind was: I’m so happy that there are no words unspoken and no love unexpressed. Because I communicated so clearly with him all the time, the relationship was complete in every moment. He or I could have died in every moment, and the relationship would have been a completed work of art. And that helped me so much to find peace with his death.
This shows how valuable it is to talk, talk, talk. But I know very well how difficult that can feel at times. Let’s take a look at the different reasons why talking feels difficult at times. While going through those reasons, reflect for yourself on your own relationships. Do you recognize yourself in the following?:
- Things can go unsaid because we make the assumption that the other person will have understood without you explicitly telling them the actual thing. When you think there’s no need to talk about something, remind yourself that your logic is not their logic. Even if your spouse is with you for 20 years, they can not read your mind! If you thought someone agreed to do something for you but then actually doesn’t do it, don’t just assume the other person is an asshole or that you are not worthy and loveable. Ask: “I thought we agreed on you doing this? Did I misunderstand? Or did something change?” Give them an opportunity to explain where the communication broke down.
- Things go unsaid because we feel wrong, silly, insecure, ashamed or guilty. Do you want to wallow around in those feelings or just get it out there and finally open things up and just see what happens? Surrender. Tip: it makes things easier to start out with: ‘I feel uneasy to share this with you, but I do want to tell you that…’ the other person will likely feel more compassion with you, give you time to find your words, and appreciate you for taking the courageous step to communicate the thing you feel uncomfortable to talk about.
- And sometimes we know we have to talk about a certain topic because something is off, but we’re not so sure yet what to say. And that’s actually a great way to start a conversation. Very vulnerable and open. For example, ‘I want to talk with you about the way we have sex, although I don’t have my thoughts super straight myself yet.’
- Fear of rejection. Especially if it comes to talking about desires or romantic love, many people feel afraid to be rejected by the other person. One other personal example here, to show you how wonderful it can feel to be rejected. I was in love with a friend and I told him in length all about my feelings for him. He listened but wasn’t open enough towards me to connect in the ways I would have desired. I was leaving the country soon thereafter for at least a year of traveling, and nothing in terms of deeper intimacy had flourished from me telling him, but I felt so at peace with it because I had done all that was in my power to do. Sharing yourself completely brings a whole new level of gratification into your life.
Ask yourself right now: ‘Is there anything important in my relationships that I want to talk about?’ Pause here for a moment and take your time.
Communicate your feelings
A key ingredient to keeping communication peaceful is to communicate from the heart. Don’t be authentic in an offensive way by saying: ‘Asshole, you’re too late AGAIN!!’, instead, be authentic in a peaceful way by saying: ‘Hey, I believe we agreed on meeting each other earlier than the time you got here, that makes me feel unimportant and sad.’ So you’re sharing something about yourself and your feelings, not about the other person and what they have done. Keep the communication close to your own heart.
Let’s take a look at a fun exercise that will bring you in touch with the beauty of sharing feelings. I recommend you try this out with a loved one like a romantic partner, friend or family member. The instruction is to share only feelings back and forth. One of you starts out with saying ‘I feel… X.’ The other person reacts by saying: ‘When you said you felt X, I felt Y.’ Keep doing this. It’s important to keep in mind that all feelings are welcome. For example,
A: ‘I feel disconnected.’
B: ‘When you said you felt disconnected, I felt sad.’
A: ‘When you said you felt sad, I felt compassion.’
B: ‘When you said you felt compassion, I felt love.’
A: ‘When you said you felt love, I felt happy.’ … (etc.)
Do you feel awkward to ask someone to do this exercise with you? A gentle way can be to explain: ‘I’m doing a course to improve my relationship skills. I feel a little bit awkward about it, but would you like to help me by doing a short exercise with me? It’s about sharing feelings.’ Whenever doing something new like this feels edgy, it means you’re learning and expanding by doing it!
Communicate your desires
If there’s anything that makes a relationship dull and unfulfilling, it is to not communicating your desires. There can be many reasons for not being open about your desires, they often have to do with our upbringing and the strange social rules and beliefs this society fosters. Do you feel like you are not allowed to communicate your desires? Are you afraid to be seen as egotistical, over-demanding, spoiled, inappropriate, greedy, afraid to be rejected? Become aware of what is holding you back to express your every desire, then ask yourself: is that a reasonable reason to not communicate my desires? Odds are it’s probably not. Here are some new truths for you:
You are worthy. You have a good, innocent heart. You deserve to fulfill your heart’s desires. Communicating desires is a great way to get to know each other better and connect more deeply. You are allowed and empowered to ask another person if they would like to help fulfill your desire. The other person is allowed and empowered to say no, yes or negotiate. No desire is too weird or shameful to be communicated. Through Jordan I first heard of sex positivity, a movement that very beautifully states: Whatever consenting adults agree on, is positive. (And you can apply this truth of course wider than just sex.) Some examples of daring to express your desires:
- If you have a desire to receive a massage. You don’t have to complain about back pain and wait for the other person to offer you. You can simply ask: ‘Would you like to give me a massage?’ If you feel bad about asking for something for yourself, remind yourself that the other person can say no, but might as well say yes because the pleasure can be on both sides!
- If you want to try out a role play with your sex partner, it’s great if you can show the other person more of you by communicating that desire. Don’t feel embarrassed for your wonderful creative idea’s that might enliven your sex life and make the relationship more joyful. And even if the other person says no to your proposal, that doesn’t mean you were wrong, it just means your desire is not compatible with this particular person.
- No desire is too extreme. If you are in a monogamous love relationship and you have a desire for another lover, you are empowered to communicate that. It can feel great and connecting to at least share a desire like that. And maybe you also have a desire to open the relationship to allow for such freedoms. Even if that might make your partner (and you) feel insecure, it’s a reasonable thing to give yourself the freedom to talk about that.
Communicate your no’s
Not saying no when you feel a no is a fast way to kill love and replace that sweet love with bitter resentment. There is a common belief that relationships include making compromises. If you believe that, set it aside right now. Don’t settle for relationships in which you say yes to all kinds of stuff that you feel a strong no toward, instead, find relationships with people whom you have enough compatibility with to also have a wonderful relationship with within the confines of only doing what you both like.
You’re never responsible for fulfilling someone else’s desires. If someone tries to convince you of that fact, they are being unreasonable. If your mother wants to go shopping with you and you don’t want that, she’ll just have to find another person to go with. And even if it’s your monogamous partner that wants sex with you, and thus cannot fulfill the desire for sex without you, you have no obligation whatsoever and you are fully empowered to say no. It’s nice to explain why you say no, as this will make the other person understand you and the situation better and will provide valuable information for what future requests might work out and what might not. You don’t need to, however. ‘No’ is already a full sentence.
A nice mix occurs when you want to say no to something, but you do have another desire that comes close to what the other person has asked for. In that case, you can make a counter offer. For example, ‘I don’t want sex with you, but I do have a desire for physical and emotional intimacy. What about naked cuddling?’ Always communicate clearly about what you don’t want and what you do want.
If saying no is a hard one for you, take a look at the extra lesson about being strong in your no. And in the course Fulfilling Relationships II we’ll have a whole lesson on negotiating.
Communicate your triggers
Something that makes communication very messy often without both of you even noticing what it was, are triggers. Let’s quickly recapture: what are triggers? Sometimes when something happens you might feel a stronger emotion than you would rationally expect yourself to feel given the situation.
For example, the partner with whom you live together asks you to clean up your dirty clothes that are lying around on the floor of the bedroom. Although you think it is a reasonable request, you feel super rejected, sad and angry at the same time. All you want to do is throw the clothes into their face and scream ‘NO!’. Seems extreme, right? But maybe you can remember that when you were a child, your mother would often complain about the mess in your bedroom, calling you a ‘dirty sloth’ and denying you dinner unless you would clean up. Now this suddenly makes your emotional reaction understandable, although it’s still a reasonable request from your partner to clean up a bit.
So a trigger is a current situation that reminds you of pain from the past that’s still unresolved.
How to manage your triggers? Feelings are always valid. So don’t ever make yourself or another person wrong for your or their feelings. Try to not act on them in a way that harms the other person though. Instead of lashing out at them, which would be killing the messenger, share that you are feeling emotionally triggered.
In this example, you might say: ‘I do think it’s reasonable that you ask me to clean up. But at the moment I feel very triggered because my mother would be very abusive towards me whenever my bedroom was messy. I feel sadness, anger and I feel rejected.’ Notice that it’s just communication about what’s going on inside you, there’s no finger pointing. The other person did not hurt you, you were already hurt, and this person just reminded you of that unresolved pain that you can now take a look at and heal.
Clear, peaceful communication about your triggers like this will likely make the other person feel more compassionate towards you, and give you support to feel what you’re feeling. The only thing that a trigger needs to be healed, is enough awareness of it. If you feel a need for something, like the other person telling you that it’s just about the clothes and that you don’t have to feel rejected, or if you just want a hug, ask for it. The trigger might occur more often, just be aware of what’s happening, don’t lose yourself in acting out on it, and you’ll see that gradually as you keep loving your own heart whenever it happens, the past loses its power over you.
The other way around can happen as well. When someone you’re in a relationship with seems to become disproportionately upset, they likely got triggered. If they lash out at you, don’t take it personally. Do draw clear boundaries if the other person treats you badly. Otherwise, you can just make clear what you think is going on in a peaceful way. You can say for example, ‘I see you are really upset and I want to support you. Do you think you’re really feeling this just because of what I did, or is there maybe more underneath it?’
You see that the red line of the clear communication story is still: talk, talk, talk. As this will build a bridge between your inside and the other person’s inside.
Don’t keep secrets from your own teammate
If you are in a relationship with someone, you are both trying to make it work. If not, I would suggest you get out of there. Normally you and the other person both want to have a good time together, whether your common goal is to have a great parent-child relationship, have a beautiful intimate love relationship, a good friendship or just to have a functional and friendly dentist-client relationship. The common goal should always be at least to connect, respect each other and share activities that you both want to engage in with each other. Great, so that means that you are a team!
Teamwork is hard without clear communication. This is very clear at work, but people often forget this fact when it comes to personal relationships. If you experience a problem with the relationship, you don’t have to keep it to yourself and figure it out on your own. You have a teammate and you can share about whatever problem your find and see if you can solve it together. This will only make the connection stronger.
A last personal story to end the lesson with. Arial: “Somehow I have felt most of my life as if I should solve problems on my own and not bother other people with it. Jordan noticed my tendency to keep a problem to myself and only share about it if the solution I had come up with needed the cooperation of the other person. Jordan asked me to always share about problems I encountered in our relationship. Because he saw us as a team, and so my problems were his problems. He felt that when I wouldn’t share a problem with him, he wouldn’t have a chance of contributing to a solution. ‘Even if I don’t even know what exactly is the problem?’ I asked him. ‘Even if I just feel disconnected but I don’t know why?’ ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Then you just say: I feel disconnected right now and I don’t know why. And then we can figure it out together.’ I followed his advice and it has made an amazing difference. It has moved me to tears to really feel like a team. I felt so carried, so loved. While in the past sometimes my mind would be on a problem that the other person didn’t even know the existence of, with Jordan, I could always stay connected as I would immediately share with him what was going on and so figuring something out together even became a fun activity.”
In this lesson you have learned:
- The importance of showing what’s inside of you
- To talk, talk and talk.
- To communicate openly about your feelings, desires, no’s and triggers.
- To be a team
You’re ready to kickstart clear communication!
In the follow-up course Fulfilling Relationships II, you’ll learn more about being authentic and vulnerable. There will be a lesson as well on negotiation. In the upcoming lessons of this course, we will, among others, cover communicating respectfully and nonjudgmentally. See you at the next lesson! And don’t forget to take a look at the exercise if you want to.
Transcript of the exercise video:
This exercise is meant to kickstart clear communication in your relationships. It’s a mental exercise, so please close your eyes, as this will help you focus better. Take a few deep breaths and relax.
Reflect on the following questions:
Do you sometimes not understand why someone is acting the way they are, yet you don’t ask for clarification? … What’s stopping you? … Can you make steps to let go of what’s stopping you and move into asking boldly for whatever clarification you need to communicate clearly?
Do you sometimes not show your feelings? So that you communicating something else to the other person than what’s actually happening inside? … Which feelings, in particular, do you have a hard time communicating? … What’s stopping you from being open? … And again, can you make steps to let go of what’s stopping you and move into the vulnerability and authenticity of expressing your feelings?
Do you sometimes not answer questions fully or honestly? Maybe because you’re afraid of the vulnerability, or you make the assumption the other person doesn’t want to know. What stopping you from answering questions fully and authentically? … Would you like to start answering questions more openly? If so, envision for a moment yourself doing that from now on.
Do you sometimes not clarify your own behavior or feelings because you think the other person has probably understood it without needing your explanation? … If so, know that you’re making the assumption that their logic is similar to your logic. And choose now one example out of your life in which you could have explained yourself more clearly. What would you need to tell this other person to be more understandable for them?
Do you sometimes not share something, or not ask something, because you’re afraid of being rejected or looking silly? … With those situations in mind, can you see that you’re mainly blocking yourself from having really deeply fulfilling relationships, as the other person isn’t able to connect to what’s going on inside of you? And is not able to get to know and love that part of you? Imagine for a moment not being afraid of rejection, and being the boldest version of yourself.
For peaceful and connected communication it’s very helpful if you learn to communicate your own perceptions and feelings, instead of any judgments or statements that might feel to the other person as accusations. Do you sometimes make statements like ‘You weren’t clear…,’ ‘You should…’, ‘Why do you always…’, ‘But you said…’, or ‘You are always…’? Can you think of one particular situation in which you did this? … And can you now imagine saying something else, purely from your own I perspective and your own feelings?
Now think of a desire that you have been having in a certain relationship, but that you haven’t expressed yet. … What has been stopping you? … Know that every desire is welcome to be voiced. Envision yourself expressing the desire. … And feel the gratification it brings to at least express a desire, regardless of whether this person wants to help you fulfill it or not.
Now think of a moment in which you didn’t say no to someone, while you did feel a no. … Know that you don’t need a good reason or any explanation at all to say no. No is full sentence. Now envision yourself acting differently in this situation, envision yourself communication clearly about what you don’t want.
Set the intention to improve the things that passed by in this exercise. … Listen to the following affirmations, and know that you can do this:
I ask for clarification when I need it
I express my feelings
I answer questions openly
I clarify myself to others
Instead of afraid of rejection, I am bold
I communicate peacefully by communication about my own perceptions and feelings instead of judgments about the other person
I express my desires
I express my no’s
I am getting better at clear communication
I communicate clearly