By Maryanne Comaroto
One of today's challenges is deciding how to communicate matters of consequence, whether in business affairs or personal matters. The question here is which situations deserve real face-to-face communication. Although we live in a culture where messages with the potential to instigate nuclear disaster are "tweeted", as an eternal optimist I invite us to take the need for more enlightened communication into our own hands.
As Ghandi said, "Be the change"... starting with revisiting how, in matters of consequence, we can have the courage to speak our truth, in person, with heart. Here I offer a practice that I have found helpful for determining when and how to have a face-to-face discussion of a MOC (Matter of Consequence) that supports the most optimal outcome.
First Inquiry: What is the level of consequence?
When you find yourself avoiding face-to-face communication, it helps to assess the possible consequences. Situations with serious consequences and the people involved in them (including you) may merit more complex and sensitive communication than a text, email or tweet. We can likely sort serious consequences into 3 categories:
- Grave: The failure to communicate may end in the cessation of life (not telling your partner you have AIDS or an STD).
- Acute: Your communication may affect someone's professional, financial, psychological, social or physical well being (wanting to end a relationship).
- Chronic: Consequences involve situations that have history or are repetitive and your communication may result in unwanted consequences. This might be leaving a job you're unhappy in but need the money so you've continued to put up with circumstances rather than discuss needed change.
Categorizing the consequences of your communication will help you assess what is involved, face your fear and plot your course of action.
Second Inquiry: How can you organize an approach that will set you up for an optimal outcome?
Using my Pause, Prepare, Practice and Center approach offers a reliable way to reduce a sense of urgency and create conditions for an optimal outcome.
- Pause: Take a few deep breaths. Pausing interrupts, the momentum of thoughts racing into the future. It helps you get some space from the situation, gain a different perspective, reduce reactivity, and separate out what's true for you. It is difficult to settle on what is needed without first distilling your feelings and needs. Pausing allows time to consider any history involved, especially any issues related to your safety, including having been abused.
- Prepare: Decide based on your truth and integrity, what needs to be communicated; then the exact words to use; and when and where you want to say them. Preparation takes into consideration others' needs and our own. Having a script in advance helps prevent you from being overcome by your emotions or getting swept up in confusion or drama (theirs and yours). Then decide where you would like to be and what time of day. The whole thing. Have an OUT CLAUSE, a way to excuse yourself if someone becomes rude or inappropriate.
- Practice builds courage. Running through my script several times, practicing my delivery and various possible responses, increases my comfort and confidence. Though my message may be hard, even painful, to say, I remind myself that if I express myself with heart, having taken care to think it through, I am being true to myself and offering another human being the dignity and respect they deserve.
- Center: What practices help you get to a calm, centered place from which to know and communicate your truth? This involves letting go of the results, trusting that you have given this situation your best consideration. As Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj said, "There is what we do, and what we don't do. That is all." We cannot control the outcome; we can only hope that this interaction will lead to the highest good for all concerned whether or not that is immediately apparent. As another wise person said, "Just because you are uncomfortable doesn't mean anything is wrong!"
Speaking your truth face to face in our culture is a courageous and soulful act. Thank you in advance for helping make the world a better place!
Maryanne Comaroto, Ph.D. is a relationship specialist with a private practice in Marin County. One of her core beliefs is that great relationships begin within. She's a researcher, author and teaches throughout the United States. She hosts an internationally syndicated radio program about new approaches to relationships. For more information visit www.maryannecomaroto.com. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.