Conscious Communication

What does it mean to communicate "consciously"? And why is that even helpful? Conscious communication means several things:

  • Being aware of your emotions in the moment
  • Taking responsibility for your own emotions
  • Speaking without defensiveness, blame or criticism
  • Active and compassionate listening

The point of communication is, of course to hear and be heard. But we can't really hear if we aren't aware of what emotions are arising in us when someone speaks. We can't be heard if we are putting the blame on someone else for something that is really ours, such as a trigger or emotion.

Think about this conversation, which might feel familiar:

"You left the dishes in the sink again. You know how much that bothers me. Clearly, you don't care enough about me to clean up after yourself."

"I was too busy with work to deal with them then. You are always so fussy about the sink, it's not such a big deal, get over it already."

You can imagine how the conversation is going to go from there.

Conscious communication might look like the first person saying something like:

"When I saw the dishes in the sink last night, I felt angry. I told myself a story that it must have meant you didn't care about me." I know that's not what it is, but I do wish you would try harder to clean up after yourself.

The response is much less likely to be defensive! And it's much less likely to turn into a huge argument.

The individual elements of this take some practice. It takes time to get aware of our own feelings, and get out of the habits of blaming other people for them. It takes practice to notice the ways our speech can be blaming, critical, or defensive. It takes practice to learn how to compassionately listen to someone else, even when they are triggering our own emotions (start with self-compassion). But they are all skills that are learnable, and can make all relationships, whether intimate, family, friends, or work, better.