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 consider
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
- 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, PhD 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