Archive for September, 2014

September 1, 2014

Depth of Communication


Communication is one of the best things we can do as people but also one of the hardest things. One way to help better understand this process is to look at the levels of communication and how being aware of those levels can help us understand others and ourselves much better.

            The five levels can be describe as:

Level One: Greetings or salutations like “Hi, how are you?” “Just fine” “How’s the wife and kids?”  This level is not necessarily bad but it is shallow and utilitarian for greeting people at the grocery store.

Level Two: Sharing The News – This is where we share casual facts like the weather, the office, friends, the news, personal activities and personal statistics. “Bob, you look good” “Yeah, I lost 15 pounds” “What’s your secret?”  “Exercise and fiber” etc.

Level Three: Beliefs, Opinions and Thoughts – Now we’re getting a bit more personal. This is more from our mind (rather than our heart) but it is from a deeper place and involves more risk. Here we may express expectations, hopes, dreams and our knowledge about something.  “I think that tax cut was too small”, “I think that this church ought to hire a youth minister” These statements come from your mind usually and are not always in agreement with others. Listening (not necessarily agreeing) will do much to make the sharing of thoughts and beliefs a smoother process.

Level Four: Gut level or Feelings: This where we speak from our heart about certain things. Frequently it is about what we believe. If we are passionate about pizza or deficit spending we could have opinions about either but we will also have feelings about the issue as well. “I feel angry when I when my mother takes up half my afternoon” “I feel excited that I got promoted” “I feel sad that I can’t get anything done today” The feelings will get more intense as the value or vulnerability around what we are talking about increases. I can be somewhat mad about drug- using sports stars but really upset when a four point buck charges me in my SUV.

Level Five: Feelings and Needs Between Significant Others – This is where things can get deep and scary but also be very rewarding if done well. When I have a feeling about someone or about something someone did or said and I express it to them, I have entered into a more vulnerable area. If I express my comments in “kindness and truth” (that includes positive comments as well) I will likely go far. If I rage, get too anxious, act with presumption, try to obligate someone or criticize, I may find myself in a difficult conflict. Failing to listen and or defending myself from negative feedback will also dig me into a hole.

            Communication problems can arise when I do not recognize which level I am communicating from or what level the other person is communicating from. If I listen for facts when my child is really upset and really only answer around facts I may miss what he or she is feeling when how he or she feels is really the biggest issue at the moment. Once I have listened to feelings then I can get to facts and or opinions and perceptions.

            The deeper we go into the levels the more likely we are to feel we are responsible for the other person’s feelings and happiness. With the possible exception of parent-child relationships we are not responsible FOR others but are still responsible TO others. That means being responsible for being kind, honest, listening, controlling our anger, trying to understand and talking about what we need as we also listen to what others need. Being self-aware, empathetic, letting go of control, and being flexible as well as, of course, paying attention to the levels of communication will do much to help all of our relationships.