In our society many of us grow up with confusing and unclear models for communication. This can lead to a multitude of problems, from misunderstandings at work, to difficulties in our friendships, to relationship breakdown. For example, as we grew up we may have been discouraged from saying clearly what we want, being told that directness can be seen as rude. We might instead hope that if we drop enough hints the other person will work it out for themselves and give us what we want without us having to ask. We may also have been discouraged from saying directly when we’re not happy about something - so we might withdraw, or try to manipulate or control someone’s behaviour, rather than simply saying that we are not happy. Alternatively we may wait until we are really angry about the situation and then explode in an uncontrolled way.
Often we don’t feel we have the right to have the response we are having to a situation. We may have been taught that our ‘emotional’ or ‘irrational’ reactions have no place. So we are likely either not to share these sides of ourselves, or to share them too strongly, expressing our fears or concerns as facts rather than ideas. For example, if we have a sense of not being considered by our partner we might get upset and say ‘You’re so selfish!’ This kind of comment is often a good way to switch the other person off and create defensiveness or conflict. Yet we do need to find a way of communicating to them that we think they’re not considering us enough. If we can’t communicate this it will eventually build up and cause difficulties in the relationship.
Our feelings are another factor that we can also tend to leave out of the conversation, as we can feel very vulnerable sharing them. We may think our feelings aren't appropriate or relevant. However, saying how we feel can bring connection and empathy and leaving this out can create misunderstanding and distance. With all this confused conditioning, it is not surprising that we find it difficult to raise potentially contentious issues, to share our vulnerability, or even to know clearly what we think or what we want. Many of us stand to gain a huge amount from exploring our communication style and looking for ways to express ourselves fully and cleanly.
● Move from Fears and Fantasies to Facts
● Move from difficult Feelings to finding a way Forward.
Authentic Communication workshops can help you see through this communication confusion and offer you a framework for expressing all these different aspects of yourself clearly, cleanly and respectfully. We call this the Five Fields Authentic Communication Framework.
For any given event we start with:
Facts - What actually happened, the facts that both parties can agree on.
We then break down any communication about this event into 4 basic responses to these facts:
Fears and Fantasies - Our fears, imaginings or assumptions about what happened. Our opinions of ourselves and others and any sense of blame.
Feelings - Feelings we are experiencing such as shame, guilt, fear, anger, sadness, joy - that arise as a result of our fears and fantasies.
Fortress - Our protective response. What is not ok with us about what happened, where our boundary is on this subject.
Forward From Here – What do we actually wish to have happen as a result of the conversation, what do we want them to do or say?
Understanding these 4 different responses will help you spot when an important piece of information is missing. Using the Five Fields framework makes it much less likely that the other person will experience your communication as blaming or manipulative as you are clearly stating your fears, fantasies, judgements, feelings and wishes so these do not go in to shadow.
Using and understanding this model can support you to:
● Speak with dignity, power and clarity
● Set your boundaries and say confidently what you want
● Have difficult conversations that you might usually avoid
● Have greater resilience and less confusion in difficult conversations
● Explore the shadows that hinder clean and effective communication
● Have confidence in your right to your feelings and self expression
● Avoid hidden judgements or blame that switch off the listener
● Risk showing your vulnerability in conversations
These are one or two day workshops. The two day workshop allows for a deeper exploration of the shadows that may be blocking your communication. Our workshops provide a supportive, safely held space where you can explore your communication. We work with the five basic sections above to make communication safer and clearer and as a way of building trust and cooperation. During the workshop you will learn how to use the framework, be coached in real life examples that you choose and have the opportunity to practice having these conversations with role players representing the person you would like to speak to. You will also get a chance to explore the shadows that may be preventing you from communicating clearly.
Couples, colleagues, friends and family members are welcome to attend these workshops together. If you attend together you will each learn to use the Five Fields framework and you will gain an understanding of some of the personal shadows that may be at play in your communication. You don't work directly on your relationship in these workshops, but you each work individually on your own communication challenges. You can then take this model away and use it together. The framework is powerfully effective for working through difficult issues as they arise in your relationship and for deepening your understanding of each other. Please see the workshops page for details of upcoming Authentic Communication workshops. This framework can also be taught individually in a one to one session if you prefer to learn in this way. The Five Fields framework also forms a part of the couples work I offer. Please see the couples page for further information.
Sign up for the Healing The Shadow newsletter to receive monthly news.
Further reading about the Five Fields Authentic Communication model: