How do you get into the habit of connective communication?
When managers and staff first hear about the connective communication model, they often think it all sounds very simple. It only takes a minute to learn to use these 4 expressions: “As I see it...”, “So I feel...”, “Because I need...”, “Could you...?”. Yet why do so many people find binding communication difficult? Here are some tips from connective communication expert Els Van Beveren to help you get into the habit!
Lose automatic responses
Do you know why connective communication is such a challenge? “It’s so easy to learn automatic responses”, says Els. “Communication isn't something we learn consciously from childhood onwards. We see our parents’ responses and adopt them to manage conflicts and emotions.”
According to Els, you need inner space in order to communicate more respectfully and efficiently. “We need to be able to hit the ‘pause’ button, delay our response and make a conscious decision each time to speak nonjudgementally and without assigning blame”, she adds. “We need to draw on our own experience. Pay attention to our own and other people’s needs, rather than what we or the other person are doing wrong. This ensures a better connection and saves energy. Taking responsibility for your emotions gives you a feeling of inner control and freedom. The other person isn’t responsible for what you feel.”
Understand that it is a learning process
The more our brains are used to activating these connections, the easier it is to respond with compassion. “That’s how people learn, and connective communication can also become a habit. We can program our brains to choose empathy. It’s a bit like learning to brush your teeth or drive a car, except that it’s a more sophisticated process. If we become aware of these automatic models and manage to learn an alternative, this leaves us free to choose.”
It’s obvious: we can decide for ourselves what we think and feel! The result is a better quality of life. “And, just as in the case of any other learning process, we can learn to communicate with self-empathy”, says Els.
Whenever you’re learning something, practice makes perfect. Luckily, Els has a handy tip for practising connective communication. “Think of an expression or word that you use daily and that saps your energy. For instance, the verb ‘must’. Be aware of when you use this word and replace it with another word such as ‘want’ or ‘can’. Which need do you fulfil when you perform this action? Each Wednesday afternoon, you must take your children to their music lesson. You can change that sentence to: “I think it’s important to care for my children’s development and pleasure, so I want to take them to their music lesson on Wednesdays.”
Does this sound difficult? Focus on the activity you ‘must’ perform. “Does it really improve your life? Or can you find another way of fulfilling the underlying need by replacing ‘must’ with ‘want’?”, suggests Els. Actually, it sounds like an interesting exercise!