By Jeff Dwarshuis LMSW ACSW
The Use of Self to Increase Communication
The quality of communication within a relationship can be increased by the listener’s behavior. Generally this involves the alteration of things in the relational context that already exist but may be unclear, normalized, taken for granted or ignored. The three listening techniques for increasing quality communication are – The Art of Being Quiet, Boundaries and Self Disclosure.
A. The Art of Being Quiet – Both listeners and presenters maintain an unspoken time limit on the accepted length of silence between the exchange of language between each person. Altering the length of silence when responding to a presenter will increase the level of the listener’s attention to what is being said. The alteration of silence is taken from the discipline of Ericksonian Hypnotherapy. It is based on the recognition that communication is rhythmic and altering the timing sequence disrupts the unconscious timing pattern. Disrupting unconscious patterns creates an internal crisis and leaves the conscious mind working to make sense of the change. The result is a heightened level of attention to what is happening. Consider following these suggestions.
Wait longer before responding to a speaker. This causes the speaker to turn inward and have a heightened recognition of their thoughts and feelings.
Respond more quickly than expected after hearing a speaker. This creates a state of listener confusion which initiates an internal crisis response and a heightened attention state. This response causes an increase in attention to what is being said to them.
B. Boundaries – Boundaries are the spoken and unspoken rules, roles and limitations relevant to a relationship and its context. Boundaries involve issues of time, authority, submission, involvement, distance and resources. Boundary management is a universal human challenge which was shaped by instinctual responses to the joys and disappointments of childhood attachment. The quality of communication is greatly increased when boundaries are clear and verbalized. Boundaries are determined usually by the person in authority. When boundaries are clear, it allows for safety, freedom and self development. Here are examples of clear boundaries.
Job descriptions and work roles are clearly understood and well managed.
When a listener is clear and consistent regarding how long he or she can listen, what topics can be heard and how much he or she is willing to do.
When someone is willing to say “no” to tasks that are too big, inappropriate or out of line with expectations or personal decisions.
When a manager listens to an employee or colleague in the same location each time they talk.
C. Self Disclosure – Self disclosure is sharing information about one’s self that is personal. When a listener self discloses he or she is giving an unspoken suggestion that the speaker self disclose as well. Consider using these ideas:
Think about what you would like for the speaker to say that would move the discussion in a direction you would like. Based on this topic, pick something from your life that is personal and share it. The speaker will hear this and most likely respond with a personal example on the same topic. (If you want someone to talk about their mother than start by talking about your own mother.)
Self disclosure allows the listener to control the discussion by setting the parameters of what is acceptable. In other words, the level and detail of personal disclosure is determined by the listener.
The listener should be sure to only share as much as he or she can manage emotionally.