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Communicating to Control or to Connect

We've discussed playing psychological games and described rescuing and other manipulative behaviors, but the underlying issue in communication is the overall intent of our communication. Very simply, all communications can be divided into two categories: attempts to control and attempts to relate.

Living in a highly competitive society, most of us have unconsciously been trained to try to control either the outcome of a conversation or what the other person does (to get what we want). We make demands, pass judgment, diagnose problems, and blame others. While business, sales, and marketing strongly value this type of communication, it is far more widespread - and so insidious that, like the fish who doesn't understand what water is, most of us have no idea that we've been trained to communicate primarily in this way.

The alternative way of communicating is to relate to people and to connect with them. Women often have an advantage in this arena (for more, see 9.48M9.13). The goal of communication with the intent to relate or connect is to arrive at a new conclusion that serves everyone. The outcome is usually something that neither party would have thought of on her own. Good listening skills and openness and flexibility are the hallmarks of this type of communication.

Learning to recognize our patterns of control is the first step. The hard part is changing them. Two popular approaches offer tools to change these deeply ingrained habits.

Nonviolent Communication - pioneered by Marshall Rosenberg, PhD, in a book by the same name - is probably the most widely available of the two. In addition to the book, videotapes and training courses are offered worldwide.

A second approach, pioneered by Brad Blanton, PhD, in Radical Honesty, and amplified by Susan Campbell in Getting Real, (see The Ten Truth Skills" 9.48) offers fresh perspectives on communicating honestly and caringly, with the intent to connect rather than control.

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