“This is not your court!” The Lawyer’s wife retorted when he argued at home.
“Mum, we are not your students!” Teenage children complained about the way their mum talked.
“I am not yet your wife! Mind your words” The girl got irritated with the way her fiancé talked.
Yes, there is a mix up in communication in all the three instances above. We play multiple roles in life. Similarly, we associate certain type of communication to particular roles. Society, culture or other agents of socialization such as family or peer group have created stereotypes on how we should communicate.
Most people rejoice over the words spoken to them from the heart. But a few, who does not have the emotional intelligence, would get hurt when others speak to them from the heart!
Which is most important? Is it the heart, the mind or the body? A tricky question indeed. And where does the soul fit in?
Yes, the roles and functions of each of the above constituent is inextricably intertwined to one another. Body might have the supremacy when it comes to the fulfilment of the primary needs. Mind takes supremacy when one attempts to find, observe or convey logic and reasoning to people, situations, nature (matter) and relationships. Heart has a predominant role when it comes to the manifestations of the ‘humane’ dimensions of the human self. Soul is the core of the innermost being.
The heart-mind dichotomy in communication
Before we focus on the stereotyped communication in the roles we play, let us discuss the heart-mind dichotomy in the realm of communication and how it can build or mar relationships.
Mind thinks rationally, intellectually and logically;
Heart expresses emotionally, empathetically and sympathetically
Mind measures outputs;
Heart measures outcomes
Mind keeps a record of what to receive;
Heart keeps a record of what to give
When two persons speak from their mind it is a dialogue. But, when they speak from their heart there is symphony which creates a synchrony in their relationship.
When one person speaks from the mind and the other person speaks from the heart, there is dyssemia. There could be a communication gap leading to misunderstanding.
The roles we play and speak
Eric Berne, famous psychiatrist and psycho analyst and the author of ‘Games People Play’, identified three ego states (which are phenomenological realities) from which people communicate to each other. They are child, parent and adult. Parent ego state represents a collection of recordings in the brain of external events experienced or perceived in the first five years of life. Later in life, people tend to communicate based on the perceptions and views of a parent. From the birth to age five, emotions and feelings related to the external events are recorded in the brain. These emotions and feelings are manifested in the everyday interaction and communication later. This is child ego state. In Adult ego state, individual validates the learnings from a parent ego state.
Some examples of recordings in each ego state as given by Eric Berne are as follows:
Parent ego state: “Never talk to strangers”; “Always chew with your mouth closed”
Child ego state: “When I saw the monster’s face, I felt really scared”; “The clown at the birthday party was really funny!
Adult ego state: “Wow. It really is true that pot handles should always be turned into the stove” said Sally as she saw her brother burn himself when he grabbed a pot handle sticking out from the stove. “
In this example, Sally’s Adult reached the conclusion that data in her Parent was valid. Her Parent had been taught “always turn pot handles into the stove, otherwise you could get burned.” And with her analysis of her brother’s experience, her Adult concluded that this was indeed correct.”
The conversations between two persons (the effect on each other of the other person’s communication) could be analyzed by understanding from which ego state each person communicate. It could be a complementary (Speaking from a child ego state to a parent ego state and the response is also from parent ego state to child ego state) or a crossed transaction (when stimuli and response are not congruent). Not only the words, but also the non-verbal communication is also important. According to Dr. Berne, “one must look at how the words are being delivered (accents on particular words, changes in tone, volume, etc.) as the non-verbal signs accompanying those words (body language, facial expressions, etc.)”.
Daniel Goleman has written extensively on communication in his books ‘Social Intelligence’ and ‘Emotional Intelligence’ wherein he has emphasized the need for empathetic approach in communication. Edward Hallowell who is a psychiatrist and was associated with Harvard Medical School for 20 years said that a five-minute conversation can be a perfectly meaningful human moment. He said that to make the human moment work, you have to set aside what you’re doing, put down the memo you were reading, disengage from your laptop, abandon your daydream, and focus on the person you’re with. Usually when you do that, the other person will feel the energy and respond in kind. Together, you quickly create a force field of exceptional power.
What is the learning from the above discussion?
Irrespective of the role we play, the communication needs to be from the heart to make it effective, purposeful and responsive.
Be focused to the stimuli (ie. to the person communicating to you and the situational context of the communication).
Be an orchestra to the person communicating to you ( Just like when a person sings, the orchestra facilitates the singer, we need to create a receptive verbal and non verbal expression).
Gauge the emotional status of the communicating person and respond accordingly rather than reacting to it.
Communication from the heart creates an environment of sincerity, empathy and frankness.
Views are personal © Sibichen K Mathew