In the last series of blogs, “The Three Things That Drive You “APE” in Your Relationships,” I discussed how we can regress to our ancestral roots due to the impact of our amygdala, our past and our ego. Good communication can help tame the APE, and keep it from sabotaging your relationships. In this set of three blogs, I’ll introduce the concept of “contemplative communication,” and provide specific strategies when one is sender (speaker) and when one is the receiver (listener).
What is contemplative communication? Let’s break it down by looking at these two terms separately, and then put them together.
Good communication is the hallmark of a strong relationship. Put simply, communication is the exchange of information and ideas. Yet in practice, it is far from simple. Despite the fact that many books can tell you how to communicate, poor communication remains the number one reason couples seek out marriage counseling. So we know that learning good communication is more than just having a simple set of steps to follow.
Typically, we associate being contemplative as part of a spiritual practice one does their own vs. with another person. A contemplative sets aside time, engaging in a practice to ground oneself and seek connection with God. Yet in order effectively dialogue with another person, you must learn how to go inward, strip away the ego, and come from a place of genuine vulnerability – just what being contemplative calls us to do.
In Imago Relationship Therapy, I teach couples a dialogue process which embodies this notion of contemplative communication. The process is predicated on creating a safe space for couples to go deeper and experience stronger connection. Ask yourself this question: What do I bring into that space in my relationships? Do I bring shame, blame and criticism?… defensive reactions?…the silent treatment? Or do I bring openness and curiosity?… respect for the other person’s perspective?… humility to own and vulnerability to share my part of the problem? Bringing the former creates a toxic space while bringing the latter creates a sacred space. The former poisons while the latter heals.
In this dialogical space, it is important to know that there is always a sender and a receiver, and each has responsibilities. In the next two blogs I’ll provide specific strategies to help you bring your best self forward as both sender and receiver. These strategies will tell you both what to do and more importantly how to do it so that you can practice contemplative communication.