The Saying What Matters lady wishes all of you good communication for 2015. The next few posts will focus on the communication climate – what it is and how we can improve it as well as dealing with that pesky, old trickster called conflict.
It may be helpful to step outside relationships and communication for a moment and think about the difference between climate and weather. Weather deals with day to day variations, while climate refers to the average daily weather of a specific place over an extended period of time. It takes a while for climate data to accumulate but rest assured, all the day-to-day weather incidents play their part.
A definition of what is meant by the communication climate.
- The emotional tone of the relationship in which communication takes place – positive and affirming or negative and disaffirming and all the stops on the road between those two ends of the spectrum.
- The climate settles into a specific pattern based on how people interpret the day-to-day weather of the relationship.
- A positive emotional climate is vital to relationship success – you think? Talk about stating the obvious, Saying What Matters lady.
- We look for and stay in relationships in which the climate affirms and supports us – once again – dah!
The messages we receive during communication elicit different emotional responses and contribute to the daily weather of a relationship and ultimately the climate. Affirming messages make us feel valued. Disaffirming messages lead us to believe the other has a lack of regard for us and often leads to defensive responses.
Let’s go the positive route first and think about what a confirming message consists of and how it makes us feel.
- There will be recognition – the other person really sees us and acknowledges us.
- There will be acceptance of our right to our ideas and feelings.
- The other person will demonstrate good listening skills when we speak.
- The other person asks appropriate questions and paraphrases back effectively.
- We will feel that the other endorses our right to speak and be heard.
Naturally, it’s difficult to have all those great things going on at once, but what we’re looking for here is a general trend or direction to our communication.
Now we’ll take a look at the other side of the coin, disconfirming messages.
- They basically do the opposite of everything we looked at above.
- There can be verbal abuse, complaining, interrupting, impervious, irrelevant, impersonal, clichéd tangential, ambiguous, incongruous and take-away (using another’s remarks as a starting part to shift the conversation to self), responses – whew!
No one wants to live in a climate characterized by disconfirming communication. The occasional clouds, rain and even storms will pass. As Annie would sing and have us believe, the sun will come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar. But if the climate is constant storms or dry spells, who wants to live at the Arctic Circle or in the middle of the Gobi Desert?
Think accretion here – that drip, drip, drip that eventually floods an entire house. This is what a constant dose of disaffirming messages can do to a communication climate. I once watched some news coverage of people on the shores of a frozen lake as the wind whipped up. They were laughing and pointing as the ice crept onto the shore. The laughing stopped when the ice began to slowly but surely push over homes and everything in its path.
So, get curious. We don’t want to fiddle while Rome burns down around our collective ears.
What is the climate of your various communication relationships? Have good weather days outweighed bad weather days and thus the climate is tipped to sunnier prospects? Or have unrelenting days of bad weather led to a climate not best suited for human habitation?