On a recent visit to the Museum of Modern Culture in Seattle, the exhibition arranged aspects of culture into groups, and compared them, which invited a different perspective on familiar television shows and films. Even though I didn’t see anything in the exhibit that I hadn’t already seen somewhere before, the visit was both enjoyable and enlightening. It was thought provoking to see the material set out in a new way. As we left the museum I was struck by the similarity between the exhibition and our work with Conscious Communication.
Using Conscious Communication we rearrange words and questions, in order to become more conscious of their impact. The words are all familiar, but set out in a different way. This was demonstrated in a discussion in a workshop this week, about the question ‘how do you feel about that?’. This common question is used in English to elicit more information about a topic, but we were asked why it wasn’t one we would recommend using.
We would recommend instead, using questions such as:
‘and is there anything else about that? or
‘what kind of ...., is that?
to encourage someone to say more.
There are two reasons for this. Firstly, asking the question: ‘How do you feel about that?’ narrows the focus to feelings, excluding potential thoughts about the subject and any actions taken. Secondly, potential problems may occur if we are speaking to someone of a different culture. Because culture can be diverse across generations, interest groups, or education, as well as by country or ethnicity, we simply cannot guess or assume someone’s cultural background, or judge their reaction to being asked how they feel. In some cultures, feelings are regarded as private, and we might have unwittingly overstepped a boundary and caused offense by asking about them.
Conscious Communication highlights that our use of language has impacts that are often unnoticed. When our awareness is raised we can be specific and more effective, reducing misunderstandings and increasing trust leading to improved relationships.