Levels of communication. Yes. This is extremely important on so many levels. If you look at the chart I’ve created, you can probably indicate not only what category you fall into, but everyone else you know. Let’s do a breakdown of the three levels.
Low-trust situations, period. If you’re in a relationship where you’re unsure of the other person and what he/she is doing, you’re falling into this trap. Let me tell you why. You’re more than likely developing defensiveness, protectiveness, and often legalistic language, as Stephen Covey has said.
To be honest, most people are in this category. If you eavesdrop on conversations in public, to what’s happening in your friendship circle, to work, to your own family. There’s a lot of chatter and assumptions that happen and we often conjure up ideas of what another person MAY be doing, but it’s because we lack communication. Simple as that. There’s no trust and it will always be a win/lose, or lose/win situation.
This is more of a respectful level. This is how fairly MATURE people interact (and I emphasize mature because there aren’t that many mature adults whom I’ve worked with the past five years in Thailand — lol). However, these people have respect for each other. They love avoiding the ugly confrontations, and so they communicate politely but not empathically.
Respectful communication works in independent situations and even in interdependent situations, but the creative possibilities are not opened up. In interdependent situations compromise is the position usually taken. The communication isn’t defensive, protective, or angry; it is honest and genuine.
The Third Alternative & An Example
It’s vacation time, and a husband wants to take his family out to the lake country to enjoy camping and fishing. This is important to him; he’s been planning all year. He’s made reservations at a cottage on the lake and arranged to rent a boat, and his sons are really excited about going.
His wife, however, wants to use the vacation time to visit her ailing mother some 250 miles away. She doesn’t have the opportunity to see her very often, and this is important to her.
Their differences could be the cause of a major negative experience.
This could be a sure lose-lose situation. The father can say, “I’ll have to cancel and lose all this money,” and the wife would say, “I have one mother! Where’s your sympathy!”
“The plans are set. The boys are excited. We should go on the fishing trip!” – Father
“But we don’t know how much longer my mother will be around, and I want to be by her,” she replies. “This is our only opportunity to have enough time to do that.”
“All year long we’ve looked forward to this one-week vacation. The boys would be miserable sitting around grandmother’s house for a week. They’d drive everybody crazy. Besides, your mother’s not that sick. And she has your sister less than a mile away to take care of her.”
“She’s my mother, too. I want to be with her.” – Mother
“You could phone her every night. and we’re planning to spend time with her at the Christmas family reunion. Remember?” – Father
“That’s not for five months. We don’t even know if she’ll still be here by then. Besides, she needs me, and she wants me.”
“She’s being well taken care of. Besides, the boys and I need you, too.”
“My mother is more important than fishing.”
“Your husband and sons are more important than your mother.”
See, this can transpire and unfold into a back and forth argument. Neither party will win and they’ll eventually split up. Boys go with daddy and mom goes with mom.
Both feel guilty and unhappy. The boys sense it, and it affects their enjoyment on the vacation.
The husband may give in, but he does so grudgingly.
Mother might give in but she’s withdrawn from all activities because her mother’s health is far more important.
Whatever compromise the finally agree on, it could be rehearsed over the years. Hostility will begin to manifest and the relationship will slowly deteriorate.
If they have cultivated the habits of effective interdependence, they approach their differences from an entirely different paradigm. Their communication is on a higher level.
Because they have a high Emotional Bank Account, they trust and open communication in their marriage. Because they think win/win, they believe in a third alternative, a solution that is mutually beneficial. Because they listen empathically and seek first to understand, they create within themselves and between them a comprehensive picture of the values and the concerns that need to be taken into account in making a decision.