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Getting Clear: Cleaning Up My Communication Style

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Last weekend I attended an amazing workshop led by horse whispering life coach Koelle Simpson.  I knew I would be learning some really cool tools and strategies on how to better manage my energy (and boy did I!), but the most valuable lesson I learned was how necessary it is to be crystal clear about what I want.

Working with the horses showed me exactly what my energy communicated: a jumbled mess.   The first time I attempted to get a horse from the workshop to move in a direction I wanted, I was really hopped up on high manic energy and the thought I will make this horse do my bidding! I had heard a lot about join-ups (getting the horse to think you’re okay enough to lead him around) so I thought I was the bomb when the horse did this without me initiating it.  The problem here was that I didn’t initiate or communicate this to the horse, he just decided to do what he felt like and I let him. I told myself this is how I wanted this to go down and called it a success.  In reality, my intention was to jog him around the ring a few times and then have him join-up.  At one point, Boyd Varty, who was co-coaching with Koelle asked me do you know what you want the horse to do right now? and I had to admit that, no, I really didn’t.  I thought I had everyone (especially me) convinced that my communication style was direct and clear, but at that moment, my lack of clarity was as obvious as a Lady Gaga outfit. I’d been in this situation before. With my children, I’d thought I’d been clear when I asked them to go to bed and told them I expected them to stay in bed and with my ex-husband I thought I’d been clear when I’d told him we really should just be friends and never get romantically involved—in both cases my words communicated one thing and my energy broadcasted something entirely different.  Consequently, the results I yielded from both of these circumstances looked very different from what I wanted.

So now that I knew what the problem was, I wanted to figure out how to make it right. This is what I learned about communicating clearly and I knew if it helped me, it would surely help others (this can be applied to your family members, bosses, spouses, neighbors, God, the Universe or anyone else you communicate with):

  • Figure out what you really and truly want. I made a list of qualities that I wanted my relationship with my children to reflect—Koelle made me get really detailed with this: for example, peaceful was not going to cut it, however, I would like my children to go to bed peacefully and stay in bed without my involvement was much more clear.  Listing my intentions was a good start, but the intentions lack teeth without the proper energy and actions to back them up.
  • Set and maintain your boundaries. If I intend for my children to go to bed and stay there, it’s a good idea to have some follow-up actions lined up in case they feel like testing the boundaries of what I expect.  Since my girls share a room, I separate them when they start causing each other heartache, ironically, they hate being separated even if one has the other helplessly trapped and screaming under a plastic bin. I always let them know beforehand what the consequences are if bedtime becomes a hassle, and I don’t hesitate to follow-through when they challenge the limits I set. I separate them without any emotion or judgment on my part (takes some practice, especially when they are freely sharing their criticisms and feedback with me).  It turns out that, as do horses, children appreciate people who know how to set boundaries for themselves, especially if they are assuming a leadership role.  It demonstrates that they have the ability to keep not only themselves, but also their dependents safe from harm.  Becoming a doormat does not win brownie points in the animal or children kingdom.
  • Stay in your own positive energy.  It doesn’t matter what my children are doing.  If they are acting up, I don’t have to join them by getting tangled up in their chaotic vibe.  I can put my attention on my own positive feelings, creating scenes in my mind if it helps (go to my happy place) and bathe in that.  If my kids are wilding out, they can do that while I’m blissfully recollecting the time I had the house all to myself for two full days and nights until they are finished. They’re going to finish whether I add to the drama by yelling and acting out alongside of them, or if I just remain calm. My experience is that my children finish their episodes much quicker when I maintain my serenity. I can also help them manage their energy more effectively when I’m present and relaxed.  They are much more inclined to pay attention to me when I’m engaging them in a focused, but calm manner.  Also, it’s just no fun trying to get a rise out of Mom if she’s not buying into the bedtime games.
  • Let go of any attachment to the outcome. I just stay focused on feeling good, I don’t tell myself any stories about how I really hope my children will give me a break and listen to me, but, seriously, who am I kidding? They do this every night, why would tonight be any different? But I will seriously lose it if they don’t go to bed now! My kids don’t give a hoot about what I’m saying, but they can certainly sense my lack of clarity about what I truly want and expect. I say I want a peaceful bedtime situation, but my energy reveals the fact that I lack confidence in getting what I want.  I personally can’t remember ever responding favorably to anyone who made a desperate request of me then became unstable and agitated when I didn’t deliver whatever it was they thought they wanted.  Why would I expect my kids to react any differently?  If I’m clinging to the outcome or telling myself something about the situation that simply feels gross (like my kids should do what I say when they’re doing quite the opposite . . .), I take that mess to Inquiry.

The good news is that I’ve been practicing these strategies all week and they totally work! I have noticed a marked difference in my girls’ demeanor and how they respond to me. They are calmer, more peaceful and more relaxed around me—they are mirroring the energy I consciously choose to generate around them.   Whenever I do catch myself being unclear, disrespecting my boundaries, getting caught up in someone else’s energy, or attaching to outcomes, I know it only takes a moment to correct the situation and I’m back to leading my own life again and communicating what I truly want effectively.

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  1. September 16, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    Love this! The not-absorbing-others’ energy is crucial when dealing with melting children. (In contrast, I’ve found when I stay “level” when my four-year-old dissolves, the ordeal doesn’t last nearly as long — and there’s no negativity floating around.) Thanks for a wonderful post!

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