Communicating as Equals
This weekend BlackLion and I went to a birthday party for a friend of ours. It was a quiet gathering at her home, with yummy food, a fire in the woodstove, some drinks to sip, laughter, and delightful conversations. I had a wonderful time, and got to reconnect with a couple of friends who I hadn’t spent time with in a while. We made some plans to hang out again soon and I left with a warm and joyful feeling.
Back at home later in the evening, I was reading to BlackLion before bed. Our latest bedtime book is The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield. I had read it years ago when it first came out, but BlackLion hadn’t, so I’m sharing it with him. The fourth insight in the book is about how we humans communicate. The old way of communicating was based on competition. The unspoken idea in any given exchange was to come out on top, to be “the winner,” and to take energy from the other person. This wasn’t just about arguments – being “in control” was an often-unconscious motive in any relationship.
I started thinking about how BlackLion and I communicate and feeling thankful that our mode of discussion is one of cooperation and collaboration. That’s one of the reasons we work so well together and come up with so many creative ideas. Neither of us is interested in dominating the other’s thought process. We want to have fun together and create something new and interesting. There are other people in my life I relate with that way too and those relationships feel the most natural and joyful.
That’s when it dawned on me why I enjoyed this particular birthday party so much. Everyone there was in a collaborative mode of communicating! No one was set on being the center of attention or putting others down. Each person was genuinely interested in what others had to say and there was much laughter and insight and learning which naturally flowed from that. There were moments of synchronicity, of questions offered and gratitude for the universe given, of silly anecdotes and empathy for universal challenges. It was an evening of my favorite mode of discussion.
This awareness gave me a new view about what went “wrong” in a close friendship that dissolved last year (I put quotes around “wrong” because I believe things happen for a reason and we always learn from difficult situations). I think, even though everyone involved was consciously working on themselves and their personal growth, we had somehow fallen into an old-style pattern of communicating-as-competition and were ultimately unable to collectively pull ourselves out of the morass. There was so much time spent evaluating people’s status, judging their latest actions, worrying about who gets what billing on creative projects, and discussing how this person is more awesome than that person, that what was lost, I feel, was a real connection. In this particular setting, even the humor had a subtle undercurrent of “that’s why you suck” or “see how much cooler I am.”
As time went on, I was less and less willing to participate, which then led to even bigger plays for energy. I’m sad about the way things ended, yet I’m grateful for the lessons. I’m now more able to notice when those old patterns occur and navigate around them. I’m paying more attention to communication that does work well. Since I’m putting my focus on what I do want, it’s happening more and more often. And I’m very thankful!