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Listen, Clarify and Understand Thy Self 1

Listen, Clarify and Understand Thy Self

Delilah Montecino

HD 341
November 18, 2014

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Nonviolent Communication, Messages and Difficult Conversations are
books with guidelines for more successful and meaningful communication.
Each book offers it’s own formula and tips to increase the efficacy of an
individual’s communication. Through each unique approach the authors
unwittingly unveiled a hand full of common themes. The three themes that
resonated with me throughout reading the books were the importance of
listening, clarifying and understanding yourself and your own communication
style. Although these guides seem simple enough the books brought to light
the various obstacles that individuals must overcome when trying to
communicate a message.
The first subject that is addressed in McKay’s (2009) book Messages is
listening, “Listening is an essential skill for making and keeping
relationships” (p. 5). McKay presents the idea of real listening versus fake
listening. McKay (2009) describes real listening as a commitment and a
compliment and note that the key to real listening is intending to do so,
whereas our friend pseudo or fake listening is described as listening with the
intention to meet some other need (p. 6). McKay (2009) describes the
obstacles to real listening as listening blocks (p. 9). Rosenberg’s (2003)
Nonviolent Communication (NVC) also emphasizes what he calls “deep
listening to ourselves as well as other [as a way to] foster respect,
attentiveness and empathy” in communication (p. 4). Rosenberg’s (2003)
guidelines set fourth in NVC are designed encourage us to “reframe how we
express ourselves and hear others” (p. 3) Much like McKay (2009) listening

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blocks of judging, sparing and being right (p. 10-12) Rosenberg (2003)
presents the idea that moralistic judgments hinder us for understanding a
situation and communicating compassionately (p. 15). Difficult Conversations
talks about roadblocks to successful communication and as with Rosenberg
book there are parallels to McKay’s fore mentioned listening blocks. Chapter
3 of Difficult Conversations explores the negative impact our assumptions
about another’s intentions can have on our communication (Stone, D.,
Patton, B. & Heen S. 2010, p. 46). Much like McKay’s (2009) listening block of
mind reading assuming another’s intentions distorts the perception of the
situation at hand (p. 9). Not only does assuming another’s intentions confuse
the facts of the situation but Stone, D., Patton, B. & Heen S. (2010) also point
out that quiet frequently our assumptions in these situations are incorrect (p.
Another concept that is presented in Difficult Conversations is
“abandon the blame” (Stone, D., Patton, B. & Heen S. 2010, p.58). All three
of the books mention this idea that when we as individuals get so caught up
in pointing fingers and defending ourselves that again we loose focus of the
real problem (Stone, D., Patton, B. & Heen S. 2010, p. 59). Instead of
blaming, Stone, D., Patton, B. & Heen S. (2010) encourage individuals to
acknowledge their contribution to current difficult situation, “blame is about
judging” but “contribution is about understanding” (p. 60) All three book
explain that understanding your own feelings and needs is an integral part of
effective communication. Stone, D., Patton, B. & Heen S. (2010) hypothesize

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that one denies the emotions that are there in hopes that maybe they can
avoid the consequences of feeling those emotions but “if handled indirectly
or without honesty [those emotions will] contaminate communication” (p.
85). When our communication is contaminated we use violent and
judgmental language even our tone and body language revel our judgments.
Identifying feelings and needs are steps two and three of Rosenberg’s (2003)
NVC process (p. 6). Rosenberg (2003) encourages people to build a
vocabulary for feelings stating “it helps to use words that refer to specific
emotions, rather than words that are vague or general” (p. 43) and for
individuals to take ownership of their own feelings (p. 49). Stone, D., Patton,
B. & Heen S. (2010) state that it is important for an individual to understand
and accept their feelings as “normal and natural” (p. 92). Rosenberg (2003)
urges individuals to take a break from the blame game of you made me
angry and dig into ourselves to understand what needs of ours are not being
met which triggered a particular emotion (p. 52-53). An important idea that
McKay (2009) addressed in Messages is that the words we say are only a
fraction of the communication going on, 7% which means that
communication is greatly influenced by our body language and how we say
the things that we say (volume, pitch, rhythm, etc.) (p. 59). “No matter what
you say, the sound of how you say it will reveal a great deal about who you
are and what you feel” (McKay 2003, 70). The three books make a case for
how important it is for an individual to recognize and understand their

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feelings because whether we intend it or not they will make their way into
our communication.
Anther prevailing theme in all three books is the idea of seeking
clarification. We are not mind reader and as Stone, D., Patton, B. & Heen S.
(2010) pointed out often our assumptions about another’s feelings or
intentions are wrong (p. 46). Stone, D., Patton, B. & Heen S. guide to
mapping contribution again is about understanding and to understand
completely we need clarification. In Rosenberg’s (2003) NVC the first part is
understanding you feelings and needs while the other side of the coin is
listening for the feelings and needs of others (p. 7). As Stone, D., Patton, B. &
Heen S. put it “contribution is join and interactive” (p. 63) it requires active
empathetic listening and receiving on both parts. McKay’s (2009) book has a
whole chapter devoted to clarification pointing out that “ No two people
experience the world in the same way” (p. 104). “People use the same words
but the words mean something different” (McKay 2009, p. 106). All three of
the books talk about paraphrasing as a way to gain clarification. Stone, D.,
Patton, B. & Heen S. (2010) describe the results of paraphrasing as moving
toward an understanding of a situation from the other’s perspective allowing
both parties to explain their point of view as well as share and understand
each other’s feelings (p. 16). McKay (2009) says that one should paraphrase
when “someone says something of importance to you” (p. 17), while
Rosenberg (2003) suggest that paraphrasing should be used when it
contributes to greater compassion and understanding of a situation (p. 98).

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Paraphrasing either confirms that the listener has accurately received the
message or gives the speaker the opportunity to clarify the message they
were trying to convey to the listener and gives both parties time to reflect on
what is being said (Rosenberg 2003, p. 96). McKay (2009) also lists the
benefits of paraphrasing: it helps to deescalate a crisis, stop
miscommunication and false assumptions, helps remember what is being
said and forces you to actively listen. Paraphrasing is an important part of
the clarification process and enables people to feel confident that they are
being heard.
There were lots of tips and ideas presented in the three readings and
although every book took it’s own approach to improving one’s
communication skills they also had many overlapping ideas. I think the most
important theme and first step to effective communication is to understand
your own feelings, needs, triggers and communication style. Once an
individual has a strong understanding and acceptance of their self the next
step of being an active or real listener comes with more ease. Finally
clarification and paraphrasing are important because we all “experience [our
own] subjective representation [of the world]” (McKay 2009, p. 104)

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McKay, M., & Davis, M. (2009). Messages the Communication Skills Book.(3rd ed.). Oakland:
New Harbinger Publications.
Rosenberg, M. (2003). Nonviolent communication: A language of life. Encinatas: PuddleDancer
Stone, D., & Patton, B. (1999). Difficult conversations: How to discuss what matters most. New
York, N.Y.: Viking.