Why You Must Start Re-thinking the Way You Communicate Today

Mon, Mar 14, 2011

Hand Shake resized 600Do you realize that every time you speak to peers, direct reports, and Board members, you have the opportunity to transform your relationship? Do you know that you can align your mind, brain, and conversations to create a more productive working relationship?

This past weekend, I participated in a workshop led by Dr. Barnett Pearce and Kim Pearce.  I worked with Barnett while I was pursuing my doctorate. Barnett and Kim have devoted considerable time to developing a new field of communication. Traditionally, communication is defined as the transmission of a message from one person to another and back again. The Pearce’s broadened the definition and view it as a highly interactive process, linked to our mind, brain, and sensemaking process. Bottom line, we can be most effective if we focus on expanding our mind, noticing if our reptilian brain is controlling us, and are aware of the stories we tell ourselves and others.

Is your mind closed or expanded?

When I receive bad news, it is natural to narrow my focus. I become the center of my Universe and everything else diminishes in importance. When this happens, my mind is closed, or shut down. On the other hand, if I can step back and get some perspective, not winning a coveted consulting engagement or realizing that I have to stretch every morning to reduce aches and pains diminishes in the cosmic scheme of things. Recognizing that our lives are a gift and in the vast expanse of time and space, we are but a speck helps retain perspective and helps me open my mind.

What part of Your brain is controlling YOUR behavior?

The Pearce’s provided a lesson on how our brains operate, which I’ll share. Our reptilian brain controls our basic functions. It is responsible for automatic responses such as fight, flight, or freezing. Imagine a caveman confronted by a tiger. His reptilian brain jumps in to action, or inaction.

Our limbic brain controls our emotions and value judgments and strongly influences our behavior. So when the caveman was continually faced with danger, his mind narrowed and he became hard-wired to fight, flight, or freeze.

Our neocortex, the third part of our brain, is responsible for human language. According to neurobiologists, our brains can change, they have a plastic quality. According to Dan Siegel, a neurobiologist studying the mind/brain/social relationship phenomena, “what fires together, wires together.” This means we are not stuck with a narrow mind and reptilian brain!

How can you influence your neurons and states of mind?

 Barnett and Kim Pearce, and other communication CMM (Coordinated Management of Meaning) gurus argue that we can influence the mind/brain/social relationship triangle, and get all three re-wired and firing in a way that transforms relationships by paying close attention to the patterns of our communication. Each time we speak we have a story and the other person has a story. Depending on how we each make sense of the conversation, we create the opportunity for different actions. The question to ask is this: are we creating positive and compassionate relationships that lead to positive actions or “us versus them” relationships that lead to negative actions, or what I call “tangles?

The choice is up to us in every moment and what Barnett describes as every turn in our conversations. Stay tuned for more.

Marcia Ruben Ph.D, PCC, CMC

Marcia Ruben Ph.D, PCC, CMC

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