Excerpt From Relationships That Work: The Power Of Conscious Living
– By David B. Wolf

Imagine that you are in your workplace, about to enthusiastically share some ideas at a staff meeting. Your supervisor, however, repeatedly shuts you down every time you want to express yourself. Afterwards you approach a colleague and say, “Can you believe how he ran that meeting? He didn’t care what anyone had to say. And the way he treated me? I’m quitting this place!”

Below are several possible responses from your friend. After reading each statement, notice your gut reaction to it.

1)     “You should sit down and talk with him. The two of you really need to clear things up, and I think you ought to initiate a conversation.”

2)     “With that attitude you’ll be fired before you can quit, and let me tell you, you won’t find it easy to get a new job.”

3)     “Just because you had a rough time at this one meeting is no reason to leave the company.”

4)     “I know that you are a resilient and tolerant person. You are one of the best employees in the office.”

5)     “Oh, don’t worry, it will be okay.”

6)     “Life is like that, and you really need to accept it. Each of us takes it on the chin once in a while.”

7)     “It sounds to me like you have authority issues, probably stemming from unresolved anger toward your father.”

8)     “Hey, remember that restaurant we both really liked last week? Let’s go there for lunch.”

9)     “Well, you have been lagging in producing those reports, so I don’t think you are in a position to point your finger at anyone. And also, you need to learn to speak up for yourself. You are not assertive enough.”

10)  “You’re such a complainer.”

The above attempts to “help” represent some fairly typical ways in which people respond when faced with a situation that is emotionally charged for the person addressing them. The following list describes the type of communication presented in each of the above statements:

1) advice; 2) warning; 3) logical argument; 4) praise; 5) reassurance; 6) philosophizing; 7) psychoanalyzing; 8) diverting; 9) criticizing; 10) name-calling.

Speaking for myself, none of the above responses would inspire me to express more to this person. If I am criticized or labeled I don’t feel appreciated as a person. If advised, ordered, warned or analyzed, I feel like some sort of object, being manipulated to fulfill the agenda of someone else. Even if it is “good” advice, I won’t necessarily feel heard and respected. Arguing or claiming that I shouldn’t be feeling or experiencing what I am feeling is frustrating and even insulting. Even “positive” responses, such as praise or reassurance, seem patronizing to me.

The above types of response are potential roadblocks to effective communication. This is only a partial list. Other possible roadblocks include attack, defense, denial, sympathy, labeling, preaching, threat and ordering. It is important to note that these responses do not always block communication. Each of these types of responses has its place in healthy communication.  There is a time to give advice, a time to warn, to praise and to criticize. As an initial response to someone in an emotionally charged state though, these responses can often be experienced as interfering with the flow of expression. What we actually need to do is learn how to effectively use each type of response at the right time, making careful use of each one, just as a skilled carpenter would with each tool in his toolbox.

Roadblock responses tend to be about ourselves, rather than focused on the person who is expressing him or herself. We can also consider roadblocks within the framework of the three gunas, as described in the Be-Do-Have section. For example, a roadblock may be about my need, derived from the mode of rajas, to fix problems by giving solutions or offering advice, or my need, rooted in tamas, to avoid painful issues by changing the topic. Or they could relate to my desire for people to like me, through giving reassurance or praise, or my need to feel superior, by criticizing or categorizing.

Sattvic communication involves understanding things rightly as preliminary to response. In sattvic listening we genuinely focus on the other person. In this mode of illuminated, compassionate non-attachment, we are alert and attentive to the other person, without motive to coerce or manipulate. A roadblock does not necessarily mean that the responder lacks love or caring. Mastering sattvic communication skills offers us a powerful way to communicate our caring, concern and affection.

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