Communication Guidelines for Mindful Collaboration
BS Free Spirituality founder Nick Meador created the following guidelines for New Paradigm Party: Cacao, Consent & Conscious Celebration, an event series he co-founded in Oakland, California. To learn about the next New Paradigm Party, head to our Events page!
(LAST UPDATED ON 4/28/19) In a conscious collaborative project, it can help to bring attention to all levels of action and interaction, including how things are handled behind-the-scenes, between facilitators, staff, and volunteers.
Exercising self-responsible, compassionate communication is just as important as any other guideline or agreement for creating a safe transformational space at a conscious event and in a collaborative project as a whole, especially when considering the bigger mission involved.
This guide can help to cultivate sensitivity and foster an environment of safety in being vulnerable as you bring your creative gifts to the world.
Self-Responsible Compassionate Communication
Communicate from an awareness that only we as individuals can meet our own needs.
Check in with a person before providing feedback that could be challenging, to make sure they’re feeling resourced, grounded, and ready to receive. Not doing this could contribute to re-traumatization and detract from the aim of collective healing and evolution.
Recognize that everyone is doing the best they know how in any given moment. Feedback is a gift to them only if delivered skillfully.
Keep in mind that our words have power and hold responsibility for owning that power – even if it seems like we’re a victim or we identify as protecting people from possible victimization. Without skillfulness, feedback can cause damage and perpetuate cycles of pain and revenge. (See the work of Tada Hozumi for more on that.)
Practice awareness of different kinds of power and privilege, and how they appear in relation to age, gender, race, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status (e.g., male privilege, hetero-normalcy, etc.).
Also hold awareness of the effects of power and privilege in connection to physical and mental health (e.g., depression, autism, etc.), self-confidence, speaking volume/public speaking experience, overall congruence (powerful body language that matches powerful verbal language), ability to engage in and “win” debates, and other subtle social dynamics. These types of power/privilege are even less recognized and understood.
Someone can identify as having lower privilege in one group while not realizing they have more power in the other group. Either can become an misguided excuse for “violent” or damaging communication.
Exercise tact and caution in phrasing and word choice, to minimize putting the other person on the defensive and maximize the message getting through.
Hold space when receiving messages, to really get clear about what a person is trying to express before responding, especially if anything is triggering.
There is not one single truth. Each of us has our own personal perspective. And it can change at any time. Our perceptions are guesses based on the information we witness through our senses, all filtered through our belief systems, categories of identification, self-image, and so on. Different opinions can be true in different contexts, or even in the same context simultaneously. Check our perceptions to see if they match the actual facts of the present situation, and try to differentiate those from cultural narratives connected to gender, race, religion, etc. Approach these matters with humility and a sense of humor. (For more about how subjective perception and power dynamics play into interpersonal interactions like a creative collaboration, see Nick’s BS Free Spirituality Manifesto.)
Take ownership for what I’m feeling.
Avoid the phrasing “you made me feel” or “that made me feel.”
Avoid “third party-ing” (i.e., “They said they were angry about what you did.”)
What external situations could be influencing my state and my ability to navigate this collaborative situation? How can I be more transparent about that without making it an excuse.
No one can “cure” or fix my own situation, and I can’t cure or heal anyone else. I only have the power to heal myself.
Nonviolent Communication (NVC) Basics
A system designed to revise the common language formulation based on moral judgments (evaluating a person as “right” or “wrong” based on whether their behavior aligns with my own beliefs) and instead moving towards empathetic communication (not just saying “I understand that because I’ve been through that,” but really deeply being with what a person is experiencing.)
Observations (When I see/hear _______ happening)
Emotions (...I feel _______)
Needs/Values (...because _______ is important to me)
Request/Action (Would you be willing to do _______? –or– I’m going to take care of myself by _________ )
*Doing this isn’t an obligation but a choice. It takes energy, and we might decide that maintaining a connection with the person isn’t in our best interest. In other words, the idea that we “should” be able to resolve all conflicts is a common false belief in communities that value peace and union.
*NVC creator Marshall Rosenberg was known to say that “should” is one of the most violent words in the English language. See all action as a choice and we see our real power.
T-Group Basics (adapted from Crystallin Dillon, crystallindillon.com)
I notice this (body language, tone of voice, phrasing, etc)
I feel this in connection with what I notice
I make it mean this (about me, about our connection, etc.)
Listener receives without judgment and can respond in the same structure.
Repeat as many times as needed, and then “wipe the slate clean.”
*Focus on the present moment. Going into past stories takes us out of the immediate connection happening.
*Different than NVC in that it’s more about how we parse and interpret reality, and about connecting deeply beyond stories. Feeling that deep human connection can allow BS to fade away.
What is the least controversial way that I can communicate this thing to the person?
How can I focus on the big picture and say things in a way that they’re less likely to take personally or find offensive?
Ineffective Formulations (Disowning/Guarded)
We should/you should/there should...
We need to/we don’t need to…
We must/ought to...
You have to...
I feel that/I feel like you… (this is actually a thought/opinion)
It would be better if you…
Effective Formulations (Owning/Vulnerable)
It seems to me that…
I think that...
I want/I’d like…
My mind is saying…
The meaning I make out of that is...
I feel [emotion word]
I’m curious if you are feeling [emotion word]