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-   -   Communication Workshop (http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=255)

River 05-12-2009 04:57 PM

Communication Workshop
What are some basic or essential skills or insights which people can utilize or learn in order to improve communication in intimate relationships?

What works for you? What doesn't?

MonoVCPHG 05-12-2009 05:44 PM

Excellent choice of thread JRM!

One of the things that have made communication between me, Redpepper and her husband flourish is the ability to read each others' energy. I will speak more of me and Redpepper as that is where the bulk of my experience lies. My communication with her husband is also based on a great deal of openness but involves less energy insight.

She can immediately see when something is affecting me, she feels it and so do I. I can do the same with her. This prevents any accumulation of even the smallest issue which could feed into a bigger issue.

Communicating isn't always about actually talking in the moment for us. If there is something we need to process we give each other the time. The key here is telling your partner that you are in fact processing and not repressing something. This provides the security and space to formulate thoughts and present issues in a clear manner .Speaking too soon can sometimes lead to confusion and misunderstanding which is frustrating for everyone involved.

Trust is essential to the level of openness in our relationship. Because most of my daily friends, such as co-workers, are traditional monogamists it is difficult for me to engage them in discussions that involve understanding a polyamorous approach to loving. They can be quick to judge and I have a tendency to be quick to defend. I share and learn while trying not to debate and convince.

Redpepper is the most trusted person I have ever had in my life..she is the one I turn to discuss my issues about everything including us! This is a new experience for me and pleasantly forces me to talk although sometimes she needs to push a little LOL!! I am actually glad not to have an “outside” sounding board. For me it propels me deeper into her.

Our level of communication has left both of us completely vulnerable to each other. There used to be fear in this for me, but no longer.

River 05-12-2009 09:53 PM


I'm happy that you and your partner are in such a positive, growing, place with one another! I don't have any further response to what you have said just now. I'm just happy you're on a growth-path and in a happy place.


Here's a web-page on effective and ineffective communication. I offer it only as "food for thought" and for discussion purposes--not as a sanctioning of this perspective over others.


I will also offer other tid-bits over time. I'm hoping to learn how to be a better communicator as well as to help those I am close to to do the same. It seems to me that good communication skills are crucial to healthy relationships, but that most of us are not as good at it as we'd like to think: including myself.


Lately, I call myself a "high verbal" person, meaning that

(a) I like to talk and be heard and have it known that I'm being understood.

(b) I "process" my "stuff" better if I can talk about it and feel heard and

(c) I find verbal communication nourishing and nurturing in loving relationships
--especially when it is flowing smoothly and going well, and when there
is mutual respect, kindness, and risk-taking.

My partner appears to me to be a "low verbal" person, meaning that he generally has preferred, over most of our relationship, to

(e) prefer to "process" his "stuff" (e.g., personal challenges, emotional
"issues" and difficulties) inwardly and quietly, often while alone.

(f) hasn't been much of a talker for most of his life, often spending large
spans of time not saying much -- even when spoken to.

(g) doesn't have very highly developed verbal skills, such as those which are
developed by practices such as writing, talking a lot with others (not to
others), reading, etc.

This difference between my partner and I (I'm not ready to say I have a second partner, yet; though that may be developing--too soon to say) has been very challenging for both of us. But we do love one another, and things do seem to be improving--though not without frustration on both of our parts at times.

River 05-12-2009 10:03 PM

More food for thought on communication -- this time specifically directed at polyamorous situations:


Quote from that:
Wow. Okay, so now I've got it licked...

Not quite. There's still the "Blue fish tuba" effect.

The who what? That makes no sense!


Each of those words individually has a simple meaning, but put together in that order, they make no sense. Often, that's what it seems like to someone who does not share your conceptual worldview. Communication on the one hand is quite robust, but on the other hand is very fragile; it's robust in the sense that language is quite resilient, but it's fragile in the sense that when you are talking to someone whose philosophical worldview is vastly different from yours, then when you try to explain a difficult concept, your words end up sounding like "blue fish tuba." It's the concept that's difficult; if the concept itself is foreign to your listener, then the words stop making sense.

For example, take a person whose idea of relationships is "commitment means exclusivity." If you tell such a person "It is possible to be committed to more than one person at a time," your words sound like "blue fish tuba," because the concept of commitment inherently implies exclusivity to that person--saying "commitment to two people" is about like saying "the tuba was so huge it was tiny."


What about "I-statements"? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I-statement


From: http://www.polyamorysociety.org/tools.html:
7. Communicate. If you want a healthy relationship, strong communication skills are a necessity, not a luxury. Trouble usually starts when talking stops. Things come up all the time that have to be worked through patiently and lovingly, even when you're having a bad day. It gets easier over time, but it takes work and a willingness to break up scar tissue and tear down walls. Communication skills are what make a person a good lover.

Arguing skills are not communication skills. Arguing better than someone doesn't make you right, it just makes you better at arguing. Sometimes people strive to `win' an argument at the cost of their own relationship. Negotiate a way for everyone to win.

Listening is more important than talking. Listen actively and don't just hear. Make eye contact. Be here now, don't wander. Paraphrase their words to see if you heard them right. Notice your own words and feelings, ask why they are what they are. Listen to unhappy feelings (yours and those of others) without needing to fix them. Listen to disagreements without taking sides. Listen to non-verbal communication, which usually speaks more clearly than words. Be aware of how the people in your life are loving you.

Some talk is not communication. If you get lost in the woods and pass the same landmark several times, you are making the same mistake over and over. Raising your voice or speaking harshly makes you harder to understand, not easier. Use "I" statements instead of "you" statements. "I think you're wrong" is easier to accept than "you are wrong." Directness works better than manipulation.

Clearly express yourself; people can't read your mind. Tear down the wall between your feelings and your words. Set limits and boundaries and communicate them. Make sure everyone knows what they are getting into. Learn how to defuse arguments. If necessary, learn how and when to say goodbye. Actions communicate better than words. Show people that you love them. Share kindness and affection and laughter. When in doubt, rub their feet.

Olivier 08-16-2009 03:56 PM

I've learned some important lessons from a close friend about giving feedback to friends and co-workers. I haven't attempted it with lovers yet, but for all other purposes it has worked amazingly well so far.

Giving proper feedback

Step 0) Make the person aware you will be giving some feedback and how you will be doing it (if he/she is used to the method already, you can skip this step)
Step 1) Tell the person 3 things which you REALLY like about him/her. It can be anything - but you should really mean it.
Step 2) After these 3 things, you say the words AND I also wanted you to know (don't use 'BUT' or something else cause that's gonna put up a wall right away.
Step 3) You give the 'less pleasant' feedback
By giving a clear fact that happened, and how that fact made you feel

For example, if the person hurt your feelings because he or she always comes too late, you don't say 'you don't care about me enough'. This only creates confusion or defense response. Instead you would say 'AND I also wanted to let you know that the fact that you were 1 hour late yesterday really makes me feel like you don't care about me enough and you don't value our relationship'
Step 4) Give the person a chance to respond, and talk about it as long as needed.
Step 5) The person who has received feedback should say 'Thank you for the feedback'. After all, this is not something that is easy to do, and he/she should respect the fact you do it. It might make him/her better as a person instead of remaining in the unknown.

River 08-16-2009 04:30 PM

Thanks, Olivier.

I like the spirit of that, although I'd probably not follow it to the letter. It's true that if the only "feedback" we get from a given person is negative or critical, we're probably going to become less and less receptive!


This topic -- Communication -- is probably the most crucial one in the forum, for most of us. So, I'd like to see if we can't figure out, together, how to make better use of it than we have been, generally.

There are a few people in our forum who have reported having surprizing and very delightful success in discussing difficult matters with their parner/s. Breakthroughs, really. And I'd like those who recognize themselves in these words to share their stories about these breakthroughs here--, but, as a sort of experiment, I'd like these folks to direct their words to folks (unnamed) who have a difficult matter in need of discussing with their partner/s. That is, I'm curious what those who have become happily unblocked would say to those who are feeling blocked.

My hope is that -- somehow -- this topic will generate some practical wisdom (on communication skills and principles) for reference by those who have need of it.

Catfish 08-16-2009 11:39 PM

Well done, ma'am.

Quath 08-17-2009 03:15 AM


Originally Posted by JRiverMartin (Post 982)
Use "I" statements instead of "you" statements. "I think you're wrong" is easier to accept than "you are wrong." Directness works better than manipulation.

I found this one to be important. The basic rule we worked out was that if you are talking about emotions, they rarely start off with "You." Don't say "You are being a jerk" instead say "I am feeling like you are not listening to me." It is much more informative and less likely to put up emotional defences.


Originally Posted by Olivier (Post 4889)
Step 2) After these 3 things, you say the words AND I also wanted you to know (don't use 'BUT' or something else cause that's gonna put up a wall right away.

I have heard this one before. At first I was skeptical. However, I played around with it and I realized that "and" makes the other person more open than "but."

Olivier 08-17-2009 09:48 AM


Originally Posted by Quath (Post 4901)
Don't say "You are being a jerk" instead say "I am feeling like you are not listening to me." It is much more informative and less likely to put up emotional defences.

If you can add a fact that happened which lead to these feelings it really helps a lot in my opinion. For example you would tell them which event made you feel like you were not being listened to. Example: 'Remember the time you were talking to your ex and you didn't want to come downstairs all night'. That fact cannot be disputed cause both of you know it happened like this, and the reason it made you feel this way cannot be disputed either, cause these are your feelings. Then you can easily go from there, instead of the person getting defensive.

River 08-17-2009 03:23 PM


Originally Posted by damncatfish (Post 4898)
Well done, ma'am.

Huh? Who's the ma'am in this response?

I'm viewing the postings in chronological order, though I've recently heard that there may be another layout(?).

(For any who don't already know... I'm a guy. My first name is James. And, yes, I do have a boyfriend.)

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