Tuning Into the Energy Behind Your Words

by | Dec 15, 2020 | Nonviolent Communication


Have you noticed that when we share ourselves with others from our wisdom, deep self-connection, awareness, and groundedness, it’s a very different experience than when we share from our reactivity, pain or fear?

So much is conveyed between and beneath our words.

As aware as we’d like to be, we are often communicating with one another from competing agendas: different parts of ourselves want and focus upon different things. When we aren’t clear yet internally, we can communicate a variety of mixed messages as these competing parts of ourselves vie for attention and significance.

Remember that all of your internal voices matter.

All parts of you are welcome.

We do not heal internal or external fragmentation and splitting by imposing even more fragmentation and splitting. Instead, we heal by becoming present and welcoming of all aspects of our experience, even when they appear to contradict one another.

We verbalize our experiences and express ourselves for many reasons, intentions, and agendas. Instead of privileging the preferred ones (aka the good ones) and devaluing the unwanted ones (aka the bad ones), let’s just develop more discernment and wisdom about how to express and field all that wants to emerge.

No matter what words we actually use when we start talking, the single most important factor in communication is the deeper intention underlying the energy of our words.

Take the time to become aware of your underlying intentions and needs.

Sometimes, we’re talking simply to discharge pent-up energy. We vent, we rage, we think out loud, we process verbally, we gossip, and we form alliances with others. Other times, we speak because we want to bridge a gap between parts of ourselves or between ourselves and other people.

As you dive into your next conversation, slow down for a moment and ask yourself, why am I speaking right now? What am I trying to achieve?

And as you listen, ask yourself:

Where is this person coming from and landing in this moment? What kind of listening might be most supportive for where they are at now?

Here are some examples of where our words might becoming from and what we might tune into:

1. Discharging energy/releasing internal pressure:

Sometimes we speak because we need to discharge emotional energy that has built up inside of ourselves. Perhaps we’ve been keeping quiet too long or have been holding onto something for too long, and the pressure has been building up. We’ve tried to contain it, resist it, ignore it, fight it. Eventually the internal pressure overwhelms us, and we just need to “get it out.”

When we or others are “venting,” we are often speaking as a form of discharge, and are trying to re-regulate our nervous systems and bring ourselves back into some form of internal equilibrium. When we’re speaking from this place, we often just want to be seen, heard, and validated. This is not the time for problem-solving. Simple reflections, paraphrases, and mirroring will be most helpful. We really just need to “get it out” and can then examine where we really stand. The things we say during this stage of talking often shouldn’t be taken too seriously, because we usually aren’t that convinced we even believe half the things we’re saying.

A word of caution:

If you’re fielding this: Don’t take anything too personally when people are in this stage; they will say a lot of reactive, provocative, and accusatory things. Let the electricity run and listen for the underlying needs that are longing to be met.

And, if you’re doing this: At least try not to vent on the person who is directly involved. Take your energy to a good friend or therapist who can help you discharge the electricity and get to essence of what matters to you before you try to work it out with the person who is most directly stimulating all this energy and pain. If you can, there is wisdom in taking what hurts to someone who can help you heal instead of to the person who hurt you to begin with. We can protect our relationships when we are willing and able to find safe containers to help us with discharging and processing our “stuff.”

2. Thinking out loud:

Sometimes we speak because we are searching for more self-connection and understanding. Often when we’re feeling disoriented, confused, or unclear about something, we find it helpful to turn to close friends and simply “think out loud.” This form of speaking is often speculative and exploratory. The person listening has a lot of room and spaciousness to just put things on the table, ideally without getting too attached or reactive to anything that we’re saying. When we’re speaking to think out loud, we’re usually not attached to actually believing all the thoughts that are coming through; talking them out with someone is a way of filtering and sorting and finding out what we actually believe and what we are simply thinking. Talking in this frame is a strategy for increasing our awareness and self-connection. We want to be heard, seen, acknowledged, and respected. We also want the freedom to revise whatever it is that we are discovering as we go.

3. Bridging to our felt sense; knowing ourselves

Sometimes we speak because we are searching for more connection to our ourselves, our bodies and our experiences. We articulate and verbalize as a way of grounding ourselves in our internal connectedness. When we are talking from this intention, it helps us to hear many reflections from others. It’s helpful when we mirror one another, paraphrase each other, receive each other, and sit with the stuff that arises between us and within us. Verbalize neutral observations into the shared relational space: tell each other what you are noticing in yourselves as you listen to one another and name whatever sensations are arising inside yourselves as you go.

4. Connecting and building intimacy

Sometimes when we speak, we are longing for more intimacy and closeness with others. At these times, talking is in the service of deep, meaningful connection between and within ourselves. It soothes our aloneness, meets our needs for shared reality, community, belonging, and relatedness. When we are speaking from this intention, it helps us to use many feeling words, to focus on our human needs and values, and to take a gentle and slow pace. We go back and forth, avoiding long monologues. We check for understanding and impact. We stay in the present moment, connected to the energy alive in the space we are creating in the now.

5. Co-creating a new future

Sometimes, we speak to strategize, plan, imagine, or create something new. We may want to make new agreements, try on new strategies, practice new ways of being or build new habits. We may have a new possibility, a new vision, a creative idea that we want to bring into being, and we want to involve one another in it in some way. Sometimes, talking is a creative act of transforming old patterns into new possibilities, of creating new relational experiences and coming into partnership with others as we bring new structures forward. We make requests, we ask for what we want, we paint a clear vision of a desired future. We inspire one another to come together around a shared purpose.

As you show up for your next conversations, take a moment to become more aware of your (perhaps unconscious) agenda, and to tune into where someone else may be coming from. When people are venting and discharging energy, it takes a very different quality of listening and receiving, then when people are trying to create a shared vision with you.

Attune.

Listen deeply.

And as always, respond as much as possible from your generous, wild, and open heart.


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3 Comments

  1. Amber Younan

    Thank you for this offering. It is super helpful for increasing my own awareness of my intentions/motivations/needs when I am speaking. And equally helpful in recognizing where the speaker might be coming from. I imagine this knowledge will also help me to identify why I might not have the energy for a particular kind of listening and increase my options and choices about how to respond.
    I’m curious, from your experience is it connective to inquire or “guess” out loud which place someone is coming from. Sometimes when it is explicit I can be much more supportive and compassionate as a listener rather than assuming I know their intention.

    Reply
  2. Chris

    Love this! So much has come up for me in the last month or so, that I can recall an instance of all of these "communicative energies" I guess you could call it. Thank you Yvette for being so supportive and caring 🙂

    Reply
  3. Cathy

    This was so helpful to me, a ‘verbal processor’, in understanding feedback I get from others, at times, that I am talking to them as if they weren’t there and don’t want any input from them. They say the ‘conversation’ is draining and/or feel left out. I see I was talking to regulate myself, connect with myself or discharge energy. I can attune to my intention in the future and then ask if the other person is up for that type of listening before starting. I would love to see a post about how I could still meet my need to process verbally with someone (besides my therapist) yet somehow maintain more connection with the other person. Thank you again Yvette for your wise words.

    Reply

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