Friday, July 20, 2012

Real Relationships: How Deep Are You? Three Levels of Communication

Proverbs 24:26
An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.


It's a pretty big deal to most people and one that I've received a lot of questions about.  It's essentially what relationships are made of- but ironically, it's the one thing many people have no idea how to do.

I once read an article by my good friend and coworker Steve, describing levels of communication.  I loved it so much that I use my own form of this model in a lot of my counseling appointments. 

You see, to every relationship there will always be the potential for three levels of communication. 

Level 1- Facts:  This is the by far the easiest level.  It's the form of communication that focuses in on the facts, and zooms out on the self.  It's one that is so basic that it can involve even a complete stranger.  "What's the weather like outside?"  "What did you do today?"  "Who won last night's game"  It comes in the form of superficial facts- the who, what, where, when, and why's of your life.  No vulnerability, no depth, just facts. 

Level 2- Ideas: Level 2 takes you a little deeper.  It's a little more of you involved in the conversation because it acknowledges your opinions and your ideas.  Your likes and dislikes.  It's a little harder to engage in this kind of communication, unless you feel some sort of power within a relationship.  Because in level 2, you are letting down your guard just a tiny bit more.  Instead of just talking about last night's score, you talk share about your favorite team.  Instead of just telling the facts about your day, you share your hopes and dreams for tomorrow.   

Level 3- Feelings:   I think this is my favorite level.  It makes sense though.  As a counselor, I find myself engaging in level 3 hour upon hour with my clients and their families.  Level 3 is the deepest level, digging right into the heart.  It's the part of communication that digs through the surface of level 1, and then burrows into the depths of level 2 until it finds it's way to the most vulnerable place of all.  It takes a lot to identify and acknowledge feelings.  And it takes even more to share them.  Fear, embarrassment, insecurity.  Joy, excitement, surprise.  Sadness, anger, and hurt. 

This is the level that most relationships are missing.  This is the level of which most communication is lacking. 

It's amazing how many clients I see who identify that they've never really engaged in level 3 with their loved ones.  That it's awkward and uncomfortable, unnatural and difficult. 

But in order for relationships to be significant you have to go deep.  And in order to go deep in have to do the work.

Don't get me wrong.  You can't live in Level 3.  I know sometimes I wish I could.  My husband will sometimes joke with me after a long conversation filled with "feelings" talk that we've been in level 3 way too long and that it's "Time to come up for air, Deb..."

But you know what, he's so right.  Level 3 can be exhausting if you don't have balance.  Sometimes you have to come back up to level one, because that's what life is made of essentially.  A healthy relationship knows the value of every level of communication, and will work it's way through the levels all throughout the day.   

So go grab your loved one, and practice digging deep into the 3 levels of communication.

Happy Talking :)

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