Five Levels of Communication
“When I repress my emotions, my stomach keeps score.”
A feeling is an uncontrolled response to an external stimulus
Communication and Feelings
Good day, Folks, welcome to Marriage Encounter Online. Bob and I will take you to the Media Room for your first presentation. We think this is an appropriate setting for talking about “Communication and Feelings”.
When the mansion was built this room was known as “The Gentlemen’s Smoker”. The men would discuss the issues of the day while they smoked. Today we refrain from smoking throughout the mansion. Here in the Media Room we have the latest audio and visual equipment, but Marriage Encounter shows us that the most important aspect of successful communicating in married life is found in the open and honest sharing of our thoughts and feelings.
After you get comfortable, we will begin.
The role of the team throughout the Marriage Encounter is to share with you our life experiences in the hope of stimulating communication between you and your spouse. Good communication is essential to a good marriage. We want to communicate to each other our real selves, honestly and without fear of being rejected. So let's take a few minutes to look at the different levels of communication:
The lowest level of communication is “small talk”. At this level we don't even exchange ideas or facts.
It's the "Hi, how are you?" that we give people as we pass. We don't put much thought into what we're communicating and we don't listen well either.
Listen in on the small talk or chit-chat we might have in a hurried phone call.
Not much thought is put into small talk. If you were listening to us you know we weren't listening to each other.
The second level of communication is called “Stating the Facts”. At this level we are communicating something but it doesn't reveal anything personal about us. We talk about the weather and ask about the mail and phone calls.
There's nothing personal about stating the facts. It's the ordinary news of the day.
In the third level of communication we reveal a little about ourselves. This is the “Opinion or Judgment” level. Here some risk is involved, because you may not agree with me. I may want to defend my opinion and this can lead to arguments.
So here we shared our opinions and you could tell a little about how we think. We may not always agree, but it's still a very important level of communication.
The fourth level of communications is the “Feeling” level. Here we share more deeply because we share our inner feelings. Because my feelings are uniquely my own they reveal who I really am.
The deepest level of communication is called “Empathy”. We experience empathy when we identify with and feel deeply what someone else is feeling. We don't experience this level as often, but when we do it's a very special feeling.
We felt empathy when we shared with each other some deep fears we had about each others death and the feeling of complete understanding we reached after dialogue.
Because sharing feelings is so important, we'll spend a few minutes talking about what feelings are and how to describe them. First of all, what is a feeling? A feeling is an uncontrolled response to an external stimulus, and it's neither right nor wrong in itself.
Before we made our Marriage Encounter I often held back on sharing my feelings, especially feelings of anger or jealousy. It was a real comfort for me to learn that feelings are neither right nor wrong.
When I feel angry it is a spontaneous inner reaction to something. It is not a "bad" feeling, nor is it wrong to feel that way. It just happens. I'd like to be sure there's no misunderstanding about this. When I say a feeling is neither right nor wrong, I'm referring to the feeling itself. How I act on that feeling can be judged morally to be right or wrong.
Let me give you an example: Someone makes a nasty criticism about me. My spontaneous inner reaction is a feeling of anger. It comes automatically, beyond my control.
It's okay for me to feel angry. It's not right or wrong--it just happened. Now, what do I do with that anger? If I decide to hit the person who criticized me --that's wrong.
Another response may have been to ask myself why I felt so angry. I may have felt angry because that person touched a sensitive part of me. Perhaps there was some truth in what they said and I didn't want to hear it. But, if I'm honest with myself, I'll want to examine that more closely and see if it shows an area I want to work on.
We can learn a lot about ourselves when we examine our feelings and what we learn is usually very good.
Feelings are usually expressed in simple statements: "I feel excited", "I feel tense", "I feel proud", "I feel embarrassed". We can substitute the words "I am" for "I feel" very easily: "I am excited", "I am tense", "I am proud", I am embarrassed". Notice that it still makes sense. That’s a good indication that we have really shared a feeling.
If we accept that our feelings are spontaneous, or uncontrolled, that means we can't help how we feel. Feelings just are. Therefore, we should take responsibility for them. We should examine our feelings because they give us clues about what's going on inside of us.
We don't have to justify our feelings. However, that's true for others; we should allow others to share their feelings without fear of being judged. A good reminder to take ownership of our feelings (rather than blame someone else for them) is to make "I” statements, such as "I feel frustrated" rather than "You make me feel frustrated". "I" statements are constructive. "You" statements put our partner on the defensive.
It's easier for me to hear and respond sympathetically to a statement like "I feel nervous" than to the statement "You make me feel nervous".
If I say to Bob, "You don't spend enough time with me", he'll probably feel defensive. If I examine my feelings first, I might say instead: "Bob, I feel lonely when you're gone so much". Here I'm taking ownership of my feelings and not blaming Bob for them. He is more apt to be sympathetic and try to understand.
To share feelings in a constructive way as we have illustrated is good for our relationship. It's much better than keeping our feelings to ourselves. When we hold feelings inside, they don't go away. Instead, they build up and sooner or later they come out - usually with much more force.
When we share feeling we grow in understanding of ourselves and each other.
During this program, your Guide Couples will be sharing a lot about themselves. We'll make some small talk. We'll communicate facts and statements. We'll share some opinions.
We'll especially try to share our feelings, and you'll get to know us better. We hope that through our openness, you'll find it easier to share freely with your spouse on deeper levels of communication.
We have a page of faces that illustrate the different feelings you may experience. Look for faces that describe how you feel right now.
Take 10 minutes for Personal Reflection (PR), and 15 minutes of Couple Dialogue (CD). Make 2 copies of the handout below for the questions.
Go in peace and write with love!
When you finish your Couple Dialogue (CD) we will take you to the Hall of Mirrors and introduce you to Bret and Diane . It’s there that you’ll get to know yourselves better.
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