The Three Keys to Transformative Communication

One of the most important parts of our Supercoach Academy coach training are the supervision sessions. With the client’s permission, our mentor coaches and I listen in on the student’s coaching sessions, offering feedback and support around three aspects of the coaching process – grounding, connection, and impact. Whether or not you work in the helping professions, deepening your understanding of these three aspects of transformative communication will benefit you in pretty much every area of your life where communication and other people are involved…

1. Grounding, or my embodied understanding of how things actually work

Anyone who has been around the Three Principles and the inside-out understanding for any length of time has heard things like:

  • Grounding is everything.
  • The answer to ‘how?’ is ‘grounding’.
  • The person with the more solid grounding will drive the direction of the conversation.

While people mean slightly different things by the word, for me it’s a way of talking about what we know about the truth of the human condition as opposed to our opinions and beliefs about life.

For example:

Truth of the Human Condition

We live in the feeling of our thinking
There is an innate creative intelligence beyond our personal thinking
Well-being is innate
Everyone lives in their own separate reality

Beliefs and Opinions about Life

I think that…
I’m smarter/dumber than…
I’ll be happy when…
The right way to do/teach/think is…

The more in harmony our understanding of life is with the way things actually work, the more harmoniously we will live our lives. So, if you’re experiencing a lot of peace and clarity in the midst of your daily life, you’re able to connect easily with others, and you get fresh thinking and insights regularly, chances are your grounding is fairly in line with reality.

Similarly, if in those moments where it feels like you haven’t had a fresh thought in ages, you’d like to murder half the people you meet, and ‘Peace’ and ‘Clarity’ sound like the names of two hippie children you never really liked in the first place, you still know that you’re feeling Thought in the moment and that this too will pass, once again your grounding is pretty much in line with how things actually work.

But no matter how much you see, there’s always more to see. And deepening your grounding (i.e. seeing what is more deeply) will always raise your game.

2. Connection, or that which allows communication to take place

Watching someone communicate without connection is like watching someone argue with a piece of furniture. They may well make some excellent points, but it’s unlikely the couch will change as a result of the conversation.

By way of contrast there is a sweet video doing the rounds on Facebook at the moment of a special needs teacher named Chris Ulmer. In it, he shares stories of working with special needs kids in his classroom. While he is clearly an enthusiastic, positive, loving guy, what comes across most to me in the video is his intention and ability to connect with kids who are apparently not “wired” for connection.

Connection is, as my apprentice turned colleague Jamie Smart says, “the WD-40 of communication, influence, and impact”.  So how does one connect? By recognizing that as with so much of learning about human functioning, there’s nothing to do but there is something to see.

Imagine our thinking like a force field that surrounds us. On the one hand, it apparently keeps us safe from being threatened or attacked, as the more thinking we have about something the stronger our “force field” and the less likely it is to be penetrated from the outside. On the other hand, it also keeps us stuck inside our own reality bubble, unable to communicate with anyone who thinks differently to us. (For a great and challenging comic strip about the neuroscience behind this force field effect, read this.)

So the simplest way to increase connection is to lower our own force field – to put down our own thinking about ourselves, others, and the world and to just listen. Interestingly, when our own defenses are down, it lowers the defenses of others, leaving us both vulnerable to love, insight, and transformation.

3. Impact, or the actual point of transformative communication

Communication can be broadly broken down into three separate but overlapping intentions – to inform, to entertain, and to impact. Information is about what you know; entertainment is about the way that you share. Impact, however, is different – it’s about what your client or communication partner can see as a result of your communication.

And since those of us in the helping professions want to impact our clients for the better, we need to shift our focus from what we know to what they see. I often talk about this with my students as “our secret weapon” – we’re telling the truth. We’re pointing towards something that actually exists, as opposed to selling a belief system or point of view. That means that even if we do a poor job of pointing, there’s a reasonable chance that our clients may see something of value anyways.

So sometimes I’ll be reviewing a coaching session and will hear the coach share a beautiful articulation of Mind, Consciousness, and Thought. They’ll describe the deeper intelligence of Mind as being like the electricity running through the system, Consciousness like the wiring, and Thought like an infinite number of light bulbs illuminating an infinite number of possible experiences.

Yet I’ll also hear the disconnect with the client, who’s patiently awaiting their turn to share what’s going on in their world, why it’s different for them, and they’re the exception to the rule.

So while I love the game of getting better at articulating the Principles, it’s of far more value to me and my clients to get better at:

a. Seeing the Principles in action in the world around us.

b. Connecting more deeply with others

c. Focusing on what they see, not on what I know

With all my love,