Re: Constructive Communication
From: Karen Scheer (
Date: Wed, 10 Jul 2013 12:54:35 -0700 (PDT)
Thanks for sharing! Could I have a copy of the PDF? Very timely topic for our community...
-Karen Scheer
Ashland Cohousing Community

On 7/5/13 9:47 AM, Joanie Connors wrote:
Desert Explosure, a southwestern magazine, just published a 2 part
article of mine on constructive communication . I
also have a 5000 word pdf version of the article I'd be willing to
share with anyone who's interested.

I have much respect for Nonviolent Communication by Marshall
Rosenberg, but wanted to add some considerations from other writers,
as well as my own. I do not intend to copyright the term Constructive
Communication (communication that builds understanding), as I hope
that others will examine it and improve our understanding of the
concept beyond my attempt.

Here is a handout from the article that I'm going to use with my
students in the fall:

by Joanie Connors, Ph.D.

A.      Empathy, Intention & Listening
1.      Consider how you would feel if you were in the other person’s
shoes. Striving for empathy and understanding of others is one of the
best ways to ensure that you are communicating in a respectful, honest
way that is likely to be effective.
2.      Start with positive intentions. If your intentions for the
interaction are positive, such as wanting to reach out, resolve
differences, build understanding, and/or share information, others are
more likely to be receptive (as opposed to how they would react when
you try to change them or tell them how they are wrong).
3.      Listen to their side and take time to let it sink in before
reacting. Take some time to  consider what they are saying and what it
means before you share your reactions. Try to hear their side instead
of preparing what you will say while they are talking.
4.      Consider their needs and feelings. Once you understand their needs,
give them consideration, as you would for your own needs. Constructive
communication is best accomplished with an attitude of openness and a
willingness to take their needs into account, even though they differ
from yours.
5.      Address them respectfully. Treating others with respect is the best
way to be treated with respect in return. Ideally, every person
involved in an interaction should feel valued as equals, and that
their needs matter. If you desire a change in their behavior, make it
into a request instead of a demand, so that you acknowledge their
right to choose.

B.      Message Form
6.      Use positive, descriptive language that does not judge, blame,
criticize or label. By describing your perceptions, thoughts and
feelings, you communicate information instead of making others feel
unworthy or flawed. Blaming, criticizing and labeling cause others to
shut down or become defensive. Seeing the positive validates positive
actions and motives in the other person, so they are more likely to
hear your thoughts, feelings and needs.
7.      Use “I” messages instead of “you” messages. “You” messages
communicate that the other person is the focus of blame for our
discomfort and pain, and this shuts the door on understanding and
turns discussions into fights. “I” messages communicate
self-knowledge, strength and the intention to share information.
A basic template for saying I messages is “I feel ____ (feeling words)
when you ____ (describe behaviors)”. Using feeling words and
describing behaviors are tactics that many experts recommend for
avoiding blame and judgment.
8.      Make your body language and your tone of voice relaxed and
receptive. A harsh tone of voice, an angry frown or aggressive
gestures can overpower a positive verbal message and appear
threatening to your listeners. Since the majority of communication is
nonverbal, be aware of what your loudness, tone of voice, gestures,
posture and facial expression are saying, and focus on relaxing
(tension is a signal of resistance) which signals you are open to
their side of the conversation.

C.      Message Meaning
9.      Be clear. Clearly state what behaviors you have observed and how
that relates to your needs. If they do not realize what they are doing
that is disrespectful or hurtful to you (or others), they will be more
likely to be able to hear and understand you, and consider changing
their behaviors if you can describe what they do clearly and
10.     Be as open and honest about your feelings and needs as possible.
Expressing your feelings and needs is the best way to let others know
where you are coming from and to help them get past their cognitive
barriers and understand you. Information about feelings is important
data about how a relationship is progressing and how it works for the
people involved. Neither side deserves to be hurt or left out, or the
relationship is not working and all involved should work to correct
11.     Focus on strengths and positive characteristics more than
weaknesses. Positive reinforcement is the most powerful change
technique that we have, so we can help each other to be more empowered
by making note of strengths and successes in each other, instead of
criticizing and focusing on problems and difficulties. If your
feedback attacks or otherwise forces things into a negative frame,
they are likely to become defensive and resist hearing you. So, work
on creating a positive frame, with a goal to encourage others to move
in a better direction.

McKay, Matthew, Fanning, Patrick & Paleg, Kim (2006). Chapter 8: Clean
communication, pp. 60-72 in Couple skills: making your relationship
work (2nd Ed.). Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
Rivers, Dennis (2004). The Seven Challenges: A Workbook and Reader
about Communicating More Cooperatively, 100 pages, Retrieved from
Cohousing-L mailing list -- Unsubscribe, archives and other info at:


Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.