Feb 18, 2010

Can There Be Risks in Clear Sending?

Risks in Clear Sending

Many different factors affect whether or not a person sends clear messages. For example, the sender has to talk loud enough to be heard. She also should code her message in words that are familiar to the receiver--that is, the receiver has to know the sender's code. In addition, we know that a single message is usually easier to understand than several messages sent at once. A message can also get lost if the sender clutters up his communication with too many asides, conditional statements, and details.

Although these factors are important, they are not as crucial in their influence on "sending" as another less understood factor--that is, the degree of "congruence" of the sender. Congruence refers to the similarity of what a person (the sender) is thinking or feeling, inside, and what he communicates to the outside. When a person is being congruent, we experience him as "open," "direct," "honest," or "genuine." When we sense that a person's communication is Incongruent, we judge him as "not ringing true," "insincere," "affected," or just plain "phony." The human receiver apparently is a very sensitive judge of the degree of congruence in a sender.

Logically, it would follow that the greater the incongruence between inner feeling and the actual message, or hearing an ambiguous message. The inconsistency between the words she receives and the other person's inner feelings (sensed from non-verbal clues from the sender) confuses the receiver. For example, a mother who inside is feeling rejected, irritated, or unloving toward her child yet tries to communicate patience, permissiveness, and acceptance will send messages that are incongruent. The child usually perceives both the ambiguity of these messages and the insincerity of the mother.

The risk in being congruent in communication is simply that the sender becomes known to the receiver as he really is (inside). The sender exposes his true self--he becomes transparently real to himself and others. People must have courage to be what they are--that is, to communicate what they feel and think as of a particular moment in their existence; for when a person does this--and here is the risk--she opens herself to others and their reactions to her. Her listeners learn how she really feels. If they are involved at all, they may not like to hear her feelings about them. We also know that honesty in communication puts a demand on the listener to be equally honest. Most people are threatened by such a demand. So some people are frightened away by congruence in another person. Here is an additional risk of clear sending.*

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's P.E.T. Participant Workbook

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