Each month I host free online gatherings for men that want to have guided discussions about sex and pleasure. These events are a service offering to the community, and everyone that identifies as a man is welcome. Each month will have a specific topic, and I’ll share some wisdom and practices to start the session, and then it’s an open group discussion. Our next gathering is in November: learn more and register here.
The theme for our October event was Conscious Communication. I chose this topic because it’s deeply important to every single one of my clients. Healthy, emotionally intelligent communication practices are the foundation to a connected relationship, and yet there are so few opportunities for us to learn about HOW to actually have good communication with our partners.
Conscious communication is foundational to another topic that I speak about often in groups and in sessions: building deep intimacy in service of a loving, connected, sexual relationship. If you want to dive more into the topic of sex and intimacy, please read more in the following blogs Sex & Connection: Building the Ecosystem of Intimacy and 4 Non-Sexual Intimacy Practices.
Part I: Acknowledging our Needs
The foundation of any work about communication starts with our NEEDS. We all have needs and yet so many of us dismiss, ignore, or are actually unaware of our needs. When we’re young, we’re taught to ignore our needs: maybe this looks like being told to not be ‘needy’ or to ‘man up.’ Most of us are also taught to to hide our feelings and/or be overly focused on others’ feelings—perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, ‘happy wife, happy life’. Here is one of my favorite resources for learning more about what our needs truly are: review and download the worksheet here.
Here’s the first practical communication skill: the foundational non-violent communication phrase. Here’s what it looks like:
“When you do/did ___________, I feel/felt ______________. What I need differently in the future is _______________ because of my need for ______________.”
“When you didn’t do the dishes yesterday, I felt hurt. What I need is for you to be more clear with your schedule, because of my need for shared responsibility of the house.”
This phrase allows us to focus on the action (ie: you didn’t do the dishes) and our own feelings (ie: I feel hurt) and allows us to request changes. It might feel clunky at first to use it, but there is deep wisdom in the phrase.
Here are some other important phrases to avoid if you want to have even better communication at home, at work, everywhere:
- You always/you never ____________.
- You make me feel ___________.
- I feel like ____________.
- I feel nothing _________. You don’t get to feel nothing, and your partner isn’t going to want you to feel NOTHING. The person you’re speaking with is going to want something. As an alternative, you can say, I’m not sure how I feel about this yet, I need some time to think about it.
Part II: Reactivity
Here’s the other part about good communication: learning to contain your reactivity. This snippet from one of my favorite sexuality and relationship coaches explains reactivity and how it erodes trust in you: Number One Killer of Her Trust in You.
Part III: Communication Games
Below are two communication games that I teach my clients in order to build connection and have deeper conversations that take us out of our day-to-day and into a connected space. These are heart-opening, connecting, and can be deeply healing.
The Three Requests:
- Tell me something you appreciate about me.
- Tell me something we have in common.
- Tell me something that is true right now.
How to Play:
Set a timer for 5-10 minutes. Take turns answering each question: person 1 answers the first question, then person 2 answers the first question; person 1 answers the second question, then person 2 answers the second question, and so on. The juiciness here is found in repetition: repeat the process, each answering the questions in turn, until the timer goes off. Often the depth emerges quickly, especially when we really feel into the truth available within each question.
Loves, Desires, Fears:
- What do you love about me?
- What do you want most in the world?
- What are you scared of?
Set a timer for one minute. Person 1 answers the first question; if Person 1 runs out of things to say, Person 2 says ‘And what else…?’ to encourage continued reflection for the entire minute. When it dings, restart the timer, and Person 2 answers the first question, with Person 1 offering only the ‘and what else…’ prompt. Repeat this process with question 2 and 3, with one minute for each of you to speak to each question. The depth here is in the deep listening you offer the other person, and the opportunity to be deeply seen, heard, and validated. This post can really deepen and expand love between you and a partner.
Thank you again to everyone that joined, and I look forward to co-creating more awesome gatherings in the future.