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It's Not What You Say, But How You Say It


Communication is a cornerstone of human interaction. We share thoughts, feelings, and ideas through words, but there's a deeper layer to our messages that goes beyond the words themselves. It's not just what you say but how you say it that truly matters. Albert Mehrabian, a researcher of body language, broke down the components of a face-to-face conversation. He found that communication is 55% nonverbal, 38% vocal, and 7% words only. Therefore, our emotional state significantly impacts our ability to communicate effectively. In particular, our internal state, especially whether we are within our window of tolerance or in a fight, flight, or freeze state, influences the quality of our communication. Connecting with our inner state and communicating from a place of self-regulation, enables us to connect in a calm, compassionate, and attuned manner. The Layers of Communication Words are like the visible tip of an iceberg. They carry the literal meaning of a message, but beneath the surface lies a vast expanse of emotional nuances, intentions, and underlying beliefs. These underlying aspects become even more crucial when considering the impact of our internal state on communication. The Role of the Window of Tolerance Our internal state, particularly whether we are within our window of tolerance or in a fight, flight, or freeze state, significantly influences the effectiveness of our communication. Here's how it works:

  • Within the Window of Tolerance: When we are within our window of tolerance, we are in an optimal state for communication. Our nervous system is regulated, and we can engage in thoughtful, empathetic, and understanding dialogue. Communication from this state is typically calm, compassionate, and attuned to the needs of both ourselves and others.

  • In Fight, Flight, or Freeze: On the other hand, when we are in a fight, flight, or freeze state, our nervous system is dysregulated. In this state, our communication often becomes reactive, defensive, or withdrawn. We may say things we don't mean, become confrontational, or shut down entirely.

Connecting with Your Inner State Understanding and connecting with your inner state is a vital step in improving communication. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Mindfulness and Self-Awareness: Practice mindfulness to become more aware of your internal state. Regular mindfulness exercises can help you recognize when you are moving out of your window of tolerance.

  • Emotional Regulation: Learn techniques for emotional regulation, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or grounding exercises. These methods can help bring you back into your window of tolerance during moments of stress or conflict.

  • Therapeutic Support: Consider therapy or counseling to explore the underlying beliefs and experiences that trigger a fight, flight, or freeze response. A trained therapist can help you process and reframe these triggers.

Communicating from a Place of Self-Regulation When you are in your window of tolerance and have connected with your inner state, you're better equipped to communicate from a place of self-regulation. This means:

  • Active Listening: Actively listen to others without immediately reacting. Give them the space to express themselves fully before responding.

  • Empathy: Practice empathy by trying to understand the feelings and perspectives of others. Put yourself in their shoes to see the situation from their point of view.

  • Nonviolent Communication: Use nonviolent communication techniques to express your thoughts and needs without blaming or shaming. Focus on "I" statements to convey your feelings and experiences.

  • Conflict Resolution: Learn effective conflict resolution strategies. Understand that disagreements are a natural part of any relationship but can be resolved peacefully and constructively.

Nurturing Healthy Communication What you say is only a fraction of effective communication. The emotional state and intention behind your words significantly influence the message you convey. Understanding your window of tolerance and learning to self-regulate your internal state are key steps in improving communication. When you communicate from a place of self-regulation, you open the door to more profound, meaningful, and harmonious relationships. In the end, it's not just what you say but how you say it and the state from which you say it that truly defines the quality of your connections with others. Note: The content provided in this blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for professional therapy or mental health advice. If you are experiencing communication challenges or significant emotional issues, consider seeking guidance from a qualified mental health practitioner or therapist.


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