We process information in four ways and we use all of these approaches at different times. These are visual, kinesthetic, auditory, and abstract reasoning. It is helpful to recognize our own dominant style, which is the one we revert to exclusively when we are under stress. In The Energies of Love: Invisible Keys to a Fulfilling Partnership, Donna Eden and David Feinstein discuss these styles in detail, including how to deal with them during conflict.
A Brief Description of the Four Styles
The Visual Style
Visual people understand best through pictures and how information is presented. Not only do they have a vision for humanity, they have one for other people, especially those close to them. They have an idea for how someone behaves and should behave. Their eyes are penetrating and you know they are looking at you. There is power in their glance.
The Kinesthetic Style
Kinesthetic people feel, and feel deeply. They are open, compassionate, and often say yes when no is more suitable. They are easily taken advantage of and often choose to suffer for others. If they do not take care of this, they can fragment.
Those with the digital style are kind, rational, and calm, and are not so easily stirred up by emotion, theirs or other people’s. Because of this, they could end up feeling lonely.
Information about others is “intuitively grasped and precisely analysed.” They have a powerful sense of aesthetics and tend to understand themselves quite well. Because they are intuitive, under stress, they can mis-read what is actually said for what is not said or meant. They can even stop listening to what is being said.
According to psychologist John Gottman, there are three styles to manage conflict. Validators. Volatile. Avoiders. Validators and avoiders both want to preserve harmony, the latter by minimizing conflict. Validators’ relationship can devolve into passionless, without fire. Then there are those who fight about everything. (They also laugh a lot when not fighting) The ratio of positive and negative interactions is a robust predictor of success or failure of a relationship. John Gottman found this ratio to be 5:1.
We do not change our communication or conflict management styles. A conflict can easily escalate, because as Donna Eden writes, relationships are not merely between two people. It is also their family history, culture, dynamics – it is the whole caboodle. This makes knowing how better to communicate with people with different styles tremendously helpful.
Here are some of the suggestions given in the book for dealing with each of the styles.
People with a visual style need to see a person in perspective so step back and give them some distance, and maintain eye contact to engender a sense of trust. You will need to give them time to process and know they will not let go of their point of view so easily. Share your point of view without force, standing your ground and not be bullied. Softening of your point of view is evidence for visual people that they are correct in their thinking.
Remember they feel deeply and so when they are under pressure or hurried, they are drowned in your words, rather than accessing their own feelings. This can cause them to agree or say yes too rashly.
Their reasoning is preferred over feeling, especially under stress. If they show no or little emotional contact, see it for what it is, their coping style, not rejection of you. Because they only trust what is logical, that is the best approach rather than increasing your own emotional expression.
These folks are sensitive to energy and when under stress, feel it more keenly and do not hear or respond to words very well. They easily hear what’s between the lines, which may be distorted at this time. Convincing them that they are wrong will only worsen the situation. It is more productive to acknowledge what they are saying and listen with patience while confirming what is said.
Energetic Techniques for Stress Release
Knowing how to better communicate with people of different styles is important, though it is likely insufficient under strenuous situations. The body is flooded with stress chemicals. Donna and David suggest stopping the argument, using energy techniques to process the stress, and refocusing the mind.
We can also seek beneath the conscious to find what is the anger or the fear underlying our own response. They suggest taking a deep breath and while placing a hand on the belly (beneath the navel) and the other hand between the eyebrows, with the fingers pointing upward towards the top of the head, ask to find the fear beneath the blame.
This shifts the focus from the confrontation and disharmony back to the body, connecting three chakras – the second one for creativity, sixth for higher perception, and seventh for purpose. The hand on the head is also working with reflexology points to interrupt the stress response and to prevent the blood from leaving the brain.
According to Donna, during a fight/flight/freeze or stress response, the auric field contracts and energies are withdrawn, making intimacy difficult. Adrenaline and stress chemicals can take twenty minutes to break down. Because a sense of calm can be experienced before this happens, people can mistaken it as an end to the stress response and prematurely re-engage the previous conversation. Re-activation of elevated emotional levels is still very likely.
It is best to take a break, relax, and try out some of the eight energetic techniques included in the book.
Next time you are under any stress, try the “Stress Release Hold.” Simply place one hand on the forehead and the other on the back of the head for one to three minutes. By working with the “neurovascular points” we can shift the neurochemistry of stress and turn off or downscale the stress response. They suggest doing the “Crown Pull” to help the body be more receptive to this shift.
The “Crown Pull” is also helpful for tension headaches. If you like this energetic technique, incorporate it into your daily practice – yoga, meditation, energy balancing.
The idea of the “Crown Pull” is to release the energy build up to calm the nervous system. Place your palms on the forehead, thumbs on the temples, fingers aligned vertically down the centre of the forehead. Take a deep breath in and on the out breath, press down on the forehead while pulling your fingers away from each other, stretching the skin on the forehead. Continue this pattern by moving your hands up, to the hairline, crown of the head, and the back of the head.
Communications goes far beyond words. It is not only our body language. It is our history, our woundings, our shadows, our innate styles, how we respond and deal with stress and conflict, and so much more. We all have had conversations that shockingly escalated into arguments and we were unprepared. Learning what our own communication and conflict management styles are, along with energetic techniques to release the stress, can help us become more astute and better communicators.