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 communications 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 appropriate. 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. They 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 analyzed.” 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.
Healthy Conflict Management Styles
According to psychologist John Gottman, there are three styles to manage conflict in healthy relationships. Validators. Volatile. Avoiders.
Validators and avoiders both want to preserve harmony, the latter by minimizing conflict. Validators’ relationships can devolve into passionless, without fire. Then there are those who fight about everything – the volatile couple. They also laugh a lot when not fighting and resolve their differences.
The ratio of positive to negative feelings and interactions is a robust predictor of success or failure of a relationship. John Gottman found this ratio to be 5:1.
Our Communicating Style
We do not change our communication or conflict management styles. Knowing this during the calm seas helps us navigate the storms.
Storms can blow from out of the blue because their origins are not only within the relationship between two people.
A conflict can easily escalate because, as Donna Eden writes, relationships are also about family, history, culture, and dynamics. It is the whole caboodle. This makes knowing how better to communicate with people with different styles tremendously important.
Here are some of the suggestions given in the book for dealing with each of the styles.
Here’s How to Better Communicate with People of Different 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.
Reasoning is preferred over feeling, especially under stress. If they show no or little emotional contact, see it for what it is. This is their coping style, not their 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. Under stress, they 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.
Understand Your Underlying Fear
We can also seek beneath the conscious to find what is the anger or the fear underlying our responses. They suggest asking to find the fear beneath the blame. To do this, take a deep breath and while placing one 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.
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. This makes intimacy difficult.
Adrenaline and stress chemicals can take twenty minutes to break down. Because a sense of calm can be experienced before the chemicals clear out, 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 very likely.
It is best to take a break, relax, and try out some of the eight energetic techniques included in the book.
Stress Release Hold
Use this hold when you are feeling stressed. 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. Do the “Crown Pull” to help the body be more receptive to this shift.
The “Crown Pull” is also helpful for tension headaches and for improving memory. 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 across the forehead. Continue the “Crown Pull” up to the hair line, crown of the head, and the back of the head. Donna says that it creates spaces for the cerebral spinal fluids to come up into 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.