The Dance of a Connected Conversation

If communication is a dance, have you ever had the sense that you were talking with someone but:

  • Your toes were getting squashed under their heels.
  • Their posture was stiff and inflexible.
  • They were getting scandalously close to your wobbly bits? (Gasp!).
  • You just weren’t connected.

Dancers of many styles - silhouettesMaybe it was like the tango where there was a strong leader in the dance, around whom the dance seemed to turn and whirl? Maybe that was even you, once or twice 😉 Perhaps you were trying to assert yourself but the rapid, complex movements of the lead partner left it tricky to share your expression? You found yourself a little dizzy, being swept around the dance floor, lifted and spun, tracking the next move of the lead partner. (Note: its just a metaphor here, folks – tango can be beautiful, amazing, and full of both people’s expression.). The video below shows a disconnected dance duo stepping on each others feet video (for comparison & contrast with the following video).

Now compare the tango with a lead partner to “contact improvisation” dance. In this style, the partners are fully playing off of each other and there usually is no “lead partner”, although the dancers will be guiding and supporting each other at different times. Movements are fluid and intimate as bodies pass over, under and around each other. This style of dance is more of a metaphor for what we call “the flow of connection” in compassionate communication. This video demonstrates that fluidity.

Back and Forth

“The flow of connection” in a conversation has a focus on keeping both people connected to a conversation. This goes back and forth, using “connecting requests” that ask, “Could you tell me what you just heard so I can know I got my message across?” or “What comes up for you when you hear that?” To stay with the metaphor, those questions keep the dancers synced up, in step on the same dance floor. Another thing to remember is that people can stay more connected with each other if the person speaking talks in “paragraphs” rather than “chapters.” By breaking up the conversation into smaller chunks, it is easier to reflect back what is being shared. If you are listening, it can also be helpful to “interrupt,” to reflect back what that other person is sharing, initiating the flow of connection from the perspective of the “ear.” So even if the speaker knows nothing about compassionate communication and nonviolence, you as a listener can model that flow and keep yourself connected to the conversation.

Trip, Stumble and Get Impatient

Sometimes you might want to have connected conversations and other times, you might not have the energy for it. It does require an openness and detachment from outcomes – a willingness to fully leap into the conversation… in the dance. Sometimes you might want to just be the lead partner or just to follow the lead of another. Sometimes a txt msg is all u have time 4. AND as you practice (and fail) and practice (and fail some more), you will find yourself dancing in conversations with others in ways that used to be battles. Even if you are a seasoned practitioner of compassionate communication, also known as Nonviolent Communication™, watch and enjoy as your skills continue to improve and you spin into deeper connection. Are you wanting to strengthen your Nonviolent Communication practice for 4 days and nights in a beautiful retreat setting, with highly skilled trainers, a supportive community, incredible organic food and rustic natural settings? Learn more about our Blackbelt Communication Skills Retreat at Whidbey Institute, Oct 1-5, 2014.

Kathleen Macferran, Certified Trainer
Strength of Connection Center for Nonviolent Communication
Office: 472 Grow Ave NW | Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
206.780.1021. Tel / Fax
Mail: PO Box 10009 | Bainbridge Island, WA 98110-0009