A few weeks ago a friend of mine, Ned Bresslin, published an amazing article about forgiveness featured in the Good Men Project. He describes how during a group we both attended the subject of forgiveness was discussed.  Ned wrote how he understands the meaning of “forgiveness” in the context of the violence and abuse he experienced during childhood. For me, reading his article presented an eye opening experience. Ned was writing about a group I participated in. I was sitting in the same room as him, yet had a different experience than he did. If I was asked to write about our group, my message and understanding of the word forgiveness would be different than his. During the next group we explored how every day we use words to convey a message (our output). Yet many times we fail to clarify if the input received via our message matches our intended output.

In a typical counseling session with a couple or family, they will use certain words and phrases over and over again. This word or phrase is the crux of their message, the verbal expression of their emotion. For example;

“I am angry”

“I love you”

“I care about you”

“You hurt me, when you did/said…..”

I will stop the person and ask, what do you mean when you say “angry, hurt..?”. Does your partner/child/parent understand what message you are trying to convey?  An amazing transformation can take place when they stop to clarify what their intent is, how they understand the words “love, care..”.  It’s like a light bulb went on, illuminating what was left in the dark for so long.

My challenge to YOU is to take note of the two or three words you use consistently in these situations. Ask yourself, what is my intent? What message am I trying to convey? Ask your partner or child for help, what do they understand you to mean? Then take the next step to make sure your output and input match in your communication. Take that first step toward bringing light and understanding to your daily communication patterns.