If an average nine year old child asked you "What is 'awareness'?" - what would you say?

On a scale of one (I'm totally unaware) to ten (I'm extremely aware in all situations), how would you rate your degree of *awareness* in (a) calm and (b) stressful situations? Are you becoming more aware as you age? What would othes say about you?

The most fundamental of seven powerful, learnable communication (relationship) skills is *awareness.* A useful awareness-building habit to grow is breathing easily from your belly, and noting without judgment what you feel + see + hear + think + feel + need + do at any given moment. Pause, and try that right now...

Do this as though you're an objective news reporter or scientist. Repeat this exercise over time, and see what patterns you become aware of. Option - do this exercise with the young people in your life, and teach them the priceless gift of self-awareness.

A Common Relationship Challenge

Have you ever tried to converse with someone who only focused on themselves? ("self-centered")? Or who over-focused on *you* ("codependent")? Do you know anyone who is easily distracted and often doesn't seem aware of themselves OR you? What do you feel in these situations - Irritated? Hurt? Angry? Frustrated? Critcal? Bored? All of these?

Many interpersonal verbal and nonverbal communications include implied (unspoken) messages. When implied messages don't match the person's words and actions, we feel confused, and call the communication "double" or "mixed."

A common implied message we decode when someone focuses only on themselves (or often interrupts us) is *disrespect* - i.e. the other person seems to value themselves more than us now or in general. That unspoken message often hinders effective hearing and problem-solving.

Four "Awareness Bubbles"

When you interact with an adult or child, you each can be said to have one of four types of "bubbles": a one-person bubble just around you or (2) just around your partner, or (3) a two-person bubble around you *and* your partner; and (4) a no-person bubble - you're unaware of your own or your partner's thoughts, feelings, needs, and actions.

If this makes sense to you, think of seveal people with whom you usually communicate "well" with. Assess which of these four types of bubbles you each usually have with each other. I suspect you'd say "We each maintain a two-person bubble often enough." True?

Now think of an adult or child you often have (or had) "trouble communicating well" with. Again, identify which bubble-type you each usually experience with each other. Often, one or both such partners experience a dissatisfying one-person or no-person bubble "too much." Do you relate?

So What?

Adopting this concept opens up some practical communication options. The first is to describe the concept to a troublesome partner informationally, in a few sentences.

Then look at the bubble you usually maintain with the other person. Option - ask them! If it's not a stable two-person bubble, don't expect satisfying communications! Option - look "inside" to see what hinders you having a two-person bubble with this partner.

Now look at the bubble they usually have with you. If it's not a genuine (vs. pretended) two-person focus, you have several options: (1) do nothing, and endure some unmet needs (discomforts); (2) do something, like "Can I give you some feedback?" (Be prepared for "No") If they agree, say something like:

+ "(Name), do you know what awareness bubble you've had here with me, so far, and how that's affecting me?" OR...

+ "When you don't maintain a steady two-person bubble with me, I (a) have a hard time listening to you // (b) gradually tune you out // (c) get increasingly frustrated // (d) wonder if you'r avoiding something // (e) wonder if you know you're doing that // (f) suspect you'd rather be doing something else // etc.

+ (Your choice of response)

Awareness bubbles is a simple concept that can significantly help you and any partner communicate more effectively more often. It's one application of a powerful communication skill - awareness. Try it out!

For more perspective, see the free articles at http://sfhelp.org/cx/tools/bubble.htm and http://sfhelp.org/cx/awareness.htm

Author's Bio: 

I've studied and taught interpersonal communication basics and skills for over 40 years. Over 1,000 average family-therapy clients have demonstrated to me the great need for general education on effective thinking and communicating. Part of my nonprofit "Break the Cycle!" Web site is devoted to teaching these: http://sfhelp.org/02/project02.htm