Communication Tools for Conscious Relationships

Here is an example of a communication tool that my friends and I use.

Often, even when two people are on the same page, intending towards intimacy, transparency, and conscious awareness, still stuff comes up. Misunderstandings happen.

We've found it very helpful to have some of these tools in our communication
toolboxes, to handle typical thorny situations that our culture as yet hasn't figured out an elegant way to deal with and put into common practice.

This is a vocabulary expansion.


It's amazing to me how just having a word for something, making up some way to point to some situation, results in both vastly defusing its emotional charge and fosters the space in which people can talk about what's going on to come to some durable solution.

It feels like mind expansion, a way for the collective conscious of our culture
to grow.

My friends and I have created, adapted, borrowed and polished these.

Feel free to use them, in whatever way serves you.

Have you and your friends made up some great "memes", some shorthand that refers to a typical recurring situations that are otherwise problematic and not handleable?

Do you have some communication tools that you keep reaching for that you have to introduce your new friends to because they've never heard of them and they're so handy?

Send them to us here with an explanation of how you use them.
If we like them, we'll publish them. (With your name, unless you say not to.

Cling Factor

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People can have really different needs and expectations about how close they want or need to be to each other, especially when going out somewhere together.

It can be really useful to name this, notice it, quantify it,

[ "On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is "I never want to be out of actual physical contact with you at ANY time!", and 1 is "You know where the car is. I'll meet you there when it's over." ]

Bring this out into the open to discuss.

Not to make anybody wrong,... we all have different requirements or preferences at different times/situations.

But much better to talk about it upront than have this happen on the drive home:

"You *ditched* me the moment you walked in the door! I hardly got to be with you all night. Are you ashamed to be with me in front of your friends?"

"Why are you always hanging on to me? These are all my friends I hardly get to see any more.
And you decided THIS was the time to be competing for my attention?"

Instead, to be able to have that discussion upfront:

"I'm going to hang out with my old buddies/girlfriends from school. Want to come along?" "And what cling factor you talking about offering me here?"

or (depending on who's asking...)

"Hey, how about I come along and hang with you and your old college friends."

"Well, I'm going to be having all of my attention going toward them. How low a [C.F.] number you ok with?"


"You know that 'out there' party our friends have talked about that we both want to go? I'm thinking the only way either of us will feel safe enough to go is if we have a really really high cling factor, like a "9" or something for the first hour, and then we check in."
"...yeah, and the person with the higher number gets preference, right?"

Helpful to be able to notice and name,, have it out there on the table, as object of discussion beforehand, that we as partners can work on together.

If we don't, then we can too easily be "subject" to this, that our position at this time feels much too close to core, we're identified with it, that we're not open to calm discussion, that it represents instead an emotional survival need, one that has to be defended to be fulfilled.

Our process feels like:
"This is important!
I have to have this.
How do I get the other to cave so I can have what I want?"

Much better to recognize we all are in different situations at different times.

That no one has a lock on any one position in the polarity. See it from the other person's point of view.
We both care about ourselves, each other, our system, and it's long term good. What, if anything, can we create, to structure this situation for the good of all? Partnership, working together. Does no good for our sustainable long term future --and most likely not even for the two hours we'll be out on this date!-- if one person "wins" while the other person is feeling burnt and is fuming.

You want to do something together? Ok, what cling factor?

Ever vs. Always

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With the Main Squeeze I noticed recently that when I would compliment her on
some action/response/interaction, especially sexual, that was going on between
us, in an effort to "name and notice", to make conscious, to reinforce, to
point to something good/great --- that often she went to "Well, just because it happened this time, doesn't mean it will always happen in the future. No promises, guarantee. Don't reset the
bar on me, because it happened once doesn't mean you can count on it in the

After several times of my positive reinforcement being met with this "well,
don't expect this next time" I realized I needed to reframe my statement from
"always" to "ever", to give some sort of preamble like "doesn't mean you are expected in the
future, I am just happy, thrilled, exceeding expectations, the territory is
beyond the map, ['puffed cheeks'], that it happened *once*, that is, EVER!
As in, "It's not the 50's anymore," as in, I never dreamed when I was growing up in high school, lonely, scared, and outcaste, that someone present, gorgeous, passionate, affectionate,
conscious, intellligent would love me, tell me she wants me, that she thinks
about me 20 times and hour, that I've changed her life in a huge way, ..."

It's not that you have to maintain that level for always in the future,
[although yes, going in that direction would be great,
and the bar actually *has* kept elevating, yes
and help me, teach me, how what I can do to increase the likelihood of that!,
but!! ---
for now let me just comment upon and come from that it has happened at all (!),
in the past, not the future.
It's me that needs to "update my software", to send a message back to that part
of myself that I am still carrying around, that this is real, this happened,
that --->>*I*<<--- need to shift my internal expectations, rewrite the
script, expand the edge of the map of what is possible in my life, to include
what has already happened.

It was extremely useful for me to make that conscious, explicit, to get that
meme out there.
Over the next few days, she immediately stepped up to noting and naming what
was great in her life, about us or elsewhere, where she had to rewrite her
internal expectations, of something that had happened, without changing the
set-point of "mistaking the optimum for the norm". Just because something
happened once changes your world, but doesn't mean it will never oscillate back
away from that. You can go to the mountain and be forever changed, but it
doesn't mean you live there, never having to return to the valley.

Takes the pressure off.

You can allow things, name and notice, without having to ever more live up to

Ever vs. always.

And, as usual, the greatest gift is the meta-lesson: that communication can be
improved, that memes can be invented, that clarification can be a huge mutual
win, that it is worth the effort to continually upgrade things, that it can get
a lot better, that what had been a small but recurring nuisance, under the
radar until now, can be dealt with, improved, upgraded, life changed for the
better, freeing so much energy.


Clearly Mixed Messages

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Most people jokingly say "oh, that's a clearly mixed
message" when they mean to comment, with somewhat
self-conscious recognition of violating one of the
modern taboos, "oops, sorry, clearly i've given you a
mixed message".

I say, for most any issue of import in our lives, each
of us is not all clearly going in one direction, there
*are* many voices. It *is* useful to "pass the mic
around the internal committee," to hear from all

What transforms this from being simply a muddy
communication mess,
--for which an apology may well be in order--
to a great gift of intimacy and vulnerability and
is the simple elevation of this with one more step:
explaining the relative strengths of each faction,
... ideally getting it down to two positions (pro and
[with perhaps the undecided, "refuse to say"
abstentors as the third].

down to basically:
what is the "Meta" (the dominant voting block, the
context, the framing view, the majority opinion)


what is the "Sub" (the dissenters, the loyal
opposition, the minority, the smaller content which
knows its place within the wider transcending purview)

He asks, "You want to go out to dinner with me again?"

And she says:

"Can I give you a clearly mixed message about that?
"Last time we went out, you had this stupid archaic
program running that if you took me out somewhere and
paid for me that I then *owed* you something.
You remember you acting like that? Yeah.

So, the meta? Yes, love to go out again. I had a great
time up till that point. You seem like a great guy and
I'd like the chance to get to know you further.
But, hey, it's like 60/40.
There's a strong sub voice over here; I'm definitely
wary of that part of you, and I'm watching.
You think taking me out somewhere *entitles* you to
have your hands on my body, and we've got no future at

It's clear, right?"

-=- or -=-

An old flame of mine goes out with a new feller.
Couple days later, I ask her how it was, if she wants
to see him again.
She pauses, demurs, looks off into the air, "...I
don't know."

This is a woman of deep sensitivity, great ease in
communication, amazing awareness both inner and outer,
and of stunning intellectual capacity --

[the person who originated the meme "playing both
sides of the net" to describe her experience of most
of the men she went out with...]

If I'm asking *her* if she's going to see this guy
again, after three hours of wide ranging probing
conversation over dinner with him, her answer tome is
"I don't know," then I'm saying it's *me* who's asking
the wrong question!

I try a different tack, explain briefly the "clearly
mixed message" meme, and almost instantly get the
executive summary overview:

"Well, he's clearly got the intellectual capacity, a
great career of high level fulfilling work making a
difference on the planet, and he makes me laugh, he's
hot, sexy, is mostly in his body, has a spiritual life
outside rationality, is respectful of women, knows how
to express and receive love...
All good, right?

But on the other hand,
--and this is important--
it just doesn't feel to me like he's been through
those dark nights of the soul that would test his
depth. Everything's come too easy to him. Not only
hasn't he looked deeply into "the mirror at the end of
the road," moreover he's just now thinking that it
might be a good idea to try to find it someday. He's
interested in meditation, yes, but he hasn't made it a
practice. He does read about the great chain of being,
involution/evolution, and integral philosophy, -and
occasionally he even gets it more than on a merely
rational level- but I don't think he's there, that he
can meet me. I don't think I could surrender deeply
into a man who doesn't know himself at that level.
So, it's close, very close, I don't know, something
like maybe 48/52.

I'd like to see him again, yes, but I just don't think
this is my job description. It would feel like I was
taking on another "case," another project, another
helping someone else along. So I'm on the fence, sure.
But I'm leaning toward thinking I'm going to pass.
My edge now is to push through loneliness and
hopelessness and the "I'll never find anybody" despair
and to keep going for what I believe is possible,
rather than "settling".
Bottom line, could waver on a dark night, (...wouldn't
take too many lonely nights to shift it...) but right
now, nope.
The meta is stay true to my path, have the courage of
my convictions, keep focus, say no, move on.
But it's close."


Amazing how useful it is to be able to have the
to be so aware of all the internal voices,
to feel comfortable enough with them all to let each
one speak,
pass the mic around the table,
and invite those others in the hallway, and out in the
street to take part, to feel welcomed,
to be self-confident and at peace enough to be willing
to be transparent,
to be trusting enough in the process that you knowing
what's going on inside me won't mean you'll
automatically reject me,
that you see the gift in my authenticity,
that you treat that trust as a gift --that neither of
us will abuse---
neither I: by burdening you with too much information,
too unsorted, or incorrectly assessed...
nor you: by picking out a minor voice and being
horrified that I would be so unashamed to actually
*say* that, ("Tsk, tsk"!)

And if the person with whom you are trying to increase
communication bandwidth subsequently takes your
"clearly mixed message" as other than a gift, to be
respected, and offered in return, ...
then, well, all the better...
better to know than not know,
better to know sooner rather than later...


Lastly, one side note about addiction and the backroom
wrangling while adding up the votes to come out with
the meta/sub ( and /undecided) totals:

Often, there may be a dominant block, say 35 votes out
of a 100,
and all the rest of the factions are in the single
It sure looks like that one big elephant is going to
get its way.

However, if you can add up all the other smaller
parties, you can often find enough strength, "votes",
reasons not to act out on the otherwise "meta" 35 vote

"Yeah, I know we *want* to ________

[act out, drink, buy, gamble, use, smoke, have sex,
play another online video game, gossip, go

but if you add up all the other reasons, all of them
so much smaller by comparison, but *added* up, year
after year of experiencing the morning after
regrets... don't they outweigh (by so much!) this one
addictive desire????"
and you can often get to the decision to "just hold
on," just don't act out, just call someone before you
get going doing it,
and that can tip the balance,
that will call forth the meta coalition
and interrupt the cycle of addiction.

Sometimes that helps, to canvas the different parts of
--even to recognize that they are all there!--
and not just simply, stupidly, go with whatever is the
biggest dominant faction in and of itself...

Oscillation Theory

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"the way" is neither one way or its opposite but lies
in the wise oscillation between the two.

I'm not sure who first said this, (it could have been
me), but I have found this to be one of the most
important, key, wise, useful, overarching directives
in my life... largely because of the many levels it

At the bottom you have people who are not aware of
what they are doing, much less have much of a
coherent, explicit strategy about life, they just are
acting out.

On the next level up, you have people into OTROW, aka
the "One True, Right and Only Way": they know their
way, they know why it's right, they will argue
strongly, vehemently, sometimes slipping unethically
[..."kill you in order to save you"], to get you to
see the Fundamental Truth that they know. There is no
other path but theirs. No compromise shall be brooked.

["Extremism in the defense of Liberty is no vice.
Moderation in the pursuit of Justice is no virtue."]
The shadow is hidden, shamed, repressed, denied,
attacked as evil... and comes in through the back
door. An arms race against oneself, and with whoever
allows themselves to get sucked into and stuck engaged
with this tar baby. There is no arguing with them at
this level. You mistake the friendly demeanor and
brightly washed faces of Jehovah Witnesses for an
open heart, you invite them in to your house at your
peril. This is not about discussion. This is about
[Zero Mostel: "Like shooting fish in a barrel. And
then you realize that *you're* the fish."]

The next level up is the one of The Converted:
There is no greater advocate and fierce ally than the
converted member of the former polar opposite.

[Aside: best in person presentation I heard,
-- in any topic, at any time, ever, in my entire
was on Integral Theory and the great chain of being,
on the 15 billion year trend of evolutionary
development and it was put on by a man, Michael Dowd,
who use to be the guy outside school board meetings
handing out the *anti-*evolutionary tracts.
<> .]

[The person I most trust for knowing what's going on
in the US intelligence apparatus is a guy who was on
the inside and then "saw the light", formed Open
Source Solutions < > to advocate for
what information gathering can be done in plain sight,
from what's freely available.]

It's a huge uplevel to see the wisdom coming from The
Other, rather than being stuck on "Our" side.
The usual hazard though is that once over on the other
side, it's all too easy to make this the new OTROW
-[not meaning to imply that either of the fine
gentlemen mentioned above have fallen into this]-
and be totally against where one once was.

The next huge leap upwards is to see the wisdom of
This can get confusing, especially to one's former
allies, on either side!
Is he with us or against us? !!
The answer, "It all depends, on the context" is not a
position that either of them is going to find
comforting or trustworthy, but there you have it.
It does depend.
Different situations require different responses.
Until the oscillation back and forth
(from holding one polar position to holding the other)
has been done many times, the lurching from one to the
other can be a bit ungraceful, sudden, unannounced,

We describe it like one of those old rusty sticky, two
positions switches.
It takes a LOT of work/effort/force to get it from one
side to the other,
and then when it goes to the other, it stays there
with some certainty,
only reluctantly being forced back to the previous
often looking up at you complainingly, "Well, which is
it? What DO you want? Hey, make up your mind, will
you? We just CAME from there!!"

Eventually it gets to be more like the mercury glide
switches of infinite range between the two poles,
easily going to the right amount, and then back again,
or a little more. No problem. Appropriate to the
situation, easily done. Little resistance.
It's not the position which remains constant, but the
it's the appropriateness of the response, to move the
more rigid "other" to the more fluid "possible". As
Ram Dass liked to describe his effect on people: "I
loosen people who are too tight. And I tighten people
who are too loose."

Lastly, discussion between people who at this level of
discourse can be about noticing whether one's problems
timing the oscillation switching consistently tend to
happen "switching too early" or switching too late,
being too sensitive, jumpy, reading too much into
every little signal and bump in the road, or whether
the "squelch/gain" on one's antenna is set too high,
and you're hanging in there with a certain course
["being resolute"] when you would be much better
advised to change course.

The following, though apocryphal, is illustrative.

Collected on the Internet, 1998 --(with the claim of
being an)-- actual transcript of a US naval ship with
Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland in
October, 1995.

Americans: "Please divert your course 15 degrees to
the North to avoid a collision."

Canadians: "Recommend you divert YOUR course 15
degrees to the South to avoid a collision."

Americans: "This is the captain of a US Navy ship. I
say again, divert YOUR course."

Canadians: "No, I say again, you divert YOUR course."


Canadians: "This is a lighthouse, Sir. Your call."]

© Paul C Hoffman 2012