Stay Awake: Portal Into a Generative Communication Mindset
Pay attention! Things are going on all around you that you don’t want to miss. We can’t possibly take in all the stimuli that bombard our senses every moment of every day. Still, we can become far more aware of information that illuminates our interactions with others—IF we try.
The twitch of an eye, tightening of muscles, a sense of hostility, or camaraderie “in the air” when we walk into a room are examples of information we might not notice unless we’re paying attention. Seeking verifiable information presented from a variety of perspectives about a situation we’re dealing with is yet another means of paying attention. Or noticing a pit in your stomach, or your overreaction to a comment. There are dozens of ways we can expand our awareness of what is going on in and around us IF we make an effort to pay attention!
The art of awareness is central to understanding what it means to communicate generatively. “Being aware” simply means consciously noticing visible and invisible information that helps us see a bigger picture of what is going on in a particular situation. At the same time, being aware means recognizing that whatever we think we see, know and understand about a situation is only a fraction of all the relevant information to know. Our human biological and psychological limitations help to explain why this is so. However, merely recognizing this fact is a good start toward actively seeking to expand our awareness.
Our five physical senses—what we see and hear, tactically feel, smell, and taste—are our typical sources for taking in information. Science tells us that while the spectrum of sensory information availability varies from person to person, we can train ourselves to notice more than we initially perceive. Further, intuitive sensing—those gut feelings we have about a thing—is a valuable source of relevant information we tend to dismiss with our rational minds. Many of us need to relearn to access our intuitive knowing we were soundly taught to ignore in our school classrooms.
Consciously expanding our awareness of visible and invisible information leads to a deeper understanding of circumstances that informs Generative Communication. It means being mindful and alert. It means paying attention to what is going on multiple levels of interaction simultaneously: What is going on within ourselves? What is going on for the people with whom we’re interacting? What external factors are impacting the immediate situation with which we are dealing? What is going on in the larger world around us that may directly and indirectly influence our points of view in the immediate situation? Becoming consciously aware from multiple perspectives helps us form a more complete picture of the circumstances that affect our interactive choices. Being a responsible citizen means becoming actively aware with purpose.
Somewhere in the world
Someone is cold, be aware.
And while you’re feeling young
Someone is old, be aware.
And while your stomach’s full
Somewhere in this world
Someone is hungry.
When there is so much, should
anyone be hungry?
Somewhere in the world
People are weak, be aware.
And while you speak your mind
Others can’t speak, be aware.
And while your children sleep
Somewhere in this world
A child is homeless.
When there is so much, should any
child be homeless?
Oh no, not even one child.
Bacharach & David
A key to staying awake is to be fully present. Being in the present moment —the here and now— means that we are mindful of what is happening right now. After all, the present is the space where our lives unfold. Being present means being free from the noise of internal dialogue and not being distracted by ruminating on the past or projecting into the future. Being able to summon this state of mind —and staying in it for even a short while— takes practice. The mind naturally wanders, but when we are able to be present, we can experience things more fully; setting aside our thoughts, our judgements, and just be, with open awareness.
Appreciating the fall leaves, listening to the crunch under your feet as you walk on the winter snow, smelling the scent of fresh-cut grass, feeling the warmth of the summer sun — these simple acts of presence slow life down and help us go through each day feeling more alive, awake, and content.
Being present when we’re interacting with others means we’re not thinking ahead to our rebuttal to what someone is saying. We’re not interrupting with our own story of a similar experience. We’re not passing judgment or giving advice. We’re simply being present with each other.
We have fallen into the habit of occupying our minds far away from the present moment. By returning to the present we experience life in each moment as if it were new. Seeing with fresh eyes allows us to notice our interconnected lives in a complex world.
Paying attention, and being aware and present, are critical keys to staying awake as we open ourselves to a Generative Communication mindset. Generative Communication is an intentional co-creation that aims for mutually desired outcomes through conversation. Outcomes might be a deeper understanding of complicated issues, an admiration for alternative viewpoints, or practical solutions to intractable problems.
When individuals interact with one another for a common goal, communication becomes community. When communication is generative, it becomes a vehicle for learning, growth and transformation. It creates something new, expands perspectives, and inspires action that resolves an insurmountable challenge.
The future is ours, and it is possible to create a better world—together—though generative communication!
For more information on creating healthy forms of communication in your life, contact Mary A. Ferdig, Ph.D. today.