This One Communication Skill Will Improve All of Your Relationships

communication healthy relationships Feb 21, 2021
two people talking communication


Have you ever gotten triggered while in conversation? Whether with a colleague? A friend? Or your partner, perhaps? Of course you have! If you live life among other humans, it’s very likely that parts of you will trigger parts of them and vise versa.


The last time a part of me was triggered, it was sparked by my colleague (let’s call her Nancy), who I respect very much, misinterpreting and misremembering what I said when referring to a conversation we’d had a few days prior. It wasn’t any old misremembering– it was one that made me sound like a jerk! This wasn’t the first time it happened; it typically happened any time we spoke about potential improvements for a project we were working on that I was leading. I recognized that when I implied that something needed improvement, she would get defensive and reinterpret or misremember my previous words so as to avoid taking responsibility. I imagine that my message may not have been expressed as compassionately as I’d liked and therefore triggered what I call her “blame game” so that she could avoid vulnerability, be more in control, release hidden emotional pain, unconsciously protect her ego or status, and/or any other number of reasons we humans do what we do… the possibilities are endless.


I tell you this story because, guess what? The part of her that got defensive (aka her ”blame game” part) triggered a part of me that felt it needed to defend me! This part of me does not like to be misinterpreted and misrepresented (Do you have a part like that too?) and I let my colleague know so. My words triggered her protective parts and her words did the same for my parts. I was well-versed in and had lots of practice with the communication skill that I am about to share with you, but the severe stress I was under didn’t allow for the self-awareness I needed to pause and skillfully practice it in the moment. Needless to say, the situation didn’t go as well as I’d hoped.


Many other situations, however, have gone exceedingly well because I have used this skill that I (with big thanks to Dick Schwartz, founder of Internal Family Systems Therapy) refer to as “Speaking For Rather Than From”. What this means, in a nutshell, is that when some part of you is triggered or activated while in conversation with another person, you:

  1. Recognize that a part of you (e.g., your angry part, your frustrated part, etc) has been triggered

  2. See if you can take a step back (or “unblend”) from the part so that you can see it, in fact, as just a part of you and not as all of you

  3. From your larger Self or core essence that’s been undamaged by any trauma or experience (also known as your highest, wisest Self), ask this part about what it’s experiencing (Why has it been triggered? What’s important to it?) and listen as it shares its experience with you (For deep learning in connecting to your core essence or wisest Self, I invite you to register for My "Happy from the Inside Out" group coaching program)

  4. Gain this part’s trust– let it know that you (as your larger, higher Self) understand what’s important to it and that you will speak for it. You will give it a voice, and it can trust you to represent its position to the other person

  5. Speak for it– as your higher Self, represent this part’s perspective and feelings using the language of parts (rather than speaking from the upset, angry, etc part). I show you how to do this down below and in my weekly segment in The Happiness Hub– I invite you to join me live)


At its very basic level, the difference between speaking for a part of ourselves and speaking from a part of ourselves– whether at home or at work– comes down to saying “A part of me is pissed right now”, “A part of me is angry with you”, or “A part of me feels disappointed” rather than “I am pissed!”, “I am angry!”, or “I am so disappointed in you!” Put yourself on the receiver’s end of these messages right now and see, for yourself, how each would feel if someone were to say them to you.


Our verbal messages consist of content (the words we actually use) and also energy. Behind every message is an energy, and that’s where speaking for rather than from our inner parts helps a great deal.


How and Why It Works


Speaking for a part does three things:


1. Because it helps you to remain somewhat separate from the part, it helps you to take responsibility for the part’s strong feelings, concerns, and issues. Because you are taking responsibility for how this part of you feels, there is a lower likelihood of blame and judgment.


2. Because you are not being entirely flooded by the part (which is the case when you’re stating or yelling “I am pissed!”, “I am right!”, “I am the boo” or the like), your tone can be compassionate and you are more able to stay curious about what is going on with the other person too. This increases the possibility of connectedness.


3. Because of #1 and #2, the person you’re talking to is less likely to be offended, demeaned, or protective in some way, and your words are therefore less likely to trigger their hurt and sad parts and the angry, frustrated, or other parts that protect them.


Let’s see what this communication skill looks like in action.




An important part of business is bringing great minds together to resolve time-sensitive issues, and it’s not uncommon for there to be multiple voices and numerous suggestions for how to move forward with a solution.


In a business discussion, what parts of you may be activated? Perhaps a judgmental part? A frustrated part? An angry part? A hopeless part?


Speaking from a part (e.g., “That idea is doomed to fail. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now”) to voice frustration or disagreement with another person’s comment during a business meeting can result in a disrespectful and hostile work environment. That’s actually one of the reasons why all too often workplace cultures lack an air of “you can tell me anything” and “your voice will be heard”.


Speaking for relative to from your parts in a business discussion or formal meeting might go something like this.


Can you recognize how listening to and representing your part’s concerns and needs as your larger Self can help to enhance, rather than hinder, the likelihood of supportive collaboration?




When making plans with a friend, what parts of you may be activated? If your friend Rachelle prioritizes her desires for what you should do over your desires, perhaps your frustrated part would show up? Or if your friend Tim doesn’t show up on time, perhaps your worried part may make itself known? Or your angry part? And if Tim doesn’t show up at all, maybe your angry part, your judgmental part, or your ’need to set boundaries in the friendship’ part would make an appearance?


The difference between speaking from your parts and speaking for your parts in a situation like this can be the difference between increased tension and ease, or even the difference between conflict and calm. Here is what the two may sound like when you’re turning your plans into action with a friend.


Do you notice how listening to and speaking for your parts can allow you to express what you think and feel in a way that is more kind and respectful to others than if you simply spoke from your parts?




When you and your partner have a misunderstanding and you need to clarify your feelings, what happens? What arises in you? And when your partner doesn’t fulfill their end of an agreement, what parts of you get activated? Your frustrated part? Your angry part? Your judgmental part? Your “I can’t believe it!” part?


Here’s what speaking from a part and speaking for a part may look like when your partner drops the ball.



Can you see how bringing your larger Self to be with (i.e., recognize, acknowledge, understand) a part of you before expressing its feelings and desires can be helpful in maintaining connection in a safe, non-threatening way?


In each of these examples, what difference do you notice in your body and mind as you speak as the part vs. when you speak for the part? It’s these feelings, thoughts, and sensory experiences that are the reason why this communication skill works to create more ease and calm and to reduce tension, defensiveness, and conflict in your relationships.


Start practicing now. Trust me when I say that the next time your co-worker, friend, or partner does something that triggers some of your frustrated, angry, and/or disappointed parts, you’ll want to have this technique handy! And the more you practice it, the more it can become a skill you have in your back pocket. And the more it becomes a skill, the more it can help to ease tension, avoid or overcome conflict, and save your relationships.


The skill described in this article reflects the deep development that happens– from the inside out– via The Happiness Doctor therapeutic coaching and that naturally begins to reflect in how you speak to and nurture yourself and others. If this has you saying “yes!”, don't hesitate to reach out. Life is happening now!


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