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When Words Get in the Way; Navigating the Three Levels of Reality

Two faces. Why is it that accurate use of words does not always result in successful communication? If communication between people was the sum of all words we'd all be in good shape. But words alone do not mean that communication is happening. Perhaps you've had this experience. The two of you are talking about the upcoming product launch. You are talking about wanting a the launch to be spectacular, splashy, and  eye-catching. Your partner is talking about the logistics of work schedules, costs of materials, and budget restraints. You are both talking about the same product launch even using the same words, and it's as if you were on two different wavelengths.

Sometime we are on two different wavelengths. Sometimes we are talking at different levels of reality. The noted psychologist Arnold Mindell refers to three levels of reality: Consensus Reality, Dreamland, and Essence. Consensus Reality is the everyday reality that people consent to, the nuts and bolts of our world; the schedules to be met, the cost of goods sold. Dreamland is the place of goals, hopes, and possibilities; hope for the upcoming product's launch, dreams for its success, the possibilities of new opportunities. Essence is below words. This is what you tap into when get a hunch or intuition, reach a transcendent state through meditation, or receive a divine insight that changes your view of the cosmos. Communication, and relationship, happens at all three levels.

Relationship systems exist in three levels of reality. We are all familiar with Consensus Reality, the nuts and bolts level of relationships; who is going to talk to the banker, who is writing the marketing copy, what budget category the launch is coming out of. The Dreamland level is expressed in hopes, dreams, and possibilities; wanting a business partnership that is fulfilling and easy, or envisioning the possibility that the two of you will grow successful together, healthy, vibrant and connected. The Essence of a relationship is harder to put into words. It is that gut-level knowing, intuition, fleeting ah-ha insight of who the two of you are together. When you describe the qualities of your soul-to-soul connection you come close to describing the essence of your relationship.

Turbulent water. Turbulence arises from these levels of reality. When one person is communicating at a purely Dreamland level and the other is stuck in the Consensus Reality level, the two of you are at cross purposes. The conversation is littered with "yeah buts…" and feelings of being misunderstood and not heard. The conversation goes nowhere, perhaps ending in frustration on both your parts. The key is to learn to recognize what levels of reality each of you are in and to become purposeful in navigating between them, together.

Navigation is the key. Different from a linear problem solving process, navigating the levels can provide surprising results. Communication can smooth out, ideas pop up, and increased spaciousness creates possibilities that didn't exist before. Next time the two of you are in this turbulence, try a new approach.

First set aside time to dream, together. Make an agreement to suspend the rational realities and details, and dream together, for a while. Allow yourself to really dream big. Dream up what you want it to feel like. What is your intention? What do you hope to get out of it? What is the pace, temperature, and space? How would your body feel? What would your senses experience? What does your heart want? Look to what you don't want to point you to what you do want. You are creating a shared positive vision of what this could be like. Describe the "beingness" of it (rather than the "doingness" of it). Linger in this place of Dreamland for a while; savor the richness of this space before moving into the "real" world.

Landscape Now, together, start creating general ideas of how your dream could manifest in the "real" world. Brainstorm ideas for making the dream become real, keeping all possibilities open. It might not look like you originally thought. You may come up with surprising ways to achieving the vision. Put some loose parameters around it. How much time do you want to take? What is the most you'd want to spend? What other things do you need to consider? Keep it a little open; refrain from the natural urge to nail it down or discard an option too quickly. If you find yourself getting too caught up in the nuts and bolts of Consensus Reality, go back and reignite the vision you created in Dreamland.

And stay open to the possibility of serendipity. This is where Essence arises. When you know what you want the emotional feel of it to be, have a clear idea of your parameters, and stay open to new possibilities, interesting coincidences can occur. You may see an article or notice an ad for something you never even considered that would be just the ticket. Or someone you know may mention something that gets you thinking in a different direction that completely fulfills your shared dream. When you are open to attracting the perfect solution, the perfect solution will make itself known.

Here is my wish for you. Become skillful at identifying and navigating the levels of reality. Go beyond the words to the reality beneath the words, the inherent meaning and intention. Learn the power of each level, its usefulness, and its ability to dissolve turbulence. Learn to move from one level to another, with intention and at the most effective pace and timing for the two of you. Once the two of you can be in and effectively work from each level, new possibilities will open up. Dreams will more easily manifest themselves in reality. And if you want additional support for making this happen, call me; that's what I'm here for -- to help partnerships and teams navigate the levels of reality and create new

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