The Art of Clear Communication

What We Say Matters!



Who else thinks this world needs more authentic communication? We think so, too, and the great news is clear communication can begin with us.

Feedback is the clear communication of information to others about how their behavior affects us. If we are willing to take responsibility for authentic communication in our relationships, we must invite feedback.

Qualities of Effective Feedback

Get Permission

Feedback is not easy to give or receive - it involves change. And unless the recipient is willing to receive feedback, the communication will not be effective. So, the first step in giving or receiving feedback is to establish permission: "Are you willing to hear my feedback now? If not, when's a good time?"

Take Responsibility

We should only offer feedback to clarify our own understanding and reactions to another person’s behavior. Although our desire to give feedback often begins with the assumption that we want the other person to change, our intention must be self-awareness. We must take responsibility for our own reactions without blaming or it will not work.

Timing Matters

Feedback is more effective when it is solicited. Others know when something is off, and it makes a difference if we ask for feedback promptly when we know someone is holding something between us.

Restate Before Responding

When we give feedback, we should ask the receiver to restate what they heard before responding to make sure they heard us correctly. The same holds true when we are receiving feedback. We should say back what we heard before responding. In most communication, saying back accurately will clear the emotional field and allow for open-hearted, truthful communication to result.

What We Say Matters!

When we give feedback, the listener will hear us better (and will be less likely to get defensive) if we use descriptive rather than evaluative language. The listener will also relate better to specific rather than general examples.

Example of Evaluative Language 

"The room is a mess. You're such a slob."

Example of Descriptive Language

"We've been so busy with dance classes and activities that we haven't gotten much time in the room! Want to take some time tonight to relax and organize?"

Example of Specific Language

"I raised my hand several times and you didn't call on me. I tried to speak but you allowed others to interrupt. I imagined that what I had to say didn't matter to you."

Taking Responsibility for Clear Communication By Using "I" Statements

In our attempts to understand the sources of daily stress, it is helpful to explore how our language can be a tool in observing the tension of miscommunication. Conscious language is a source of self-responsibility and will produce honesty, sincerity, and open-heartedness.

True communication implies that we want to share a part of ourselves. The conscious use of language helps us to take responsibility for how we feel, so that we aren't blaming others or circumstances for our experience. We are learning about ourselves.

"It, you, people, they" statements place responsibility on someone or something other than ourselves. We can take responsibility by making "I" statements! And listening for the "I" statements in another's words can give us insight into how to be an empathetic listener, friend, peer and loved one.

Sample Statement: "It is strange talking to you."

Sample Option: "I feel strange talking to you."

Rephrasing to "I" Statements That Are More Authentic

In these examples below, you'll see that:

  • "We" can be a disguise for an "I" statement.
  • "The, this or that" can mean "my, mine or I."
  • Questions can be "I" statements in disguise.
  • Qualifiers like "I guess," "I suppose," "maybe" and "probably" are a way of diluting the truth.
  • Nullifiers like "I should" are ways of avoiding responsibility and diminishing our experience.

Example 1:

Original Statement: "People feel nervous in new situations."

More Authentic "I" Statement: "I feel nervous in new situations."

Example 2:

Original Statement: "We should practice our dance."

More Authentic "I" Statement: "I want to practice our dance. Anyone else?"

Example 3:

Original Statement: "We should go now."

More Authentic "I" Statement: "I want to go now. Do you?"

Example 4:

Original Statement: "This is a silly situation."

More Authentic "I" Statement: "I feel silly right now."

Example 5:

Original Statement: "Did you like the way that was done?"

More Authentic "I" Statement: "I like the way I did that. Did you?"

Example 6:

Original Statement: "Why did you forget the umbrella?"

More Authentic "I" Statement: "I forgot the umbrella. Any chance you grabbed it?"

Example 7:

Original Statement: "I guess I'm feeling kind of hurt."

More Authentic "I" Statement: "I feel hurt."

Example 8:

Original Statement: "I suppose you'd say I feel angry."

More Authentic "I" Statement: "I feel angry."

Example 9:

Original Statement: "Do you want to turn off the light?"

More Authentic "I" Statement: "I want to turn the lights off now."

Example 10:

Original Statement: "I have to do this for my friend."

More Authentic "I" Statement: "I've decided to help out my friend by doing this."

The Four Agreements

We all have inner dynamics that at times include insecurities, fears, projections and assumption. Calling on the 4 Agreements is a simple and effective way to stay present, out of personal drama, and focused on what we are here to do - learn, create, connect, play and dance! They are a great tool to have in our back pocket when we feel uneasy about something because they ask us to take responsibility for our inner dynamics and get to the heart of the matter.

The four agreements are:

1. Speak Impeccably

Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using your words to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your words in the direction of truth and love.

2. Don't Make Assumptions

Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

3. Don't Take Anything Personally

Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality and their own dreams. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering.

4. Always Do Your Best

Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best and try to avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

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About the Author:

In 2003, at the age of 24, Lindsey Fadner organized a 3 week overnight camp in Stratton, VT for students at her CT dance school. That pioneering venture evolved into American Dance Training Camps, the world's premier dance camps company. Still excited about it after all these years, Lindsey continues to serve as ADTC's spiritual leader, and CEO of all things relating to girls' self-esteem. Always on the hunt for new and interesting places to dance, her favorite camp continues to be the next one she's starting. Questions? Contact her anytime at!