The 3 Levels of Communication (Sharing from the personality versus sharing from the essence)

Words create; words destroy.

We have the power to change many relationship dynamics, by simply adjusting the way we communicate. We can speak words that heal and edify; or words that erode and damage.

Below, I'll summarize a few of the possibilities, from the most mechanical, to the most human, and the distinction between essence and personality, which are helpful in understanding these dynamics. 

The Box Analogy

We tend to put people into boxes, based on our expectations of them, which we garner from assumptions and past experience. Usually, this arises out of a gross oversimplification. They were late once, so they are 'always late', for instance. 

We mistakenly think 'it is just the way they are.' In fact, they may be completely different while engaging with someone else. Someone else might be 'putting them in an entirely different box.' For instance, if you think someone is always late, they may play into that pattern by always being late with you. Someone else, their boss, for instance, may see them as someone who is always early, so they show up early. Or perhaps they see any lateness as the exception, and you see promptness as the exception. 

If you are living into the story of 'they are always late,' everything you do will be an invitation for them to slip into that box. We want to prove ourselves right. For instance, you invite them to lunch somewhere, where the parking is difficult, or there is construction on the route, or they are miles away, etc. And, even if you do extend a clean invitation, you are expecting them to be late. This creates a sort of gravitational pull that may be difficult for them to escape. 

When we expect someone to show up in one way, we ourselves take on a role. For instance, if someone is always late, we could become the one that is disappointed, or saddened, or angry, or scolding, etc. When they arrive, surely enough, they fulfill our expectation, and we engage the pattern. (This is usually residual of an older relational pattern that is unresolved for us). We leave them little choice, because it is all about our own perception.

Instead of setting up firm rules or boundaries, or endlessly insisting they change their behavior, I suggest breaking the pattern from your end. Here are a few ways... 

Break the pattern by adjusting your:

  • reaction
  • thought patterns
  • behavior
  • focus
  • communication. 

I'm going to focus on the communication here, because it is the simplest to engage, and the most effective (a rare combination). 

Personality and the Essence

To understand the levels of sharing, it is important to understand the difference between the personality and the essence. A human being is a constellation of stories, from the micro to the macro; each story dependent upon countless others. The whole of this constellation makes up the 'personality.' Most attempts at transformation occur at the level of the personality. Shifting any story moves the whole.  Living from the ground of personality has limitations, regardless of how it has been redesigned, retrofitted, orchestrated. 

The essence, on the other hand, existed before the adoption of any of the stories. We generally touch upon it only in fleeting moments, during transcendental experiences. 

Enlightenment is simply the act of moving from living from the ground of personality, to living from the ground of essence. 

Before enlightenment, we can rehearse this shift in any and every interaction. The superficial levels of sharing occur from the ground of the personality. The personality is acutely aware of itself, and what it is putting forward. It is a show, designed to keep pace with some notion of what we think we 'should' be. 

Levels of Sharing

When someone is 'caught' in a relationship pattern, I often have them imagine sharing with the other; eyes closed, body aligned, while imagining the other's face. 

Most relationships are simply two personalities intersecting, while the essences rarely surface. The depth lives at the peripheries, and the center remains shallow. Evolving a relationship means moving from 'two personalities intersecting on the ground of doing,' to 'two essences intersecting on the ground of being.'

Through this process, over the years, I've noticed a few levels of sharing, which I've broken down into 3 for convenience and clarity. 

Note: These levels are occurring in the speech as well as the body language. 

  1. Transactional (head / gut / from beneath armor). Personality primary. Past / future oriented.
  2. Transitional (touching into heart space). Personality primary. Honing in on present. 
  3. Real and Authentic (full body engagement). Essence primary. Present oriented. 


'Be efficient with things. Be effective with people.' Stephen Covey 

The transactional model of communication occurs with the aim of efficiency in mind. A majority of the stories from the constellation remain unconscious. Sharing from a shallow layer of being consequently can only move a shallow layer of being in the other. If there is depth, it is incidental. The body is retaining its customary misalignments and kinks, impeding the flow of consciousness. 

Transactional sharing is efficient, in that it takes little time, and there will be little emotional mess to 'clean up,' but it is the least effective, in terms of creating change or deepening intimacy. It is a clear and precise way of speaking that is often used in business encounters, where time is money. 

This is entirely logical, and spoken from the head space. 

In the example, let's say one of our closest friends has gotten into self destructive behaviors, and we've drifted apart over the past few years. You want to reach out, just to touch base, and rekindle the connection. 

Example: "Hi friend. I’m sorry you are dealing with what you’re dealing with. I want to get on the same page, so we can make progress, and I can show support if you need any." 

In the arena of connection and intimacy, it is severely lacking, because no context is developed, so the content makes no sense. It is not relatable, and not actionable. 


Adding context... 

This is transitioning from head-centered to heart-centered; from speaking through the armor of the personality, to the softness of the essence. There are fits and starts, as an individual inching toward authenticity. The essence is still hushed by the mind. 

This is touching upon what is real for you in the moment, but it is drastically edited by the mind, in the hopes of not creating offense, and not changing the status quo. Perhaps there is fear about being perceived differently. There is more context included, which makes the request more relatable. 

Example: We've been friends since we were 10. You're one of my closest friends. I feel like something is missing after not feeling connected to you these past few years. I know you're going through some things, and I wish that I could support. I really miss the bond we used to share, and I wanted to reach out to let you know that you mean a lot to me, and I am here for you. 

This is moving in the direction of deepening intimacy. 

Real and Authentic

What is real for you in the moment? Has it been fully understood and engaged? This is the question to ask during these interactions. 

Key: determining what is real for you in the moment requires deep listening. Deep listening allows one to know the other, and the various pieces, well enough to lay out the context. 

The context is set as fully as possible, so that each word takes on more and more weight. There is profluence.

“By definition – and of aesthetic necessity – a story contains profluence, a requirement best satisfied by a sequence of causally related events, a sequence that can end in only one of two ways: in resolution … or in logical exhaustion” John Gardner. 

Saying 'I love you', for instance, is different than saying...

'Ever since I first saw you, in the lamplight twenty years ago, I knew without a doubt that you were the one. We've been through so much, and every time we emerge from a challenge, I am more certain than ever... I love you.'

The body is aligned so that energy can flow. The head, heart, and gut centers are all engaged. The knees and belly are soft, speaking from the present, rather than bracing for a reaction. 

Example: "We've been friends for as long as I can remember. I know we haven’t always been very loving toward each other in the past. Sometimes we'd be in competition; I always felt like I had to be better for some reason. I'm sorry for that. I picked this up from my father. So I just wanted to let you know that I'm here for you. More importantly, I just miss you. I miss the camaraderie, and the intimacy, and the connection. It feels good going through life with a kindred spirit. I feel sad when I wake up knowing that I'm not going to talk to you that day. You're the only one I've even been able to share with fully. I respect your gift of making people feel comfortable, and I'm honored to have been your friend for so long. I think I've been dissatisfied because I've been trying to relive the past. I know we can't do that, so I'm shifting to being enthusiastic about the future. I’m going to practice reaching out to you more, just to check in, and I hope you’ll do the same. There is no pressure. I love you, and I just want to thank you for being in my life."

This is a deep share, laying the context while expressing the reaction / emotion.

Obviously you can see the difference, and feel the difference in your own body. This approach requires slowing down long enough to get in touch with what is real, and continually engaging in an inner exploration, while calibrating with the response of the other, so that the truth can explored exhaustively and expressed sufficiently.

You walk away from an authentic share feeling complete. 

The Transition

Of course, you don’t need to leap through all of the layers at once (though some experience a break through so monumental that the transactional layer immediately becomes inadequate). These are just examples of what is possible. Asking yourself which number you are sharing from may be helpful.

Chances are, if you're experiencing massive friction in a relationship, you're either sharing from a transactional viewpoint, or you've attempted to carry a relation far beyond its expiration date. 

Ask yourself if your essence is speaking, or merely your mind? 

If you are face to face with a rose, are you experiencing the timeless beauty with your soul, or with your personality? 

Meet the flowers and the others with your whole being. Gift them that. 


Steven Budden

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