We are in a culture of ideas and unbridled self-expression. And many of us have an affinity for sharing our ideas and influencing those around us to consider them. After many years of working with couples and individuals and their behavior, I have discovered that there are four levels of common influence through verbal communication.
Some are more healthy than others. The four levels of influence through verbal communication are as follows:
Level 1. Discussion: the innocuous transfer of ideas back and forth on a level playing field between two willing participants who appreciate the conversation. Both sides win.
Level 2. Disagreement: the firm transfer of differing and opposing opinions between two willing participants who respect the conversation while attempting to secure positions, claims, and warrants associated with personal beliefs or experiences. Both sides win.
Level 3. Argument: a heated volley of words and gestures between two individuals who do not appreciate the conversation. The goal being to dislodge, dissolve, or destroy opposing views in an effort to convince the other of their errors in thought, idea, or judgment and to relinquish their former position. There’s a winner and a loser.
Level 4. Fight: the hurling of insults between two individuals in an attempt to hurt, harm, or guilt the other into a state of submission, shame, or pain as payment for not meeting the emotional needs, expectations, or standards of the other. Everybody loses.
Levels 1, 2, and 3 are the most emotionally healthy forms of communication when influencing. Level four, if engaged in repeatedly (1-3 occurrences per month) will eventually end the relationship.
Making sure you live within levels one and two will not only broaden your relationship base, it will deepen it. Effectively changing another persons idea of a thing will only take place through the mutual understanding of opposing views.
Denying ones right to their own thoughts is rooted not only in selfishness, but it is also rooted in low self worth. So next time you’re in a discussion, make a proper effort to understand where they are coming from. You might learn something.