Transactional Consciousness in Relationship

On the one hand, there’s something natural about just opening our mouths and saying something, especially when there’s someone in the room who can hear us.  We open up and say something that is on our mind, that we want to share, express, comment or joke about, ask, or find out.

It’s just natural.

On the other hand, if we habitually put our awareness only on what is happening in our own internal universe when we begin to speak, we are missing half the equation of an interaction – the other person, and their internal universe.  This habit is at the core of much trouble in relationships, especially patterned conflict with couples.

If we habitually put our awareness only on what is happening in our internal universe when we begin to speak, we are missing half the equation of an interaction – the other person, and their internal universe.

Sometimes it works out just fine to spontaneously make utterances, inquiries, comments and statements.  The other person is receptive, non-reactively cooperative and collaborative – working with the initiation of an interaction that you made, and co-creating it with you.

Other times, the utterance that you made lands in a way that elicits a negative response from the other person, perhaps without their even realizing it in the moment, but still palpable in their demeanor, facial expression, word choice, tone, inflection, or volume of voice.

These are the moments that I spend a lot of my time as a couples’ counselor unpacking with people.  We slow the clock down and find out where the pinch occurred.  Being an experienced tour guide for human interactions, I am usually able to help us find the moments when it went off trail into emotional reactivity.

Substantially more often than not, the interaction went off trail immediately after the first initiation of engagement.  It’s what The Gottman Method calls The Start Up.  How we initiate an interaction contributes tremendously to setting the tone for how the interaction will go.  The more consciousness – awareness, gentleness, smarts – we use to initiate speaking to someone, the more likely that interaction can continue with consciousness, which means a peaceful and successful interaction.  The goal is to have more of that kind of communication.

The more consciousness – awareness, gentleness, smarts – we use to initiate speaking to someone, the more likely that interaction can continue with consciousness, which means a peaceful and successful interaction.

The most important key to having more reliably successful communication is the Start Up.  There are very trusty tools to make this a reality.  I call this process Transactional Consciousness. 

Transactional Consciousness goes like this:

  • “Hey, Babe, I have a Knock-Knock item to ask you. It’s about the timing of the plans for Sunday.  Is now a good time?”

Or:

  • “Hi, I’d like to check in about the plans for Sunday. Is now a good time?”

Or:

  • “Hi, I would like to find some time soon to talk about some sensitive stuff I’ve been thinking about. The topic could be called Our Sex Life, but there are other related things.  Do you know when you could be available for that?”

That’s the basic idea.  The receiver of this initiation is asked to be clear about communicating when a good time would be, or that they need time to check in with themselves about that, in which case that they will let the initiator know later that day or by tomorrow to set up a time to talk.

There are more nuances and details to this process, but any step in the direction of a clearer invitation to talk, a knock on the door of the other person’s world, will bear fruit of more ease and success in communication.  It leaves a better feeling afterward, which makes affection, closeness, and even sexual contact more likely, and more genuinely mutual.

Thank you for reading.