Communication as a 12 part Cycle


First Identified by Charles Berner back in 1965. It provides a rich format with which to analyze communication barriers.

Communication: What is it?

One way to look at communication is to identify it as a cycle having 12 parts:

1. You Choose: In freedom you choose to communicate. You (person A) independently assume that you can communicate with a specific other (person B). (You have either the hope or the expectation that you can communicate with someone.)

2. They Choose: In freedom they choose to communicate. They (Person B) independently assume that he or she can communicate with you. (The other person has the hope or expectation that he or she can communicate with you. You can not force this - so you better respect it - or communication will stop.)

3. Be specific: You find a specific thought you want to communicate. You (Person A) get a specific idea you want to communicate to a specific other (person B). (You have something to say to them.)

4. Put It Out: You present the idea in such a way that the other person can get it. Person A presents the idea to person B. (The person actually tries to communicate.)

5. Take It In: The other (Person B) receives the presentation given by you (person A). (The other person hears the words that were said.)

6. Directed Connection: The other (Person B) also receives the "who-ness" intention of you (person A). The message had a "to whom" connected to it. The other (person B) is aware that you (person A) intend to communicate with them (person B). The listener (person B) is aware that the speaker (person A) is speaking to him or her (again person B), and not just talking to himself or herself. The speech is not rhetorical - or aimed at someone else in the room. They are connected with you.

7. Do the Work: The other (Person B) gets what they (person B) think was your (person A) idea. The person interprets what the words mean.

8. Acknowledge Sender: The other (Person B) decides to acknowledge the idea just received back to you the sender (person A). Since the person interpreting (person B) also knows that the other person (person A) wants them (person B) to know what was said, the person interpreting the words (person B) chooses to let the other person (person A) know that he or she (person B) understood what was said. They (person B) want you (person A) to know that they (person B) got it.

9. Put out Acknowledgment: The other (person B) presence the acknowledgment to you (person A). (The listener sends a body-language signal or some other process to let the speaker receive that he or she got what was said.)

10. Take in Acknowledgment: You (person A) receives the acknowledgment from the other (person B). (The person speaking can see that the other person thinks that he or she got it.)

11. Acknowledgment is valid: You (person A) decide from the acknowledgment received that the other (person B) really got the same idea you (person A) started with. (The listener is reacting appropriately to the message sent.)

12. New Reality: You (person A) have a reality shift, due to the completion of a communication cycle. Things are different now in some way. The relationship has changed due to what was said and understood. The person speaking acts differently, now that the other person understands. They either continue - or take a break.

The Importance of Communication Cycles:

The communication cycle is the basis of all shared reality - everything we share with others has this root reality. Our personal sense of reality is built upon our understanding of communication. If we complete these cycles of communication we have experiences without residuals. We are not "hung up." We let them go. They stand alone in our past, and they are part of the ongoing current relationship - we know the other person better to some degree and they know us. Cycles which are complete give us more choice and that choice feels more realistic. Cycles which are incomplete - have residual effects - they become part of the "reactive mind." The reactive mind is a whole series of decisions made about the outside world which serve as "solutions" to relationships. They serve as stop gap measures substituting for real communications. They are the "because" that takes away our choice in the here and now. The reactive mind takes away our choice and leaves us in a reactive state. If you really want your freedom - you will need to clean up your communication cycles. If not you will find yourself living in the past.

There is more here than most people can easily get. For example take a look at step two in the communication cycle. The other person thinks you might be able to communicate. You may have been acting like a jerk - but the other person still thinks it might be possible to communicate. They still have faith that you can get to it and make it happen. This level of detail might have some effect on your style of interacting with other people. They have faith in your ability. They may not like your choices - which is another issue - but they have faith that you can speak clearly and communicate something that they can relate to.

Think about step two and what it means. The person has the hope or expectation that he or she can communicate with you. They may not have evidence for this belief. You might also realize that other people have independent choice when communication takes place. Even when you were being a jerk that other person can still have faith in you and your ability to relate. Of course independent choice does not always go our way. Sometimes people discount us for no reason. It may be that you have been very intelligent and have been working hard and yet the other person still does not think you can relate - at least not to them. Without that belief in you they won't even try to communicate. They will just look at us with that blank stare. It does not even have to be logical, it can just be their choice. They can choose that communication is possible and likewise they can choose that communication is not possible. It is totally their choice. In this process of their choosing - your choice has not been compromised. You still have a full choice here. You and they are independent in your ability to communicate. You can't really make them listen. They have to choose to listen. Now after considering step two for a few minutes you might have new respect for other people for allowing you to communicate with them. It is not a one way street - they are involved too.

If you look at all 12 steps, you will see a cycle of give-and-take, or passing of data from one to the next and back again to the first. This concept of a cycle being involved with communication is important. What makes this concept important is how it relates to communication problems. If a communication cycle is complete, there are no residuals. If a cycle remains unfinished, there will be a residual that will somewhat block future communications. That was the conclusion of Charles Berner after running 20,000 hours of experimental communication techniques over a period of 10 years with hundreds of people. {As far as I know - Charles Berner was the first person to identify this 12 step communication cycle. I learned it from him in 1967 when as his student I had to model it in clay. He used clay to help separate us from vague ideas of reality. As he put it "Get us out of our heads." (He had the habit of saying this and ending the expression with his hands going up, his head going down as his eyes got bigger and his chin stuck out. There was the sense that his head might explode. It was fun to watch him get his point across - he was always totally involved and never boring.)}

We need to recognize that acknowledgment is an important part of the cycle. This does not have to be ridiculous, such as saying "got that" after each sentence. It is more likely to be a process of maintaining eye contact, while letting the face muscles and iris dilation indicate comprehension, along with an occasional head nod. Also note that you don't have to agree or disagree with the person to complete the cycle. A cycle just passes one idea between two people. It doesn't mean that they agree. You can remain an original thinker, yet still be a good communicator, since the two are not necessarily related.

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