FORM: Intensity equals Intimidation
When we talk about communicating with someone else we often times have different ideas about what we think that it means to communicate. We would generally agree that communication the exchange of information between people. How do we know that the other person understands what we said? There are several assumptions that we make about communication and about the other person understanding what we say that can often times lead us astray.
We believe that our opinion and our understanding of a situation is the truth. To us, from our point of view our opinion is the truth. If it were not the truth, we would not believe it, and we would believe something else instead. Because of this general pattern of belief about our opinion being truth if I tell you something and if you understand what I told you, then you will agree with me. How do I know if you agree with me?
We believe that if the other person agrees with us because they understand our point of view, that they will do what we want or do it our way. So if the other person does not do what we want or does not do it our way, then we simply believe that they must not have understood us. This belief that if they do not do it our way, then they must not have understood us leads us into some serious problems in the process of communication. The main problem is that we resort to intensity believing that it will help to get our point across. However, intensity does not increase the clarity of our communication it simply results in intimidation.
There are eight ways where we can go wrong when we are trying to communicate and when the other person does not do what we want them to do. A label for these secondary aspects of communication is: Form. Form is a continuum of intensity. The following is a list of these eight secondary aspects of communication called Form: Facial Expressions, Body Language, Volume, Voice Tone, Labels, Talking Over, Repetition and History.
Each of these elements of Form can range over a continuum of intensity. These elements can express warmth and support on one end of the continuum all the way over to coercion and intimidation on the other end. When the other person does not do what we want them to do, we think that it is because they simply did not understand our point of view. So when the other person does not do what we want them to do, we tend to raise our intensity on these dimensions of Form thinking that that will help get our point across. However, increased intensity does not improve communication or understanding. Intensity equals intimidation. When we increase our intensity, we are increasing our intimidation of the other person to get them to do what we want. We do not see ourselves as intimidating the other person; we believe that we are just trying to clarify our point. This lack of awareness of the effect of our intensity on the other person is why an individual resists when they are told to not talk so loud, or to not use that tone of voice, or to not make that face. They do not think that they are doing what they are being accused of doing. They do not see that they increased their intensity in an attempt to intimidate the other person into doing what they want them to do.
Facial expressions have a strong impact on the other person while the person who is making these expressions usually is not aware of them. When facial expressions start to reflect anger, their effect on the other person can become very intense and intimidating. This intimidation is experienced and is reacted to very differently by each gender. Much of the time this intensity seems to bounce off of men. They tend to brace themselves and to mobilize themselves but are not significantly intimidated. However, this intensity does not bounce off of women. They are almost always are intimidated by an angry, intense face. The intimidation that women feel when an angry face is directed at them is so extreme that it can be called Facial Abuse. Nearly all women recognize this distrustful feeling while almost no man recognizes it.
Body language consists of all the different ways that you can posture and present your physical self. You can look at the expression of body language on it a continuum that goes from passive and avoidant to intense and intimidating. Body language exists every time you are in the presence of another person and it communicates something to that other person whether you or they are aware of its meaning. If two people disagree and if at least one of them continues to try and make their point, then the posturing of body language can increase and can become intimidating.
We have all heard the protest, "You don’t have to yell at me." Volume is not just how loud that you speak; it can include the Rate and the Pace that you are speaking. Saying things slowly and stopping hard on specific words can also be intimidating. When the volume goes up or when the rate and the pace become harsh, the effect of this increased intensity is intimidating. This increase in intensity does not improve your communication; it can be intimidating and cause the other person to do what you want. This giving in on the part of the other person to escape the intimidation is usually mistaken by the person who is using the volume and the intensity as an indication of the other person’s final understanding and their resulting agreement.
A person's voice can take on many tones and pitches. We are all familiar with the expressions, "Don’t talk to me like that." or "Don’t use that tone with me." Tone and pitch, are the ingredients that make up sarcasm. In this category of tone, we can also include an aspect of a person voice that is called Timbre. Timbre is the combination of several tones that together form the unique and distinctive sound of each person's voice. You can also speak of the timber of a musical instrument. When the combined tonal quality of your voice changes, especially when it becomes more intense it can be very intimidating.
Labels in their simplest form are just name-calling. You can call somebody pleasant names or you can call them things like dumb, crazy or worse. Labels can also be implied. Instead of calling somebody stupid, you might imply the same label in a milder form by telling them that they just do not understand what you said. Labels, especially over time can wear a person down. They can be more intense which makes them more intimidating. The effect of intimidation from labels can lead to a person giving in just to stop being called things that are painful.
When you talk over they top of somebody else, you do not give them a chance to finish what they are saying. You disrupt their train of thought. The effect of talking over the top of somebody is to try and get your point across while inhibiting the other person from getting their point across. As with all the other elements of form, the more intense that this process becomes the more intimidating that it is.
Repetition simply means saying the same thing over and over. If at first the other person does not get your point and agree with you, then you say the same thing either in the same words or by trying to make it looks like you are saying something new. Repetition can be abusive when it has the effect of trying to wear the other person down so that they agree with you and they do what you want.
History means bringing things up from the past. Like opening a filing drawer and pulling something out that has already been resolved and throwing it on the table. Usually a person resorts to pulling up history because they do not have enough evidence in the present situation to get the other person to do what they want. They select past events where the other person has already accepted guilt and try to compare or to pair that older event with the present situation in attempt to get the other person to fold and to drop their resistance to doing what the first person wants them to do. Once again, the more intense that this process is, the more intimidating than it is.
All in this means that we must watch our intensity as we are trying to communicate and we must be aware of the other person's intensity. If the other person starts to become intense in any of these eight categories of Form as you are having a discussion, then you must respond in a planned way to that increased in intensity. There is no one correct way to respond in the face of intensity during communication. An early step might be to describe what you are feeling in the presence of the intimidation. Another step might be to point out and to label the intensity that is coming at you from the other person. A third step could be to stop or to delay the communication in an effort to diffuse the intensity. But unless you are in serious physical danger, do not agree with the other person or do what the other person wants simply because you are trying to stop the distress that you feel in the face of their intensity. That process of avoidance will only reinforce and encouraged higher degrees of intensity in the future of the part of the other person in order to get their way.