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The Grief Cycle in Communication

I am going to use the below grief cycle as an example of how emotions can play such a powerful part in communication. A friend of mine pointed this out to me a while ago and since she did I have been looking at how people deal with loss, disappointment and change and have found their pattern of behaviour and communication follows the stages in this theory.

Those of you who have children will be able to relate to this. I have a 10 year old in my life and the other day she went through this cycle in a matter of seconds. 

It was the school holidays and we had agreed she could watch a film. Because we had friends round for dinner the evening disappeared and by the time we were at the stage whereby we could watch the film, it was already very late and time for bed.

I said, " I am sorry there isn't enough time to watch the film as it's way past bedtime".

Boom - immediate disappointment and a change in expectations.

Meg went straight into denial, as far as she was concerned there was still time to watch the film and her words, "you promised I could."

I again explain it's too late, which is now met with bargaining. "What if I just watch 5 minutes now and the rest tomorrow".

I use some reflective emotional language but pretty much the answer is still no. We now have anger, not quite a stamping of the foot, definitely a furrowed brow and crossed arms.

Then we have sadness, a trembling bottom lip, a few tears and then finally we have acceptance and the realisation she is going to have to go to bed.

This all lasted a matter of minutes.

On another level we have rejection. Have you ever been rejected ? Maybe a personal relationship or promotion.

I will use promotion as an example here - something I have experience of :-).

You receive the letter/email/call to let you know. Initial reaction, I am reflecting here so if it's different for you then think about it from your own point of view.

Initially I am "oh well, I did my best, never mind." - denial of how important this is to me. Then as it sinks in a little I begin bargaining with myself, "how come this has happened, I was the best person for the job, my interview was excellent. It must be the old boy network, I can't believe they don't want me".

This moves into anger about how the whole process is totally unfair and ridiculous, closely followed by, especially if you feel you are better than someone who was successful, "how on earth have THEY been promoted above me". Might even have a rant about how I am leaving the organisation if they can't see my value - can you relate to any of this?

Then it's sadness and maybe you question your own ability and the little voice of self doubt starts to kick in and then finally acceptance and life carries on and perhaps you even go for promotion next time round.

Look at this in your own life where you have had some sort of loss, change in circumstances, your expectations haven't been managed, rejection, death.

The great news is if you recognise this in your self you can work out where you are in the cycle and know at some stage you can come through this.

How long it all takes depends on you the person and the impact of the loss, change on your life.

If you can see this in yourself you can also see it in others and the way they communicate with you. Learning how we work as humans and then using appropriate language to show understanding of the situation will improve our relationships.

With Meg I could see she was frustrated and used emotional language to discuss this with her rather than "it's late, I am the adult, it's bedtime."

Please share, like if this has helped and comment or ask questions.



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