The fundamentals of Clean Communication™ begin with untraining the way we've largely learned to communicate in the world and retraining in a new way. This means speaking from the "I" and also using active listening to echo back what you're hearing others say.

The empowering and friction-reducing aspects of "I" statements

There's something about claiming the space of "I" that can be quite powerful but also vulnerable. That's essentially the idea -- I'm an expert in my own experience, or at the very least, I aspire to be. It's highly unlikely that anyone else knows as much about my experience, thoughts, and feelings as me. For instance, people rarely like being told how they feel or how they ought to feel -- I am no exception. Instead, I want to be able to express my experience through my own words.

Now for the good stuff: if you navigate conflict with someone by speaking to your own experience, you're less likely to create mini arguments inside the argument. For instance, what if I were to say, "You can't barge into my room like that -- you're so inconsiderate!" how would that sound to you? What if, in your experience, you lightly knocked on my door, and when I didn't answer, you opened the door? My language is going to hit you like a ton of bricks. Instead, if I own my experience by saying, "When I saw you enter my room, I was surprised" you're less likely to get activated, which means we're more likely to be able to have a conversation about it. Essentially, accusations lead to closed doors. We want to keep the door open (metaphorically, of course).

Echo back for clarity and connection

Most communication is lost in translation: we're not hearing each other due to all sorts of causes (tech mishaps, accents, distraction, activation). But we depend on communication to get through our lives and meet our goals at work. This makes it all the more important to clarify what you're hearing and what the other party is hearing you say. I strongly suggest you make it a regular habit in all of your meetings. While it's easy to feel like it's taking time away from the meeting, you're actually saving time because everyone is walking out of the meeting with clarity around expectations and next steps.

The easiest way to go about this is to say, "What I'm hearing you say ..." and then paraphrase the gist of what you heard. After you've communicated an assignment to someone, you'll want to know how it landed. A head nod simply isn't enough, especially during the onboarding process, when everything is new. Instead, ask, "Could you tell me what you heard me say?" or "What's your understanding of the assignment?" This isn't about power or hierarchy -- it's about clarity, and we all thrive on it.

All the Clean Communication™ protocols use active listening as a base, as conflict is often the hardest time to hear people clearly.