I can’t even remember when I first learned about the Do, Think, Feel communication structure, but I felt impressed to use it in my talk. Basically, it is a marker of intimacy and trust.
When people first meet we talk about what they do. We mention our names, our kids,our spouses, our jobs, our schools, our backgrounds, our activities. We talk about what we have done, what we are doing, and what we are supposed to do. These are safe answers and only reveal what is overtly obvious to everyone already. In relationships, this is the first date kind ofconversation. In the church, an equivalent would be the “Sunday School Answers”: Read your scriptures, say your prayers, go to church, go to the temple, follow the Prophet, etc.
When people feel more comfortable, more trusting, more able to be vulnerable, we start talking about what we think. We discuss our personal opinions about topics, our experiences and our reasons for thinking that way. People who discuss what they think instantly grow closer because what they are saying is not obvious. It takes a certain level of vulnerability to offer something about yourself that is not the same as others. This brings people who discuss what they think closer together. In a relationship, this is where people test trust boundaries by seeing how their thoughts and opinions are handled by the other person. Are they heard, acknowledged, considered and valued? At church, this level of communication is often found in the classes that you love attending. The ones that are thoughtful and personal, applicable to your life and inspiring.
Regardless of the conclusion of the conversation at church or in relationships whether or not you felt listened to and safe determines if you ever move beyond the thinking level of intimacy. Healthy relationships do. Most church interactions don’t. Why is that?
When people feel safe, when we trust our environment, when we feel unjudged, and free to explore our emotions, when we feel vulnerable but protected, when we feel confident that our feelings won’t be belittled, ignored, or patronized, we start talking about what we feel. We discuss our immediate concerns, pains, and struggles. We let people into our pasts, our presents, and our futures. We talk about grief, hope, pain, and success. In relationships, this is the healthiest way to show love and to fight. We’ve all heard it before; when you fight you are supposed to say “I feel” statements because it cuts through most of the periphery argument and gets to the heart of the conflict. At church, these conversations are rare but crucial to creating true “bonds of sisterhood”. To creating Zion. Why are these honest conversations about how we feel so rare at church? How can we change that?
Most relationships pass through all of these stages. Some relationships with communication problems are due to the fact that people are at different stages. It is very hurtful and leads to much miscommunication when one partner is talking about what s/he thinks and the other is divulging what s/he feels. It can be that way at church as well. Many miscommunications stem from one member discussing a church topic from the perspective of what you are supposed
to do, another from the perspective of what they think, and another from the perspective of what they feel. While each of these levels is not inherently better than the other, they do illustrate different levels of intimacy, sincerity, vulnerability, and trust.
Do you see these levels of communication in your relationships? At church? Do you have any experiences with communication where people were coming at a topic from two different levels? Which level do you communicate from at church?