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Communication Tip:

Originally written by Kerry for tutorial reference material, rewritten for Communication Weekly.

Acknowledgement—a communication variable

An acknowledgment is any verbal, non-verbal, physical, or psychic* communication with oneself, or another, that affirms a result. i.e. "I produced . . ." "You produced . . ." "We produced . . . " "They produced . . ."


Some examples:  
  • I want you to know that I . . .
  • I want you to know that we . . .
  • I know that what I just said didn't feel good.
  • That didn't feel good.
  • That was good.
  • Thank you.
  • That’s not what I asked for.
  • I got that I'm late.
  • You're late.
  • Thank me for doing the dishes.
Note: The words, "I want you to know" are not at all necessary.

If an acknowledgement is missing, ask for it. Most people are addicted to accumulating make-wrongs (interactions that have not been completed through to mutual satisfaction), they then use the collection of incompletes as ammunition during each argument and save them up for a divorce. i.e. "You always . . ." "You never . . ." —etc. etc."


Notice that a clean acknowledgment is a what’s so communication; it doesn’t include a judgment or a make-wrong.


Communications have a beginning, a middle, and an end. An acknowledgment is the end of an interaction, it completes a communication.
"GO TO YOUR ROOM!" delivered in anger, is the beginning of an acknowledgment; it communicates anger. The blaming consequence is the middle of an interaction because it is not yet mutually satisfying. What completes the acknowledgment is, "I get that I was abusive earlier today."
Whenever there is a breakdown in communication between two, whenever the results are less than desirable, it can always be traced to the fact that something is not being acknowledged verbally. I say verbally because you can acknowledge an upset non-verbally, (as in shunning, pouting, or roll-eyes). The test as to whether a communication is complete is if it is mutually satisfying. The difference between talking and communicating is that with talking one assumes no responsibility for ensuring mutual satisfaction. When two talk about a problem the problem persists.


For example:
Teacher-A says to Teacher-B; "Several of my students don't do their homework." Days later, Teacher-A still has the same problem.
In this example we see that Teacher-B supported Teacher-A in dumping a problem in his/her space and in producing more of the same results. Neither acknowledged the source of the problem. Teacher-A has not formulated an intention for his/her students to turn in their homework neatly and on time and, blames the students. A responsible communication would be, "I don't know how to create a mutually satisfying homework agreement with my students and parents."


The following story illustrates the importance of acknowledgement.

First Contact—Acknowledgment—a Story

Picture if you will that you have been floating around in the universe for
as long as you can remember, just floating along, taking in the mind-blowing scenery. And, that you have been alone. You’ve always been alone and as far as you know you are the only one in the universe. It could very well be this scenario isn’t far from the truth but that’s a bit existential for this simple story about acknowledgement.

Notice we don’t continue the story with, "And then one day . . ." because there are no days or nights, there’s not even time as we know it. So, all of a sudden, literally from nowhere, you see something different off in the distance and it’s coming towards you. It's both confusing and exciting. It’s new. The closer it comes the more experiences and emotions it triggers. Then the reality of what you’re seeing sinks in; it’s something that looks pretty much like you. As this other you approaches it generates a flood of thoughts and questions.

Once it’s within hailing distance you say, "Hi." But Self #2 doesn’t reply,
it just ignores you. And so you repeat your greeting but a bit louder, "Hi. Are you real?" A flood of questions follow, "Do you see me?" "Can you hear me?" "Am I real?" Still no reply, and as it floats by and off into stellar darkness you yell out desperately, "Hey! Don't go. Where are you going?" Not a nod, not even an obscene gesture (which, dear reader, I think would be hysterically funny), nothing. Now you’re left with gazillions of thoughts and for the first time ever you are incomplete. A part of you seems to be missing, and definitely something has been added. You are out-integrity for the first time ever; you've had your first interaction, your first communication that was not mutually satisfying. It will affect you and all your communications for life; such is the power of an incomplete relationship.

The end. Actually there’s more, because it poses the question of whether or not you are real; without another to acknowledge you you can’t know for certain, such is the power of a simple acknowledgement. A nod, a smile, a purposeful avoidance, a condescending put-down, even a punch assures you that you are having an effect, that you are real.

Due in part to the fear of being alone and ignored a baby will repeatedly bang its head on the crib, physically destroying itself, just to be acknowledged. Most homeless people are stuck dramatizing the fact that no one is acknowledging their magnificence, their value; they will destroy their body so as to be right that we are wrong for not getting who they really are.

So, before we drift away from each other, I say, yes, you are real. Yes you are having an effect, especially your non-verbal communications, and yes, you are entertaining me—as in causing me to think in your direction, (a reaction to the experience and thoughts that have been triggered between us). You do have my attention; I teach and write stories for you. Without you I am both nothing and everything. And, the biggie, yes, I love you.

The above Self #2 scenario supports a communication model, a way of communicating, in which Self #1 [you] intend that Self #2 [another] says what they are saying. It's a wonderful model for couples because it virtually eliminates arguing. In other words, it doesn't make sense to argue with your self —that which you are causing another to say. For more about acknowledging read — communication breakdowns.

* The Intention Experiment —Lynne McTaggart. Among the dozens of research experiments having to do with intention as a communication variable Lynne's book describes several that measure the effects of prayers and of hexing—as in psychic intentions. Which do you think are more effective—prayers or hexing?

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Check back occasionally for minor edits (last edited 8/16/14)

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