ERP 309: How Your Communication Style Reveals Opportunities For Growth — An Interview With Linda Bonnar

By Posted in - Podcast March 1st, 2022 0 Comments

We are all shaped and informed by our childhood experiences, and these experiences undoubtedly influence how we show up in our relationships. And, while our childhood is a part of who we are, it does not bind us to these limiting beliefs and relational models.

In this episode, we discuss how we can manage our thoughts and change the stories that we tell ourselves. We’ll look at Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and how it can help you communicate more effectively and ultimately help us create newfound habits.

Passionate about empowering others to succeed, as a Breakthrough Impostor Syndrome Coach, Linda Bonnar works with high-performing executives to ignite their self-confidence, maximize their potential and be the leaders they were born to be. Combining her fourteen years of experience in education with her wealth of professional coach accreditations, Linda provides business executives and organizations with an outstanding personalized coaching service that educates, empowers, and encourages powerful, successful change through action.

In this Episode 

5:14 How childhood and growing up experiences impact your communication style.

14:54 What helped Linda change her narrative about her husband and previous beliefs.

24:33 The huge difference between being assertive and being aggressive.

27:19 How Linda is helping people with her coaching.

34:36 Things to be aware of and skills you need to learn.

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Train your mind to focus on cultivating your relationship that is deeply fulfilling and mutually vulnerable and rewarding rather than in a negative way.
  • Do not allow yourself to be judgmental of yourself or others.
  • When you find yourself wanting to scream or shout, ask yourself what your positive intent is behind this?
  • Give yourself silence and space, it’s incredibly important.
  • Listen to really hear what the other person is saying, not just to respond.
  • Take a step back and reflect on your actions rather than being defensive when given feedback.
  • Be willing to take the risk.


Just Three Things: Bite-size ways to transform your life (*Amazon Affiliate link) (book)

ERP 248: How to Negotiate Skillfully to Reach a Win-Win in Relationship – An Interview with Juliet Grayson

ERP 238: How to Find Your Emotional Balance in Relationship

ERP 036: How to Offer the Gift of Listening

Shift Criticism Into Connected Communication Course by Dr. Jessica Higgins

Connect with Linda Bonnar





Connect with Dr. Jessica Higgins






Twitter: @DrJessHiggins 


Email: [email protected]

About Today’s Show

Linda, thank you for joining us today.

Oh, Jessica, thank you so much. It is absolutely fantastic to be here. And I’m so excited about the conversation that we’re going to have already. 

Me too. I can tell just your passion and your enthusiasm. And I appreciate bringing people from other industries. I know that you do support people in many facets, and one of them is business. And also, we are talking about intimate relationships. But I also know that any relationship is a relationship. I think these principles are universal and do a crossover. I’ve heard that for many listeners. So again, I appreciate just what we’re going to be talking about today.

Gosh, I’m excited. Yeah, let’s jump right in.

Right. And one of the things that you are really supporting people in is recognizing the elements of communication. Can we just start there, and what got you interested in really diving into this a little more deeply?

There are a number of different factors here, Jessica, that really got me interested in this. All of this starts with ourselves and that self-awareness. And while I’ve always been a good speaker, in terms of speaking publicly, how I communicate in my other relationships has always not been very good. Absolutely not. 

So, trust me when I say that I am still very much a work in progress in this, but I have learned so much. I’ve learned so much about myself. I’ve learned so much about other people through coaching, through my NLP, my neuro-linguistic programming background and training as well. And again, understanding myself and how I show up to these particular relationships has just been incredible. 

It’s also been really insightful to recognize and realize what I’ve learned and what I’ve carried forward from being a young person, from being a young adult, and learning those types of communication from the people around us. And I mean, no disrespect at all, but I’m just going to jump right into the deep end here. 

If we use my mom as an example, she’s fantastic, absolutely brilliant. What I learned from a very young age was that there was an incongruence. So, my dad, for example, would say to her, “Are you okay? You seem a bit upset.” She’s like, “I’m fine.” And I was like, “Oh, okay. But I know mom isn’t fine, and yet she’s telling dad that she is. What’s going on here?” And oh my gosh, I copycat that so much in my own relationships. Well, especially my marriage up until very recently, Jessica. Yeah.

Well, I appreciate you acknowledging that very real example. And that we are all shaped and informed by our early experiences and growing up and the imprint of those relational models. And of course, right, we would be informed by that and have tendencies that relate to that. And you’re also saying part of the impetus for really diving into this and then being able to support others around communication is your own journey. Are you open to sharing what woke you up to the need of this because you’re saying it’s a real work in progress? And I’ll just raise my hand here too, and say, I am very much in the practice and recognize and try to do my practice of acknowledging when I’m off track, or just learning how to be better dialed in, and that it is a forever evolving process. So I’m with you. And we usually have a moment or a season where we get really awake to things that maybe were previously unconscious or subconscious.

Yeah. And again, there are a number of layers to this. For me personally, I’m definitely not generalizing at all. I recognized that I wasn’t communicating very well. I wasn’t getting the results that I wanted in the relationships that I was in. I mean that across my friendships, relationships, at home with my parents, relationships with Steve, my husband, even when we were dating. I was always so quick to point the finger of blame Jessica. I was always, “It’s their fault. It’s you. You’re not communicating properly with me. You’re not giving me what I need.” 

And through, again, coaching, through having conversations like this, I was really awoken to the fact that oh, my gosh, this all starts with me. Why? It was brand new information to me. I mean, I’m smart. I knew it, but I did not want to be aware of it at all because it’s so much easier to blame other people, right. An example of that then where I started to change how I communicated was whenever something happened in my relationship with Steve, I would go silent. I took a leaf out of my mom’s book, and I would just shut down and say nothing. Now he’s an excellent communicator. He’s really good. So, he continuously says, “Talk to me. You can tell me anything. Share whatever you like with me.” I didn’t have the words. I didn’t have words because I hadn’t practiced this for so long. So, it was also new. 

“Communication is a skill that we can get better at with practice, getting feedback, and reflecting on it.”

Jessica, you know well that communication, all of this is a skill, a skill that we can get better at with practice, and getting that feedback and reflecting on it. That’s been part of my journey. Another part of my journey because communication isn’t just the words that we say either because there are so many pieces to it as well. I was a teacher for 15 years. And I remember not being in this great part of my life at one particular time. And a very close friend of mine at work called me aside one day. He said, “Linda, I really want to share something with you.” And I said, “Oh, great, here we go.” You know, I roll, whatever. And she said, and I love through them, that she framed it because she said I’m saying I’m sharing this with you as your friend. And I’m concerned because a number of the students have come to me and said that you’re quite unapproachable recently. 

Now straight away, Jessica, the defense. Oh, my gosh. I get so defensive. And it’s like, what were you saying? This is ridiculous. And again, when I took a step back and reflected on what had been said to me, I was like, “Gosh, she’s right.” I’m stomping around the school. Again, it’s that blame, right. I’m not taking responsibility or accountability for the decisions I’ve made in my life. I’m blaming everybody else. I’m not communicating in a way that’s effective to anyone. And when I opened it to my friends about things that I’ve been experiencing, it was a completely different conversation as well.

Thank you for giving us a real-life insight into your journey and a story here because I think almost all of us could relate to some aspect of what you’re describing. And one of the things that I mentioned, and I know this isn’t necessarily a new concept, but that relationship can be a mirror if we’re so willing to use what’s being offered back to us in the form of reflection that we can use that for information and potential opportunity for growth. 

Oh, most definitely.

Yes. And the other thing that I’m hearing is, perhaps again, how you experienced your early years that that was a way to communicate to others, I’m not okay, or this isn’t working for me, or I have a concern, or I have a need to show protest of some sort whether or not it’s through nonverbal or even just this tone. The hope here is that people will be able to perhaps decode that. One of the things that you’re saying is you were able to take a risk, right? I would just even add that it’s a skill, but it’s also something our nervous system and the roadmap to that way of communicating and relating more vulnerably and more openly is something that perhaps if we haven’t known our nervous system perhaps doesn’t feel safe with that because very early we recognize, “Oh, we don’t do that.” That’s been shut down in some form or fashion. 

Of course. 

And so, I guess I’m hearing that you’re really speaking to this and that you were able to take these. I don’t always think that big transformational change happens in big broad strokes, right? If you’re taking an incremental risk with this dear friend, that’s like, “Hey, I really want to level with you. I love you. And this is why I’m coming to you.” That even in the moment, you might have felt that defense, but at some point, you were able to turn towards that and then be able to take some incremental steps. Is that what I’m hearing?

Oh, I love this. I think you’ve done a beautiful job of this for sure because there’s so much fear there, right? It can take so much courage for us to be vulnerable and lean into those conversations instead of remaining silent. And because that’s not always safe either, context is everything. Sometimes it’s better for us to just say nothing. There are other times when it’s so important that we use our voice and we speak up. And there are still times again, hands-on heart here as well. There’s still a number of times where it’s so ingrained in me to shut down and just to stay silent that I really have to think, “Hang on a second. You’re building a new habit of doing this.” What’s the risk here? 

Photo of Woman Pouring Coffee on Mug

“It can take so much courage for us to be vulnerable and lean into conversations instead of remaining silent. And because that’s not always safe either, context is everything. Sometimes it’s better for us to just say nothing. There are other times when it’s so important that we use our voice and we speak up.”

And it’s like, gosh. Steve loves me unconditionally. So anything that I say to him—it’s my fear. It’s just this fear that it’s not even real. It’s something that I’ve concocted inside my head that I’m just projecting onto him. Things are often very different in real life than we think of them in our heads, right?

For sure. And you’re speaking to something really important that I would love to just unpack a little bit more if you’re open to it. We’re talking about awareness. We’re talking about the willingness to take a risk. You’re speaking about communicating in our inner narrative, perhaps, and I know this is something you talk about around managing self-talk and the stories we tell ourselves. That can be difficult to do if we haven’t known, but what helped you reassure yourself and change that narrative about Steve or even maybe question your previous tendencies or beliefs?

This is such a good question, Jessica. It comes down to experience. It comes down to, again, for me, the quality of life that I had, the relationships that I was involved in. I started doing all that inner work in myself and asking myself, “How do the relationships that I’m involved in help and serve me and move me towards being the person I want to be? Does all of this support my personal growth, my professional development?” 

And when you ask yourself those more powerful and better questions, you get better at these. Now, those alone can be scary to ask because what if the answer is something very different from what we’re used to? What does it mean about our relationships and about ourselves? And so, a lot of this is, again, it’s leaning into taking a risk, identifying what helps and serves you, and what doesn’t. And if we drill right down even a little bit deeper, so much of this is rooted in those limiting beliefs that we have about ourselves that are formed so early in our inner youth. A lot of this changed for me when I realized, “Oh, my gosh. I am worthy. When we don’t have that belief in ourselves, we don’t know our self-worth. It’s not healthy and high and flowing. It’s interesting who we attract in our lives and the choices that we make. I will tie all of this together. I feel like I’m going around the roundabout a little bit. But it all comes down then to the beliefs that I had about myself, my levels of self-worth, and my self-esteem. When I started working on those, so much changed for me. 

I then had this new find belief, and this worth again in my course such that I can have these conversations with people. It’s not okay for someone to treat me that way. So, different boundaries were established and are still being built in some cases as well. And reboots.

Absolutely. And if I’m hearing you, you’re speaking about what the desire or the outcome or the goal is, and being in service of that, and even asking questions and the quality of those questions, and how they can be in service of that goal, right? So if our brain is constantly looking to answer the questions that we’re asking, and if we are asking, “Oh, why am I so this? Or why am I like that?” in a more negative way, your brain is going to try to come up with evidence to support that, right? Conversely, if you’re asking how do I cultivate relationships that are deeply fulfilling and mutually vulnerable and rewarding in this depth of authenticity, right? How am I showing up in that? And then, the brain starts working on that. And then, perhaps we might recognize, “Oh, I can see my inner self-talk and my stories that I’m telling myself. That becomes more obvious, would you say?

Absolutely. Because, again, we’re tuning in, right? All of this leads us to be more aware of, so again, ourselves, how are we showing up in these situations, recognizing those patterns of thought, patterns of language, patterns of behavior that we’re operating on a daily basis. So, when I operate from this place of whatever that pattern is, I recognize that I show up in this way. I see that I get this particular result or feedback from the other person. Is that what I want? What’s my goal here? No, my item is to have a healthy relationship. Ah, okay. Ergo, I need to be doing something different because this starts with me. 

It doesn’t mean that we take responsibility for other people in this. There’s a clear distinction there as well. It’s what’s my role in this? Our brains are like Filofaxes, I think, Jessica, right? Ask it anything like that why question, and oh, my gosh, it would drudge up everything is like, “Here we go.” Or we ask ourselves those better questions, and all of a sudden, it’s here. Try this or try that or talk to that person. It will give us the answers. And then we can start to tell ourselves a more compelling story, right. Something that’s conducive to those relationships, to those outcomes that we want.

And I’ll say, as I’m listening to you speak, a lot of times I like to get this really practical. And some people would say, as we start to turn towards looking at our beliefs and our stories, journaling can be really helpful to get it out of ourselves, even art therapy. But as I’m talking in real-life practice, oftentimes, I’m noticing my emotional experience and where I feel open and connected, and perhaps where I feel a sense of clenching or pain of some sort or just unease with whatever I’m experiencing with someone else. And that those can be good signals to me to reflect on. 

And also, if I’m in very cognizant, conscious practice of something that I’m trying to cultivate, I’m going to recognize where it’s incongruent like you were saying, perhaps, that I’m telling myself, I have this inner way that I’m relating to myself. And I’ll just say, as a specific example, really early in my relationship with my now-husband, I was working with a lot of fears of abandonment that previously I had gotten awareness around. But most of my life had been pretty unconscious, too, because I had some really, my biological father died when I was like three months old. So a lot of my early abandonments were even pre-verbal. 

So it took a little bit for me to kind of get into contact with that. But all that to say that in my relationship with my husband, Reid, in those early years, there were times where I felt like I was walking out on a ledge that I didn’t even know was built yet. Like I didn’t have a framework for what that looked like. I just knew that I was in my fear. I didn’t know, and there was a lot of unknown and I was just putting one brick in front of me, if you will, of creating that path of like, okay, like he might not turn towards me, or he might not want this as much as I do. I can acknowledge that, and I can be with that. And he might, right? Just even suspending some of that judgment of the old stories of the old nervous system to hold space for a new possibility. And that this can happen very incrementally.

Oh, I love this. 

Would you agree? 

Yeah. Oh, gosh, to all of this. It’s the framework, right? That can be so important. So again, how have we learned to behave in relationships? What have we learned that word relationship means from what we have seen around us? And how has that changed? Because Jessica, when do we carve out this time to stop and think about what does a healthy relationship looks like for me? And, you know, kind of looking at because if we don’t, our lives are so busy, we don’t ask ourselves these questions. And then so when we have those healthy boundaries, those relationships, again, it’s understanding where these things are coming from. What is it that can set us out on the ledge that encourages us to lay another brick down or to come back in again? And being aware of that and not judging ourselves for it, either. It’s just information.

Yes. Thank you for saying that because that’s what I’m feeling as we’re talking. Many of us in a relationship will say, oh, and they can recognize the communication gaps or the missing in communication. And really, what we’re talking about right here right now is that these communication skills are incredibly important to be mindful of and that they can be really great sources of information around what we’re experiencing, really revealing to us opportunities.

Most definitely. And, again, this is it, right? It can be a beautiful way to really reframe something as well. Instead of telling ourselves a critical story, or allowing ourselves to be really judgmental of ourselves or others, hang on a second, let me press pause here for a minute. Right. This is just information that’s coming in. I can choose to do whatever I want with that. What could this possibly be teaching me about myself? What’s true within all this information that I’m getting right now? What’s true? Where’s the truth? Or, I love this one. What am I telling myself is true? And what’s the actual truth as well. So, it’s separating that fact from fiction, I think, is so powerful. 

Yes. And let’s move a little bit towards the boundaries. You talk a little bit about assertiveness and the difference between maybe being assertive and aggressive or perhaps even on the other end of the spectrum, not standing for oneself or being so giving that one loses themselves? Because this could be really revealing too?

Oh, most definitely. Most definitely. It was only yesterday I had a conversation around people-pleasing. It’s so interesting, Jessica. We explored what our beliefs around this are. What are our beliefs around being heard by expressing ourselves, by being assertive about being aggressive, or by maybe giving into something that we don’t really want to, but we do anyway? And we often don’t want to recognize that, you know, kind of judging ourselves a little bit on it as well. There’s a huge difference. And if we have them all molded into one big ball of mush, it is very hard for us to figure out and understand and then apply, right? What can be most helpful in this context? Is there a time when I just say, “You know what? Fine. We will do it your way. This is what we’ll do.” Compared to being aggressive and then being assertive and looking to really create that Win-Win between you and the other person or the other people involved. If we don’t know, if we’ve always been taught, so we don’t know what we don’t know. So if we’ve always seen relationships and people behave aggressively to get what they want, that’s what we know. That’s what we do until we learn something different.

Girlfriend with laptop touching ethnic face of man on sofa

“If we’ve always seen relationships and people behave aggressively to get what they want, that’s what we know. That’s what we do until we learn something different.”

This can be a really well-matched pair, and the early experiences in life and tendencies can fit perfectly like a puzzle. I’m thinking of one couple that I work with. He grew up learning to get loud and get aggressive to be heard. That was part of the family system, and that was what worked, and that’s how he knows in his nervous system. “This is how I get my needs met. This is how I get heard and seen.” 

Whereas she comes from a family background where she had to absorb and had to learn how to cooperate and be really allowing, and in a lot of ways, her needs were not met. And so, she learned to cope by going along with whatever was happening, even if it was dysfunctional. And so, we can see how perfectly that fits, but also in a not healthy way. 

Help us. Is there anything you help people within your coaching of how to help people in this arena? Because I can recognize how fast some of these interactions might be going and the decision-making around, “Do I rock the boat? Do I advocate for what I want? Or do I just go an easy, breezy route and go along with the flow?” Sometimes it’s not clear, and sometimes the win-win is not visible, right, especially if we’re not in the practice.

Absolutely. I love it because I did everything that I could to avoid rocking the boat, right? You don’t rock the boat. Conflict is bad, so you do whatever you can then to avoid those situations because I thought for a very long time that that was all going to end poorly. If I started having these conversations, they would turn into confrontations. That if I start to behave assertively, the other person will presume that I’m being aggressive. And again, it’s that clash instead of that flow of communication. 

And so, what is it that you want? Because I met so many people who were like, “Yes, I’d like to be able to behave differently in my relationship.” Okay, what does that mean? What does that then look like for you? What does it sound like? What’s a demonstration of that then for the other person as well? Who are you when you’re showing up differently to this relationship? I feel like all of these are really important questions to consider because you can learn the skills. It’s understanding what does it mean, ultimately. Again, it’s that goal or that outcome. What am I seeking? So, if I’m seeking a healthier relationship, you know, just a more easygoing conversation, not confrontations but being able to talk about things openly. How do I do that? What needs to be there first?

Well, Linda, it just sounds as though again, when you’re speaking about what it is that you would love or like to experience, I’m feeling myself emotionally motivated by that. If I imagine something that I’m wanting, right. It’s not just the technique and the skill, right. But it’s the juice behind it is the thing that I really want. And then, therefore, I’m willing to and feel inspired to put more energy into cultivating this even if it is super unknown.

Exactly. I mean, if we were to pause here and ask ourselves what do we want in relationships, most of us will say that we want that sense of connectedness, right? We want to feel safe. We want to feel that we’re heard, that we’re listened to, that we’re seen, that our needs are being met. That’s ultimately what so many of us want. 

And then, how can we do that? A lot of the work that I do, whether its people looking at relationships personally or professionally, it’s then communicating in a way or learning to communicate in a different style so that they can get those needs met. I don’t know about you, Jessica, but I was never taught how to communicate assertively when I was younger in school. And I’m not saying that’s the school’s fault. I’m not saying it’s my parents’ fault. It’s something that I never learned. 

So, go through life down. And it’s, “Oh my gosh.” Here we are. Somebody else that you wouldn’t say they were like, gosh, you know, really bit of a doormat here, Linda. “What?” And they’re like, “They’re just walking all over you. Stand up for what you believe in. Ask for what you want.” I said, “You can’t do that. That’s rude.” You know, who might be asking for what I want. That was like, Oh my gosh, yeah. Who am I to be asking for what I want?

When all of that changes, you and I, again, a self-worth and self-belief and everything else. And I started telling myself a different story than it’s right. Now I’ve laid the foundations. I feel that it’s okay for me. In fact, I need to ask for what I want in this situation, but I don’t know how. So, I know the wash. It’s the how do I need to help with now? And oh my gosh, Jessica, when I learned just a couple of simple tools, the simple steps towards being more assertive, the change was just incredible.

Because you are conscious of the thing that you really wanted to experience and the motivation around that. I would say in my kind of camp around, where I was coming from years ago, still have somewhat of a tendency, but I’ve worked so much to feel so, so much more secure in myself and others. But that abandonment would be like, “What would people think?” Or, “Would they like me if I spoke up?” Or, “Would it be okay if I did?” Or, “Is that lovable or likable?” And so, that also can come up. And when we can recognize, “Oh, I don’t want to lose myself, or I want to be loved for who I am.” And the real connection around what that looks like in giving some attention to that, that then we start, again, getting lined up to support that. 

And I will say the nervous system, right. A lot of people have really good intentions. And then when things get triggered, they’re like, “I’m doing and saying things that I totally don’t want to do.” It’s that activation. I think that that can be really telling too around what’s happening there, what’s happening in the nervous system. And again, can we work with that to support those parts of whatever is happening there so that we can get more of that congruence?

This is fantastic. This is a huge opportunity then to practice grace with ourselves. So, it’s okay, yes, I’m being more assertive. And I’m asking for what I want. And that’s great. Oh, it didn’t go according to plan. I was like, “Okay, right.” So again, the nervous system. It’s those habits. Those things that have been ingrained in us for so long aren’t going to change overnight. So, we take it step by step, and we recognize what didn’t work well. Where was the point then when maybe I got triggered? What was it that was said that kind of veered me off the path a little bit and took me back into that old habit, that old pattern of speaking and behaving in a way that I know isn’t really conducive here, recognizing that, and then practicing it, practicing being assertive in different situations, or, and having those conversations with different people, learning more about yourself? You’ll get there, but there’s a lot of grace and compassion in this as well. 

Yes, and I will say, in the learning curve of all of those, and my experience is that I get new information that I wasn’t aware of and continue to get new information when I’m willing to look. So if I’m triggered, likely, there’s something there that I wasn’t fully aware of that I hadn’t been in support of because whatever my life experience didn’t feel was appropriate. And so now, there was wisdom in that and a certain time in life. And yet now, can I capture that and really support that and show up for that need? 

Okay. So, you do a lot with NLP, and you’ve been talking a little bit with us about congruence and what that is. Can you help people with what to be aware of and the skills and what’s included as far as this congruence?

This is so important. And again, here pops into my head straight away, my poor mom. It’s sad. Again, something that can encourage us to behave incongruently, like saying yes, we really want to say no, or saying no when we’d like to say yes. So, it’s something that you brought up earlier, Jessica, by that? What happens if I do this? So it’s that fear again. What’s the fear that’s there? If I say no, what happens? If I say yes, what happens? What will the other person think? What will people think? How will I be judged? 

Happy woman in casual wear standing near heap of cardboard boxes and giving high five to ethnic boyfriend with ponytail showing agreement while looking at each other

“When we’re aligned in what we’re saying, when everything feels in sync, that doesn’t mean that it’s perfect. When it feels good in our head, heart, and guts, that’s congruence.”

I really like this social situation that I’m in right now, so I’ll do whatever I can to preserve it. Even if that kind of puts my values outside the door for now. It’s fine. It’s okay. And so, is it really? And when we’re congruent, and I also think of this in terms of like our head, heart, and guts, right. So when we’re aligned in what we’re saying, when everything feels in sync, that doesn’t mean that it’s perfect. When it feels good in our head, heart, and guts, that’s congruence. We all know what incongruence feels like. I know that’s a strong generalization. We might not label it as incongruent, but it might be your people will say there’s something not right. I feel out of sync. Something’s not sitting well with me, and there’s NLP just right there. I’m out of sync. There are parts of me that are in conflict. They’re not aligned. It just didn’t sit well with me. I get this. I have this feeling. My stomach is in knots over this. So they’re all indications. I mean, language is so powerful, right? They’re all indications that something isn’t congruent within us. We need to do something a little bit differently.

What if someone is going back and forth and feeling ambivalent? There are two parts of them that are in conflict.

Yeah. I love this. In NLP, its parts integration. Right? So, it’s that inner conflict. People say, “Well, this is a bit woo-woo, Linda.” I’m like, “Honestly, it’s not because this is how we talk.” Well, this part of me that really wants to stay in that relationship, right. But there’s another part of me that thinks, “Absolutely not. Get out of here.” And that’s parts integration. There are different parts of us that want different things. So when we’re in that conflict, what can we do? 

All the parts of us want the same thing. It’s that higher purpose, which usually comes down to a core value, like safety, security, happiness, whatever it means for you. It’s almost encouraging those two parts than to come to a compromise because the parts want the same thing, but they often go about it in different ways, such as maybe one person shouting for what they want and the other person shutting down. Figuring out–. Sorry, yes.

No, please. I just was feeling an example in myself of I have talked about this before that I have this very strong, almost feminist part of me and not in the way of not honoring the men’s journey, but just more really the independence and supporting just my intelligence, and my development, my career, and all the freedom that comes with that. And then I also have this very maternal loving, nurturing, heart energy, and relational part of me. And sometimes, in my life in the past, they’ve been at odds. They haven’t always worked together, right. 

And so, part of the integration is they’re both valuable. And when you talked about the win-win, sometimes in the past, for me, it seemed as though they couldn’t exist together. And when the new conversation of more integration is okay, the freedom and the relationships are both important in the heart and the nurturing, as well as the intellect and the success. How do those work together? Would you say that’s true?

Absolutely. Behind every part of us, there’s a positive intention that is crucial to all of this. That doesn’t always mean that it’s positive for maybe other people in our relationships in terms of how we show up. Oh, well, this part of me says that I should scream and shout right now and be really angry. Okay, and there’s a positive intent behind that to be heard, perhaps, to be seen. 

When we check-in, we ask ourselves, we ask those parts of us, “What’s your positive intent behind this?” That’s when we get to something deeper. We can continue to ask that question and chop it down deeper and deeper. And when we do that, for the parts that might be like loggerheads or just not aligned to the time. When we keep going, we will find that common ground. Do it as an exercise. I’ve done it numerous times, and people often say, “Linda, I don’t know where you’re going with this.” And I’m like, “Fine. I know that you trust me as your coach. You’re willing to do this exercise, but let’s give it 10 minutes.” And I go, “Okay, great. Fine.” And 10 minutes later, it’s, gosh, I didn’t realize that’s what that part of me wanted.

And we are sometimes holding the tension and tolerating the discomfort of not just having a quick resolution. That’s part of the process, and it can be difficult to hold that when we’re in the process of getting clearer in that integration and that win-win.

Yes. So, here’s then where space and silence are incredibly important. You give yourself that time and that space so that you can dig a little bit deeper. And what I mean then by silence is often when we ask these questions, right? So our brain will try and protect us as well and be like, “I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that. That’s ridiculous.” Okay. And if you didn’t have an answer to that question, what would it be? Oh, I will, okay. Yes, maybe there’s something here. 

So sometimes, we need to give ourselves silence and space and trust that the answer is there. That will come. Just not be so you know, I think we often want the answer right here right now. Whereas I think for anybody out there again I work for young people. I don’t have children myself. I’ve worked with young people for so long as a teacher that when you ask the question, they’re like, “I don’t know.” It’s like, “I think you do.” And this is so my coaching client, Jessica. It’s like, what was the positive intent behind that behavior? Oh, I don’t know, Linda. Nope, nope, no. And if I was to ask him again, okay, here we go.

No kidding. And we don’t tend to give a lot of space in our modern-day life. I don’t believe supports us in this as much with all the devices and the media and the different things that we fill our time with. And this can be really, really special to be able to give that space, and even the permission to not respond. Right? You’re saying in communication. Yes. And you want to speak to that at all?

I think it’s so important. I’ve learned so much about silence and space. And again, context is everything, right? There’s a time for silence. There’s a time for speaking up and being heard. My gosh, every single time I do this with a coaching client, I’m just blown away by what transpires. I learned something from every conversation, Jessica. So I started working with a new client recently. And she said, “I’m not very talkative, Linda. You might have to kind of drag some things out of me.” And I said, “Okay, no worries.” So I asked her a question she finished. Sorry, I thought she had finished answering. I went to jump in. Just like that she’s she came forth with more information and just started sharing more and more and more. 

And as our work together transpires, there are times in our coaching sessions where I don’t say a lot at all. She’ll say to me at the end of the session, so sometimes I think, gosh, I’m a bit of a rubbish coach here, this hasn’t been great. That’s all about me, right? My client is the most important person here. So, when I ask her, you know, if I say, “Hey, Jessica.” we’ll say. “How was today for you?” And she said, “My gosh, I’m just so valuable. I don’t get to speak like this with other people. I’m a very good listener.” And I’m, “What? Really?” It’s so powerful, right? Just doing something a little bit different.

I remember I did an episode years and years and years ago about the power of the gift of listening. I remember coming across this quote, and I’ll dig it out, then I’ll make sure to put it in the outro. It spoke something to the effect of when someone’s deeply listening, the speaker will reveal way more than they intended to because they can feel the quality of that listening, and they’re willing to go deeper and share more. And just the profound gift of that, that I would agree a lot of us aren’t in the practice of it. And so, it’s quite profound to have that sacred space of real deep presencing and attentiveness and undivided attention to really listen and not be listening to be able to respond. Right? But just that listening in that container of holding.

Completely. There’s so much value in it. I’m laughing now because I’m thinking of a conversation with Steve the other day where I said, “I don’t think you’re really listening to me.” And he says, “Oh, yeah, sure. Of course, I am. What makes you think that?” And I said, “Just because I can see you. You’re shopping on Amazon.” And he goes, “Oh, I can multitask.” And I’m like, “I don’t know how true that is.” And I said, “So, what are your thoughts on what I shared?” It’s like he has these kinds of one-liner responses now, Jessica, right, where he really tries it. And you’ll see how far he can get with these one-liners. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, he really is listening.” 

So he’ll say things like, “I think your opinion is really important in this.” Gosh, you’re really listening to me. Or, “You know what? You take ownership of this. You make the decision.” I feel really heard. I’ll ask him something else. It’s almost like you can see the little cogs in his brain going, “She’s on to something now. You can’t just go with this really vague response. You need to tell her you weren’t listening.” 

Right. Right. And look, that’s to the point of it’s different than actually hearing the words. And really listening is a different experience and just hearing the words. Thank you for sharing that. It’s so humorous. Just the other night, my husband and I do these marriage meetings, and it’s like 30 minutes a week. He was on his phone, and I was like, “What are you texting or what are you writing?” He’s like, “I’m listening. I’m writing notes.”. But it’s like when we don’t get that eye contact and that nonverbal engagement, we feel like their attention is elsewhere, and sometimes it is, but sometimes it’s not. So I love that, just the continual checking. Well, this is so fabulous. I appreciate what you’re sharing here today. I can just tell, again, your enthusiasm and your passion for this work. Is there anything you want to say as we close out on this topic?

I love these conversations, Jessica. I’d love to just finish on that listening part of really listening to really, really hear and recognize, and again, let’s park judgment on this. If we tune it a little bit more, we become aware of when you get that need to jump in and just recognize that and being aware of it. Because without that awareness, nothing changes. Then without awareness, we can start to, okay, I recognize this about myself, I’m going to sit back here. I’m going to really focus on what the person is saying. I’m going to ask a deeper question. It’s, gosh, we can’t listen enough.

Man in Brown Vest Standing Beside Man in Brown Coat

“Without awareness, nothing changes.”

And it’s the staying with them, that emptying or the deepening into their experience and not understanding. It’s a really huge gift. Well, I’m curious, what would you invite people to connect with if people are interested in getting to know what you’re up to a little bit more?

Thank you, Jessica. My new book, Just Three Things, came out in October. There are loads in there about communication, building healthy relationships, boundaries, self-awareness, and everything. Just Three Things is available on Amazon. I know a lot of fantastic local bookstores are ordering. If you’re just not comfortable, you just don’t want to go online. You want to support your local bookstore owner and community as well, then yeah, get yourself a copy of Just Three Things. Let me know what you think of it. You can connect with me on LinkedIn. I’m @Linda Bonnar. You can email me at [email protected]. Visit my website. I’m just Linda Bonnar all over. It’s really easy to find me.

Wonderful. And what might people find on your website?

There’s a story. There is a very interesting story. I’m very proud of my story. I love stories for so many reasons. I think it’s also really important to remember that the person that you’re hearing today was very different from what I was ten years ago. And we can sometimes make the assumption that when we meet people where they are now that they’ve always been this way, for whatever reason. Everybody’s got a story to tell. And everybody’s got a chapter that they might not be very comfortable to read out loud as well. So my story is there. You’ll find testimonials, ways of working with me, more information about the book. There’s a blog. Yeah, explore. Get curious.

A Couple Having Conversation while Sitting on the Couch

“Everybody’s got a story to tell. Everybody’s got a chapter that they might not be very comfortable reading out loud as well.”

I love it. Okay. I’ll make sure to have all of these links on today’s show notes. Linda, thank you for sharing your time with us here today. 

Thank you for having me, Jessica. It’s been just a beautiful conversation. And again, I’ve learned so much, so thank you.

Signing Off

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Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication

Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication.

Stop the criticism loop, learn new ways to communicate
and strengthen the connection with your partner.


Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching