Healthy communities nurture respectful and authentic communication culture.
The words “community” and “communication” have the same root: “common”, which means “belonging to all” (Etymology Dictionary). Community and communication are thus intimately related.
Authentic, mindful communication culture stretches over the entire specter from small talk to business talk, covering all topics that matter. Being cultured does not mean being invariably polished and courteous. High communication culture means looking for win-win solutions in all situations. See “Deep Sharing” for guidelines on effective and supportive communication.
Establishing such a communication culture in a group is one of the core elements of community building; therefore initiators of a group project should pay special attention to creating and fostering it. Note that the culture of the initial group tends to influence the culture of the whole project.
In many projects initiators make the mistake of thinking their main task is to get the organisational elements set up and the community could be developed later, once they start to really work and live together. But if patterns of communication culture and community building are not applied already in the initial phases of the project, there will probably be no community spirit for this later on, since behavioral patterns are created even if members do not attend to them.
Communication culture can be developed and nurtured through:
- specialised community-building events,
- trainings or mentoring, using methods like Non-Violent Communication (NVC), which is very characteristic for the ecovillage movement,
- meetings dedicated specifically to communication culture, consciously speaking about it, setting up agreements and guidelines, and using them on subsequent meetings and in various group processes,
- informal events, sharing stories, cultivating awareness of body language,
- learning and practicing the art of giving and receiving feedback,
- singing together (synchronising voice leads to synchronising heartbeats),
- cultivating silence in the group.
How people talk (and what they talk about) is only one side of the coin of communication culture, the other side of the coin is how they listen. In communities attentive, active listening is indispensable, since being with 2 or more other people means that everyone is (or should be) listening more than talking.