3 is the magic number! The Triforce of Communication.

3 is the magic number! The Triforce of Communication.

Yesterday I met with my housemate for our monthly meeting (for which we use the Agile Scrum model. [LINK] To review the past month, we did a little exercise about ‘What is going well? What is not going so well?’ and then came back together to share our findings! I had written ‘Not using Triforce AT ALL’. My housemate alluded to the same thing. We had failed, so we talked about how we can do this better!

So, what were we talking about?

I listen regularly to the Multiamory Podcast, whose strapline is ‘Want to suck less at communication?’ (It’s American)


This episode introduced me to the idea of the Triforce of Communication. It is basically being aware and conscious about our REASONS for talking or sharing and communicating this to our listener.

It is also about Consent; because consent applies to all of our interactions, not just to touch or sexual ones.

SO, in my house, we have this poster in the kitchen…

The first part is simply consent. Are you free to listen to me now?’ Do you feel like having a conversation? I am needing to talk about something emotional and my need will be for advice, are you up for this?

The second part is the Triforce; questions to ask ourselves so that we are clear what we need from our sharing. We can then say ‘I’ve had a bad day, and I’d like to talk about it. Triforce 2!’ Of course, this can change halfway through, just like all consent-based interactions. You might ask for Triforce 2, and then when you have been heard enough, perhaps you might say ‘OK, Triforce 3 if you have any suggestions?’.

Or the opposite, you might say ‘I am so upset about an argument I am having with my friend. Please tell me what to do (Triforce 3), and then change your mind and ask for Triforce 2 (maybe because you realise than it isn’t advice and problem solving you need, but just to feel your feelings).

Triforce 1 is interesting. I have a feeling we rarely ask for this, it is perhaps a default…we just share memories and stories and experiences. However, wouldn’t we notice if we just shared a childhood story with an intention simply to share and connect with someone, and they turned around and said ‘Oh wow, that must have been so hard, I really hear how difficult your childhood was, it sounds like you have a lot of emotional pain.’ They just gave you Triforce 2 without checking in whether that is what you wanted. Or, perhaps they say ‘If I were you, I would get some counselling about that. I know a good low-cost counselling centre. Do you want me to send the link?’  Imagine how this felt if you were just recounting your experiences, perhaps as part of a conversation which you felt would be reciprocal? Perhaps the other person would respond in Triforce 1 way, telling you about a childhood memory of theirs. Would you welcome their unsolicited advice or even empathy?

So back to my housemate and I. I can be guilty of unconscious communication … and some of the above slip-ups, with the best possible intentions (I have a long history in the ‘helping professions’!). These interactions can sound helpful and may in fact be full of wisdom and useful stuff. However, it can inadvertently…

  • Hurt people’s sense of autonomy, competence and ability to solve their own problems.
  • Reinforce power structures and imbalances, such as gender roles, age differences etc.
  • Create barriers to positive, equal relationships.
  • Cause resentment and reluctance to share honestly because emotional needs are less likely to get met.

If my housemate tells me ‘I am just looking to be heard’, and I respect this, I trust him to know what he needs right now.

We will be using the Triforce of Communication model in our ‘Quintimacy Winter Hugs Online’ sessions (https://www.facebook.com/events/2968856513146996/). A sharing circle (or a heart circle) offer the opportunity simply to share verbally and be witnessed and listened to by the rest of the circle (Triforce 2). If the person sharing explicitly says ‘I would welcome gentle reflections on what I am sharing’ that is still Triforce 2. If they say ‘I would welcome advice or suggestions’, that is Triforce 3.

So, why are my housemate and I having such a hard time making this a part of our daily communication? A multitude of reasons. One major one seems to be hesitation and discomfort about having the consent conversation in the first place and there seems to be fear of rejection or conflict or at least discomfort if we are in the same space and not talking. How familiar is this? Isn’t that what people find when they start explicitly asking for consent around touch and sex too?

If we are used to people-pleasing and conforming to what (we think) others want, it is difficult to deviate from this pattern. It takes conscious and deliberate effort.

And sometimes we are perhaps simply too ‘full’ of our own thoughts and feelings (or too hungry, or too tired) to be truly present for empathic listening. I know in my case, I will resort quickly to Triforce 3; offer a solution to the problem so I feel my work is done. When actually my ‘work’ should have been to simply listen and acknowledge the person’s experience. In this case, planning on a cuppa and chat later or waiting till we have time for a sharing circle would be far better for everyone.

Slowing down, taking a breath, pausing … all-important tools in any Consent and Boundary decision.

See what happens if you introduce the Triforce into your relationships with your close people!

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