The 4 Core Values for clear communication

The 4 Core Values – clear honest communication

Just over a month ago, I returned from the week-long Penninghame Process in Scotland. It was one heck of an extraordinary ride and I find it very hard to explain just how profound an effect it had on me. I will try to put some of it into words, although I can’t explain everything that happens, as part of the magic of the Process comes from not knowing quite what to expect next!

However some parts are easily shared, and the 4 Core Values are one tool I have found seriously useful. Basically these are the four things to bear in mind when you are communicating with anyone, whether family, friends, colleagues and, hey, even yourself. Yourself? Yes, of course. How often do we lie to ourselves? How often do we treat ourselves with less than dignity?

Anyhow, I haven’t found them easy, by any means, but I have found that they are changing the way I am relating to people. Life at home has become far easier when, instead of launching into an attack or some kind of weird passive aggressive thing, I remember the values. The same goes for work.

So, if you fancy giving them a go, let’s run through them…

Read them through to get the gist. When it comes to using them in everyday life, I find it helps to pause before speaking and take a deep breath. Next up, centre yourself, bring yourself into your heart (rather than letting mind run away with all your old patterns). Think how you feel, more than how you think. Then, and only then, talk – keeping these in mind.

Personal Responsibility

This is about taking ownership for every single feeling, thought, action and reaction. It’s about accepting the consequences that come from your actions and reactions, and understanding that how you speak and act impacts on those around you – whether in your personal or professional life.

It’s about looking at yourself, rather than looking at other people and pointing the finger of blame. It’s about taking responsibility for, and rectifying, our own mistakes. It’s about a willingness to look at our motivations in everyday situations. All the time it is someone else’s fault, nothing changes and we remain stuck.

Personal Integrity

This is about our connection to the heart. It’s easy to lose touch with our “internal guidance system” (our intuition, our gut feeling) when we are consumed with everyday problems. It’s especially hard when we blame other people or outside situations for how we feel, rather than take personal responsibility (see above).

Ask yourself, “How do I feel about this?” Imagine personal integrity as the quiet voice of your conscience.
Most of us worry more about what others think about us than what we feel about ourselves. It is time to start asking your heart what you really feel.


Different from integrity? Kinda. I think I’d probably rename this one Authentic Honesty.

Authenticity is about being real about how you feel. Being Authentic is speaking your truth when communicating, as clearly and as honestly as you can.

Authenticity is not using sarcasm, criticism or manipulation to get your point across. Are you pointing out what hasn’t been done, or what has been done wrongly, rather than asking for what you need?

If you’re spending your life being inauthentic, it’s damn stressful. Confict is bound to arise. Without clear, honest communication you end up with a heavy weight on your back. How can you be you if you’re not telling your truth?

I find this one hard, really hard. I caught a bad dose of people pleasing somewhere along the road. I also hide behind ‘not wanting to hurt people’. Bullshit. Nothing hurts people more, long term, than lack of truthful communication. This isn’t about being cruel – it’s about honestly expressing yourself, your feelings, your truth. The truth can set you free, right?

Of course, there’s another part of the equation, and that’s bound up in the last of the Core Values…

Equal Dignity

This is about talking to others as you would wish to be spoken to yourself; about meeting and valuing others and yourself equally. It’s not about being a doormat. It has nothing to do with niceness or reason. It’s not about caving in, absolutely not. It’s about treating everyone with equal dignity, even when we are angry or furious. Can you be angry or furious? Of course!

Otherwise you wouldn’t be being authentic on occasions, would you? But it’s about dealing with other people as you would wish to be dealt with – the opposite of being talked down to, or lectured to, or voted down, labelled or made fun of.  So, for example, I can get totally furious with my son on occasions (as he can be furious with me) but it’s about me telling him how I feel rather than pointing the finger and saying ‘You do this, and this and this!’  Trust me, it works.  We both express how we feel (so nobody goes away feeling that they can’t say what’s on their mind) but we don’t belittle or begrudge one another.

I dunno…I often think you can tell a great deal about a person by the way they treat people in positions of less power than themselves.  I look at the way some parents talk to their children and my toes curl.  Another example comes about when I’m in a bar/restaurant/cafe. I have been shocked and appalled watching people I have thought educated, empathetic and, dare I say it, enlightened…treat serving staff like muck. Nasty, really nasty.

Equally we should think about treating ourselves with equal dignity. How often do we treat ourselves like shit? How often do we berate ourselves, tell ourselves we’re useless fuck-ups?

The 4 Core Values. What do you reckon? Any that have been missed out? Any you disagree with?

To find out more about The Penninghame Process go to their website –

A useful book on this is Family Life by Jesper Juul (familylab).  Don’t be put off by the title – it’s valid for all forms of communication.

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