Expressing vs. Reporting — Congruence

March 9, 2017

A common frustration you may experience in your communication is that the impact of your communication is often not the impact you intend. This leads to missed connections, missed opportunities, and many of the challenges we have when we move toward becoming more connected, influential, or making a greater contribution to the world.

This gap, between the intention and the impact in communication, can be decreased by becoming more congruent. Simply, congruence is alignment between your inner experience and your outward expression. Understanding and applying the distinction between expressing and reporting will lead directly to more congruence, and with that, more impact.

When you are expressing, there is an alignment between the words you are saying and how you’re saying them. You’re saying what you mean and meaning what you say—using your voice, posture, hands, eyes, and whole body. You’re conveying the impact you intend.

At times, you may have experienced such a tremendous emotional state, you couldn’t help but reveal your experience authentically—plainly, honestly, and directly from your feelings. Or you may have felt incredibly impacted as someone powerfully revealed themselves. This is expressing.

In contrast to expressing, when you’re reporting, you’re speaking with little or no emotion. You may be using “feeling words”, but from the outside they don’t really seem like you’re feeling them in the moment. There is something like a layer or internal distance between what you’re feeling inside, and the part of you that is forming the words. This is reporting.

Generally we report about an experience or feeling, whereas we express from within an experience or feeling. They could be considered opposite poles along a continuum. With practice, you will develop your capacity at expressing yourself with congruence—greater alignment between your inner experience and outward expression.

As you develop the capacity to express yourself more congruently, you’ll notice that you’ll more regularly experience sensations of emotions or energies—like waves, currents, or vibrations—flowing through your body. The experience of alignment can sometimes feel like committing fully. Sometimes it’s like wielding or directing a force. Sometimes it’s like letting go and allowing something on the inside to flow out freely.

As you develop the skill of expressing, you’ll become a more powerful communicator, create the kind of relationships and interactions you want, and have more of the kind of influence and impact you want to have with others.

Michael Porcelli is committed to people cultivating more realness in their relationships both personally and professionally. He’s played a key role developing a world-class team of facilitators and Course Leaders with The Integral Center and AuthenticWorld. Whether it’s taking people into deep interpersonal encounters in the moment, crafting a training curriculum, or facilitating a fast-paced business meeting, you’ll find him friendly, down-to-earth, and probably ready geek-out at the drop of a hat.

  • Rosa Zubizarreta

    Hi Michael! Great article about the power of expressing our feelings, rather than reporting on them. I’m curious if you might be willing to consider the other side of that… the value of being able to speak “for” one of our inner parts, instead of “from” it? I’m asking this question “from” the Internal Family Systems paradigm, which I find a valuable addition to the Integral one…

    • Michael Porcelli

      Rosa. Thanks for the inquiry. I totally value “the other side” as you describe it. For me, it is context-dependent. Sometimes when I’m exploring my internal parts and perspectives I need to be able to “speak for” a part in order for me to be able to hear it, understand it, or connect with it, especially for those quieter or more subtle parts of myself. The way we use “congruence” as described in my article is in service of both greater connection and greater impact while in connection with other people, which I do think it serves most of the time. I don’t have it as the one and only communication skill. When self expression goes “off” when communicating with others, I find it’s typically because the speaker is not “owning their experience”, which is, for me, another crucial, but different communication skill. Check it out here if you haven’t already…