Consent does not begin in the bedroom, it starts with how we listen, how we speak and how we live & work.
Our personal culture of conversation can tell us a lot about how we respect and ask for consent. Consent is more than a question, more than a statement of boundaries, it is the entire terrain of communication. Listening is the foundation of communication. Most conversations flow in a manner that suggests that no one is listening at all. Instead of learning how to ask for consent, I think it’s worth being mindful of how we listen for it.
The 3 checks of consent:
The Interruption Check
If you notice that your conversations are filled with “Yeah, but” or “Me too, and” you are interrupting.
If you feel anxious to respond before the other person finishes speaking, you are interrupting. To notice when someone states their boundary you need to genuinely hear what they say. There needs to be space between their thoughts and yours. Interruption signals that you are listening to respond, rather than to understand. You can only respect boundaries if you understand what the other person has said about them. Take one long inhale and exhale breath before saying anything in any conversation.
The Constant Chatter Check
Habitually filling space by chatting is a sign that you are preoccupied with your own experience.
Uncomfortable silence is called so for a reason. Sometimes light conversation can be exactly what is needed, but sometimes it is not. In an attempt to create comfort you may be missing some non-verbal signals from others. Silence is not consent for conversation. Look for other clues that may indicate what the other person is open to. Notice your breathing when you experience an uncomfortable silence. If you can slow your breathing you are more likely to be able to “read the room”.
The Dismissive Check
If you think you know what someone else is thinking, you are already not listening.
By making assumptions you put on metaphorical earmuffs. This can lead you to view their statement as irrelevant, unimportant or incorrect. By dismissing, undervaluing or correcting someone’s statements you effectively shut down a conversation. You may be missing what they are trying to communicate. If you choose to assume & dismiss you’ve lost the opportunity to listen. Dive in when your impulse is to dismiss.
The way we converse may seem innocuous at first, but the downstream impact of our daily habits can end up misguiding us in meaningful interactions. Our culture of conversation determines how we understand consent. Self-awareness consent checks are meant to gently see our habits from the other person’s perspective. Make listening the foundation of your conversations and you will gain more than you expected.