Alchemical Cycle Logo Master's Thesis:
The Elements as an Archetype of Transformation:
An Exploration of Earth, Water, Air, and Fire

| Table of Contents | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Appendix A | Appendix B | Appendix C | References | Bibliography

Chapter 6 – Into the World: Dialogue and the Elemental Cycle

Practical Communication through the Elements

Air Characteristics and Techniques

One of the most obvious features that lets you know you are in Air communication is laughter.  The levity of the Air element makes the default expression a smile, and laughter or at least a light-hearted feeling comes easily.  Indeed, we have the Air element’s physical presence in the great intake and oscillatory expulsion of air that is the material basis of laughing, as well as in sighing, which can often accompany the transition between listening and speaking.  Tears can also be present in Air, but as tears of joy.  Often Air communication is very lively and carefree, involving everyone.  If the exchange seems to wander and diverge from any specific aim, or lots of tangents are taken that are not then connected back to an original thread, you are probably in an Air conversation.  Another major characteristic of this level of communication shows up in that the most common responses are questions.  Here, such questions are designed to help the speaker explore their perspective more fully and communicate it more clearly.  The phrasing of these Air questions are open ended, whereas Water questions are almost always designed to elicit/avoid particular answers in accordance with the questioner’s desired outcome.  Air questions give themselves up to the possibility of any outcome.  Eye contact includes every participant more or less equally, with no dominant personal pairings.  If the communication is only between two people, the listener can often have a ‘soft’, steady gaze towards the speaker.  In Air communication, long silences are a natural part of the conversation.  Air can be characterized both by a back and forth oscillation between speaking and listening as well as by an exchange in which the listener and speaker keep their roles throughout.  When you end a conversation and feel like you have really connected with someone, expressed yourself, or felt like you saw a new side of thing, but nothing specific was accomplished and no decisions or new steps were taken, then you probably had an Air conversation.

Phrases and keywords that typify Air communication:

“Is is like…?”, “What about…?”, “Are you trying to say…?”, “Have you considered…?”, “What if…?”, “So what I’m hearing you say is…”, “So if I have this right…”, “And then what happened?”, “How did you respond to…?”, “What was it like for you when…?”, “Could you try to rephrase that for me so I can understand you better?”

Because so much of daily interaction takes place in the Water realm, techniques for moving into Air can be some of the most practically valuable.  Try to look at the other person without speaking, and wait an extra bit before responding.  It can help to take a few deep breaths, not thinking of anything but the breathing.  Smile.  Suggest something complementary or reciprocal.  Ask “what if…?”  Ask more questions than you make statements.  Try switching seats with your partner, or everyone can get up and move to different seats.  When trying to move out of Water, it can be important to avoid conversations in spaces that are designated for other purposes, especially work areas or places in which you can be easily interruptible.  It is best to create and keep a ‘safe’ place for communication – a neutral place not associated with personal attachments and drama.  For this reason places that are new to the participants can be good for Air conversation, and moving to a different location can be very helpful in the midst of a discussion.

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