Also check out the United Front: Internal Communication Course.
These are some possible techniques to help a system build internal communication. Generally speaking, they're listed in an order that is progressive so that systems with very little internal communication New can try the first few methods and work their way up through the chain.
What is Communication? - Don't skip this!
Communication doesn't take place when someone makes an effort to impart a message to others. Communication happens when someone receives the attempted message and interprets it. In other words, communication is the art of listening or interpreting messages, not speaking or broadcasting messages.
This means an attempted communication is only completed when a message is received and correctly interpreted. Otherwise it's either a miscommunication (if interpreted incorrectly) or an attempt to communicate (if it fails altogether).
So communication is not about shouting or ranting — it is more about getting the message. And that happens best when you allow yourself to receive the message hopefully as it was intended. Thus communication is an art of listening, and allowing yourself to receive a communication attempt by another.
You came to this page likely to learn how to broadcast more effectively. But it's likely that there are attempts at communication going on all the time in your system, and you're just not receiving them. So we're hoping you learn how to listen, but we'll also give plenty of ways to attempt to broadcast messages of various types below, and some tips on how to listen for responses.
So we highly suggest that you learn how to allow yourself to receive messages, not force an interpretation on a message, and be open to a variety of forms of message. A cat or dog communicates by its tail. Not all communication is words or sounds. Folk in-system can be non-verbal, can communicate in a variety of non-verbal ways just like we communicate in more than verbal ways in external life.
Why communicate with your system members?
It matters little whether the relationship is internal or external: lack of communication is a major source of relationship issues.
So first you might challenge whether you're in a relationship with the others in your system. You share a life and body. You may have an adversarial relationship. You may simply be related by being in the same body or system, by design, but not by choice. It doesn't matter. You don't choose other relationships you end up in, whether family, schoolmates, coworkers… the fact is, there's a relationship there. You have a relationship with your community, whether internal or external. Your neighbors, landlord, the store workers where you shop, the receptionist at the doctor's office… relationships are everywhere you go. And they can be cordial and productive, or they can be tense, anxiety-provoking, and create problems.
Lack of communication creates a major problem in all relationships. As an overgeneralization, it seems that most people are concerned with whether they get to say their piece (broadcast), and less concerned about whether or not they are understood or understand the other folk in any of many given relationships (whether a completed communication actually took place).
When we don't successfully communicate with those we're in relationships with, it erodes the trust in the relationship. Progress is lost, and friction arises, making the relationship more difficult for everyone involved.
By improving communication, we can understand, negotiate, compromise, and build up goodwill with others. As we convey ideas, ideals, ethics, principles, and build up a cultural understanding with them we may even find that we build up trust, and tolerance for mistakes, miscommunications, and missteps. Good communication can have very positive effects that can withstand bad moments and result in overall improvement for everyone involved.
Communication can be about allowing, and about expectations.
Expectations: don't expect sounds & words
Our expectations can affect communication because we may be limiting the messages we receive by expecting communication attempts to show up only in certain explicit ways, such as words. Accept all types of communication. There are a great number of broadcasting vehicles listed on this page, but some attempts can appear as:
- "knowing" (telepathy without words, "mindspeak")
- hearing (words, sounds, mumbles, growls, purrs, etc.)
- emoting (projected feelings/emotions, empathic communication)
- signing (gesturing, sign language, posture, body-language)
- & more…
So we recommend that you be open to more than just words from your headmates so that you can receive their communication attempts. And that will improve your overall group communication.
There are some skills that are more about letting go and relaxing than about effort. For example, floating on water is an excellent example. The more you struggle, the more you "try", the less you're able to float. It's about laying back and letting go. And a little faith that it's possible.
Sleep is also like this. It's easier to fall asleep if you lay back and relax into it. The harder you "try" to fall asleep, often the less asleep you become.
Since communication is about listening, and not always with your ears or audio processing brain parts, it's much easier to relax and be receptive than to strain to "hear" when you aren't sure what type of listening you need to be doing.
Facilitation or mediation
Generally facilitation or mediation is only required for more challenging conversational environments: group meetings, or disputes/debates.
Often communication can be facilitated or enhanced when someone with goodwill holds the space and monitors the conversation. They may guide or lead the conversation, ensure that communication is fair and keeps to a baseline of courtesy, track who speaks the most and ensure that those who have not had a chance get to speak, and track who wishes to speak next or suggest tabling a topic for another time or the end of the discussion when it takes too long or folk are getting too emotional about it.
So the question is whether someone will facilitate a conversation or meeting, and if so, whom? Generally it's someone with less stakes in the conversation, who does not expect to need to speak as much, who can pay attention to meta-conversation details rather than being bogged down in the actual content itself. So the best facilitators are ones that have less skin in the game if you will. Over time, skilled facilitators can have more at stake and pay attention to several things at the same time. But in the meantime, someone fairly neutral and self-aware is a good choice for a facilitator of group conversations or a mediator when there's a dispute.
When trust is higher or less is at stake overall, less facilitation or mediation is needed and the facilitator role can be less energy-consuming or eliminated altogether.
House Rules: Communication Safety
Some systems may need to implement communication "safety" agreements or guidelines. Some ideas include:
- Non-interferance: no one is allowed to destroy or deface anyone else's art, writing, or other attempts at selves-expression or communication.
- Salt: please take communication attempts of others with a grain of salt. Communication is clumsy at the best of times, so if something seems offensive or rude, please ask for clarification before taking offense if possible.
- Compassion: the Golden or Platinum rule: either treat others the way you would like to be treated, or treat them the way they would like to be treated; whichever is more compassionate and kind.
General Communication Mediums
There seems to be 4 general groupings of communication mediums that we Crisses can identify (hopefully we figure out more). They are:
- Where the attempt or response uses body sensations or physical attributes to broadcast or get a response. Going by "gut feeling". Everyone shares the same body, and are hooked into the neurology of your body on some level and so your body reacts to their attempts to communicate or broadcast. See Litmus Test, Pendulum Method New, and physiological tells (differences when various alters front) which are a type of unconscious physiological broadcast.
- These are a potential hybrid of somatic/body-based response and other ways of getting feedback from your& system. So a response can be a sensation, or it can be emotional, knowing, auditory, etc. Pings (below), mood maps or heat maps (these map methods are on the Mapping: Headmaps, Self-Maps, System Diagrams, Internal Landscape maps, etc. page), and Roll Calls (below). While the responses you get are entirely valid, they may not be as detailed or refined as words. Some system mates may never go any further than basic communication.
- This is a medium where discussion with words or complex concepts is possible. Can include mindspeak, verbal/auditory, sign language, writing, etc. and allows for topic discussions, chatting, holding basic meetings, talking aloud and getting a detailed response, etc.
- This is a blend of communication mediums with a level of coconsciousness that allows for larger forum-based mediums (as in group work). All-hands meetings (where everyone possible or who so desires is in attendance), holding internal classes, (sub)committee meetings, debates, workgroups, etc. Depending on the level of coconsciousness, meetings may take more or less external-world attention, focus, time, etc. If everyone participating can mindspeak, for example, discussions can take place faster than they might in the external world.
Broadcasting: Examples of Communication Attempts, and Responses that often go with them
These are some example ways that plural/DID/OSDD/multiple systems have been known use to foster communication. By no means is this list exhaustive (see also Stronghold's video linked at the end which covers many more ideas), and whatever works for y'all is valid! But folk often are looking for ideas to try out, so we have gathered many ideas here.
General Broadcasts - Public Address, Intention of Allowing
One of the most basic forms of communication is a simple intention or broadcast throughout your system. Sometimes just the intention to allow others to be able to hear or know what is going on can help share information.
This skill can be encouraged or upgraded with better and better Internal Landscapes or Inner Worlds communication and broadcasting equipment. Speakers, public address systems, public address spells, megaphones, whatever it takes to allow others to hear or witness in any way what is going on, and allow easier dissemination of information throughout the system can be enormously helpful towards allowing others to feel included and help build system trust and a sense of reassurance that folk are in the know about things that affect them.
This can also help prevent some types of bowling-over front such as when someone wants to know what's going on or be informed. If they don't have to be front to find out, they won't have to take over front in order to get the information they want.
Pings, Attendance, Polls
These are similar ideas that can help you make a simple list of your headmates (the first type of headmap that anyone can attempt to make).
"Ping" is a term that comes from computer networking to describe a very simple or rudimentary form of internal communication. You basically get 3 answers from a ping attempt: yes, no, or nothing (no answer). Sometimes you might even get a sense of how near or far the person in your system is (time to response, how "loud" the answer is, etc.).
To ping a headmate, you send out a simple "Are you there?" mental signal and listen for a response of some type, even just a knowing or sense of assurance that yes, they are. Generally you need to know a headmate exists to "ping" them, but this can help with verifying that someone still responds to a name you are aware of. Names are not required, though. You think of them and ask if they're there.
Pings allow us to take attendance at meetings, even if we can't see who is present due to a lack of visual ability in our inner world, or if we're multitasking and doing things outside our body while holding meetings. Pings can become more differentiated, into simple "yes/no" or "agree/disagree" so that you can poll your head on questions or agreements on the fly. So even when you have more elaborate forms of communication, pings are very useful for quickly taking attendance, or doing "straw polls" without commentary or discussion on the fly.
Responses may be brief and fleeting, quiet, vague, distant. But we recommend trusting even these fleeting and uncertain communication attempts from afar. If you know they're out there, just trust that they're trying to communicate back to you.
The next step after pinging headmates would be doing an actual Roll-Call — this is a request for everyone present to please sound off their name or designation or label.
Usually it's a query of "Who are you?" and gets a short response of a name. This is an alternate way to take attendance at meetings, but is very useful when someone shows up whom you haven't met, you can inquire what to call them or ask for their name, and listen for a response. Again, responses aren't always verbal, or visual.
Again, the appropriate response to a roll-call style request is your name or other designation for how others in your system can address you.
Creating maps of your system is one of the easiest ways to help increase internal communication and gauge where your internal communication is already. You can start with just a list (see Ping/Attendance or Roll Call above), and create more elaborate maps later. For help on this topic, please see the Mapping: Headmaps, Self-Maps, System Diagrams, Internal Landscape maps, etc. page.
In terms of communication attempts, creating maps can distract Front in a way that allows more communication to happen. You can send images to Front, nudge them for corrections on the map, send feels of hey don't forget me! etc. As the person fronting or drawing the map, you can be open to listening for these corrections, or allow others to control the instruments you're creating the headmap with — practice letting someone control your hands for example if they want to finish an area of the map for you.
This is a method of using a small hand-held device and allowing subconscious muscle movements or tension etc. to move the device to get simple yes/no/maybe answers to questions.
Content Warning: some spiritual and religious groups use this dowsing method as a method of "divination". Due to this we have moved the instructions and illustrations to their own page New so that people who click on this page are not triggered by it. The page has it's own content warnings and a lengthy non-spiritual explanation of how the method works so folk don't have to search the internet for information on it and run across that type of potentially-triggering information or uses of this method.
You can use a whiteboard, sticky notes, a wall calendar, or fridge magnets and paper for passing notes around your system. This can be external or internal.
We (Crisses) have a variety of ways to leave ourselves notes which includes electronic reminders, TaskWarrior (our to-do list system), a planner (in which we plan the bigger things like projects and keep tabs on how we're doing, gratitude, accomplishments, and the big-picture view), a bulletin board (mostly to use magnets and slips of paper on), meal planning & kitchen inventory on our fridge, etc.
Carry around a notebook expressly for the purpose of jotting down important notes/announcements/apointments to one another. Sign and date/time each entry. If something needs to be announced to the group then write "Hey, everybody..." or "Everybody, listen, we have a doctor's appointment on Thursday 4/4/4 at 4pm -- the name of the doctor is X, the office is at Y, the phone number is Z. You get to Y by going to..." -- if you tend to lose time and miss appointments, be very specific about where you need to be, when, how to get there, and if you have a friend who knows you're multiple, include a phone number in the book somewhere for someone to call if you're having problems. A good place for people to list things they want from the grocery store.
Responses will generally be written, added to the book. They may include marginal comments. We like to leave some extra sticky notes in the back of our planner/notebook, and carry several writing instruments with our book.
A step-up from the bulletin board method or using an "anything journal" as an extended bulletin board, journals are a way to help foster internal communication and community. They can be free-form, or they can be topical (example: a gratitude journal).
A "journal" in its most free-flowing format is a place where anyone can write about their thoughts, dreams, hopes, fears, etc. Internals again should date and timestamp their journal entries if possible, so that they leave a paper trail for others in case anyone loses time. This method doesn't work for all systems, because sometimes they don't wish to share their thoughts with each other...or some people have a hard time leaving journals and diaries laying around due to other people in the home. Other options include password-protected online diaries and applications for journaling, if you can all know the same password.
This method can work whether or not you are coconscious with your headmates.
note that reading past entries in journals can lead to some pretty funky multiple moments as you see your handwriting change, and read entries in your handwriting that you definitely don't remember writing...
Discussion Format (Topics, Q&A)
This idea overlaps with the Typed meetings idea below. The main difference is that here we expect that you're not very cocon or able to have a real-time discussion, so there are likely to be full switches, lost time, and surprise! a new entry in your discussion when you check in.
One can also have diaries/journals/forums specifically for time-shifted conversation or discussion. So rather than a "diary"-like entry, like mentioned above, one can specifically create journals for internal ongoing discussions. A question, topic, etc. can be entered in the journal and some way of numbering or cross-referencing pages (in case one needs to continue a previous topic deeper into the book) will be helpful so that you don't run out of room on a specific topic.
This format works for folk who switch without being coconscious, but also is very similar to the method mentioned below for taking meeting notes even for cocon systems.
The first entry in these formats is usually some type of welcome page that explains what it's for, how to use it, and any conventions for how to use it that people want to discuss or agree upon. If it's online, you might need to leave others a message offline somehow for how to access the online system to see the discussion.
Autowriting can happen at any time and includes autotyping. Sometimes inner people find autowriting easier than talking, or switching to front. To do this more-or-less on purpose, hold a pen and piece of paper and just start writing whatever comes to mind, on purpose -- stream of consciousness. When you have a good stream-of-consciousness-to-pen flow going, start to pay less attention to the stream of consciousness and allow your own thoughts to wander independently of what is guiding the pen, observe the pen, the paper, the words as they flow to the paper, but no longer purposefully guide the pen or the words to follow your thoughts, and see if someone else takes over the hand/pen and starts to write to you... If you get good at autowriting you can have a directed conversation on paper or in a text document. Sorta like chatting with someone else in your head.
For more, including instructions on learning to autowrite, see CanWeTalkThisOver.
Autowriting is a multiple moment. Watching your hands type what someone else is thinking is weird. But it's also kinda neat.
This is like an internal phone tree. In some systems, internal communication is inconsistent and this is a way to find out whether there are those inside who can hear and communicate with others. It can start with an "everybody listen and please pass along" announcement — although it can sometimes target someone in particular. If you don't know how to talk to individual residents in your head, or to everyone in your head, you can still ask people inside to pass along messages. This helps you talk not just to Sue-Ann but to her subsystem as well, for example. So you discuss something with her, and she passes the information along by simply repeating it. This effectively makes individuals in your head a relay -- and can also work when talking to people outside your body, the person who is front becomes the relay -- it's not necessary to switch fronts just to have someone send a message to a specific resident or the general population.
Talking out loud
This should not be done via rapid switching if at all possible. Consider this similar to autotyping except that you give over your mouth and vocal cords to whomever wants to say something.
You can also do this one-sided, and get the responses internally rather than having both/all sides of a conversation externally. So it would end up sounding like you're having a phone conversation as you pause and listen for internal responses.
Multiple moment: This can definitely make your multiplicity very obvious as you hear the variations in voice, phrasing, emphasis and emotional content, ideas, intelligence/experience levels, etc. and you are not the one thinking the thoughts that are coming through. You will likely want to do this when others cannot overhear you. It may also challenge any illusions you have via internalized singular-centrism.
For more information on how to handle this, please see Talking Out Loud Tips New.
Sometimes you can improve communication by limiting external focus and sensory challenges and having quiet time to focus internally. Depending on the system and front in question, this might include closing one's eyes, eliminating music or noise distractions, or light trance states like meditation.
So long as the space and timing is safe and distraction-free, and concerns about losing time are addressed such as setting timers or maintaining Here & Now anchors in the external world, this should be a safe skill to practice.
Quiet time can be a good time for meetings or more complex internal communications. At the same time, some trauma holders may choose quiet times to try to get the system's attention to work on issues and problems. A balance may be good, or working with trauma holders during therapy and holding meetings or getting to know each other or hanging out together outside of therapy. Negotiate times to allow folk to do lighter or more difficult work if that's at all possible.
Eventually you may want to simply have conversations openly within your head. Any of the other methods can still be used for any reasons, with people unable to be co-aware or access the Here & Now New, and you might find that there's a group of people who can talk-inside and several who haven't achieved that ability yet and you need to use other methods to talk to them.
Straw Polls - Quick Votes
This advanced technique would include holding a somatic poll for simple opinions and elections or other votes at the somatic level of interaction. Since responses from folk who are not in the Here & Now may not be relevant to your current life, using these methods for important decisions can lead to skewed results if used before the majority of your system is present in the Here&Now. The benefit of using this level of polling when your system is more advanced in coconsciousness and presence is that it's an extremely quick way to get an answer on a topic without taking the time for discussion, and can be employed on-the-fly to get permission or an overall opinion on an external matter quickly. You can poll only the coconscious cohort if that's necessary.
Meeting Notes, Chatting, Typed Journals
If you want to journal in an electronic format, hold meetings and take typed meeting notes, or even on paper you want to be able to easily track who says what — or "tag" what you say in a chat or other typed document — you can use shorthand methods to show who is talking. One way is to replace quotation marks with other symbols... or put a symbol at the beginning of each paragraph for whom is talking.
Then you can write in any application — Notepad, Notes on Apple devices, Microsoft Word, Day Once with a password — or any other journaling application you want to use.
Special note for journaling on a mobile device — you may want to choose an application that syncs between devices or a text document in a dropbox folder, etc. And you'd want to use a method of "tagging" that's easy to type on your mobile keyboard…
Due to privacy concerns, we suggest something passworded & encrypted. Preferably something limited to your own devices and your encrypted documents are sync'd through a cloud service like iCloud or Dropbox.
So a mobile device conversation could look like this:
A. What do we want for dinner? é. I want asparagus.
Or if you only use a keyboard-enabled device, you can easily use other symbols for different people:
*Hi, this is, Star* †And this is Taelee.†
A more advanced and colorful version of this would be to use typesetting "styles" in any half-decent word processing program, hopefully with shortcuts or an easy sidebar menu you can click on such as Microsoft Word or Apple Pages. Pages on iOS also has styles in it, accessible by a drop-down menu when you have your cursor in a paragraph.
Note that if you use Grammarly, your word processing program contents are NOT PRIVATE. Grammarly sends your information to the cloud to correct the document! Also, Google Docs is not private, it's on the cloud, and technically Google has access to it.
Crisses is using a PmWiki-based wiki journal and you can find information and instructions here New.
Run-Books, Indexes, Cheatsheets, etc.
See Run-Book(s), Control Journal(s), and Tracking Information for Systems New for tips on consolidating lists, instructions, cheat-sheets, indexing complex information between headmates whether y'all have a larger system, a lot of amnesia, or highly silo'd skill sets, etc.
More tips on communication techniques
Stronghold's video covers the more modern tools available, like social media applications and email.
For more about organizing meetings, see this category.
Mirror writing exercise
You hold a crayon/marker in each hand and with a big paper you scribble draw in a mirror or write in a mirror way with both hands at the same time, it links the brain hemispheres in a weird way, opens up communication.
If you have used every method above, you have likely developed some level of co-awareness and co-consciousness New. If you still have trouble go back to our notes about allowing at the top of the page, and check into our new Allowing New to check out other ideas for relaxing and leaning into internal processes.
If you're having a particularly difficult time with internal communication, you may want to listen to our System Trust Issues New podcast series, especially on Boundaries & Empathy, but the rest may be relevant. It's possible that the reason that you're unable to communicate is because either there are inner system boundary issues, or because there's trust issues going on such as name-calling, that are creating additional stresses in your system so you can't communicate with each other (or folk don't want to because they're upset or resentful).
- Allowing (as opposed to Trying) New
- Building Co-consciousness New
- Can we talk this over?
- Discovering Your& Internal Landscape New
- Finding Your Others
- Full Merging, Unification, Alter Integration — Terminology, Controversy, & Issues
- Help! We're new to our DID New
- Here & Now New
- Internal Communication New
- Internal Landscape FAQ New
- Meetings, Part 2
- Onboarding Residents (024) New
- Stuck Residents aka stowaways, lost souls, non-coaware identities, emotional parts, etc. New
- Unification aka Final Fusion (FF), Full Final Merging, Integration, Alter Integration - an overview of the ISST-D Guidelines for treatment of adults with DID with much notes and suggestions New
- What is co-awareness?
- Working on Work-Life Skills: plurals on the job, on the go, getting things done, managing life New