Here’s a short animation created by a young person who has experienced Horizontal Communication in action https://youtu.be/51SFZ32qugg
Oppressive communication flows down a power hierarchy. The person with the most power, the person on top, gets to talk. The person below gets to listen (and comply). Whether we try to win (get on top or stay on top) or make ourselves into martyrs (put ourselves under), we’re in Vertical mode. For every ‘win’ there must be a ‘lose’. When we disagree with someone, we compete to see “who’s right”. ‘Respect’ is interpreted as ‘deference’: deference is when you politely submit to a person with more power – even if you despise them.
Horizontal communication flows between equals. Either may speak to the other, and each will listen to the other. No permission is needed for either to speak, and neither can be forced to speak or listen against their will. The experience is one of deepening connection and win-win. When we disagree with someone, we work to see what we can learn, and what creative innovation will come from our synergy. ‘Respect’ is interpreted as acknowledging the dignity, feelings, needs, and rights of others.
Vertical Communication is currently so normal in our world that we mostly don’t even realise that we’re using it. Horizontal Communication is a new set of habits that can be built with ongoing practice. Horizontal Communication can bring about a completely different quality of life experience and level of satisfaction in relationships, as well as higher quality real-world solutions and innovations that would otherwise be impossible.
The more we disagree, the more we need to listen