Let your speech be always full of grace, seasoned with salt. ~ Colossians 4:6
Have you ever started an innocent conversation with someone only to have it disintegrate into anger or frustration? We sometimes try to pinpoint where it all went wrong; but a more useful starting point may be, “What can I do to prevent it?” Other than those lopsided encounters with someone who talks as if there’s no tomorrow, most conversations include a give and take in which we alternate roles of speaker and listener. Following are “ground rules” that can be helpful in any interaction. The focus here is on the speaker role and, in particular, those talks in which you need to address an area of conflict, a sensitive topic, or something that bothers you. By “speaker role” I mean times when you have a complaint against someone as opposed to those situations when someone’s pointing out a problem he has with you.
Is this really an issue?
It’s amazingly easy to get caught up in drama. Before you go charging into a fray, ask yourself, “Is this important, or am I making a big deal out of nothing?” It’s so tempting to convince ourselves that we’re dealing with a real problem. Put it on hold for a day or two before addressing the issue. Allowing your emotions to take over is counter-productive; approach the situation as calmly as possible. By taking a long deep breath you enable yourself to be objective.
Resolve to be respectful with the other person. In order for you to be effective it will help a great deal if you aren’t critical. Being negative or condescending will alienate others and make it difficult for them to listen to your perspective. Rather than point out how he’s wrong, focus instead on a goal. It’s easy for a person to feel defensive. If he does, let him know that you simply want a new outcome.
Being direct is probably the most difficult of all these guidelines. Too often we tiptoe around an issue and don’t say exactly what we mean. This doesn’t mean you should “just be honest.” We sometimes use honesty as an excuse to be mean. At the same time it’s important that you get to the point. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that being direct is offensive; it isn’t, if your intention is one of compassion and respect. A great way to be direct is to take responsibility for your choices and thoughts. Rather than saying, “I don’t think what you’re doing is right,” say, “I want you to stop what you’ve been doing.” In the first statement you place the responsibility on morality – right and wrong; in the second statement you take the responsibility yourself – “This is what I want.”
You can get off track in thousands of ways. Regardless what the other person says, remember the reason you brought up the discussion; return to the topic anytime either of you veers off course. If the other person makes some kind of counter-argument, acknowledge it when true; but return to your original issue. Don’t get caught up with tangential problems.
Be willing to listen.
Finally, sometimes it’s important to change to the listener role. Learn how to ask questions, see the other person’s point of view, and create a connection. Make connection your primary goal rather than resolution – communication first, solution later. Your efforts to become a better speaker and listener can create the foundation necessary for problem solving and result in deeper, richer relationships.
Please see my article on listening Effective Communication & Listening.
Life Coach Austin, Texas
Effective Communication – Speak Respectfully & Directly – Article © 2009
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. ~ Robert Frost
Every now and then, someone writes a book, prophesies a future, or reveals a truth of nature with startling insight and pristine clarity – books such as “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the prophets Moses or Edgar Casey, the revelations of atomic theory, forgiveness, relativity, or the unity of life and the universe. In a rush to maintain our notion of reality, we frequently vilify the messenger; later, people see the truth of the message and … the world changes.
The point isn’t about changing the world; it’s about changing ourselves. In “Selections from the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna,” author Andrew Harvey says, “We are all heading into a whirlwind of catastrophe, war, heartbreak on the one hand, and, on the other, of unprecedented opportunities for real transformation, on a massive, world-altering scale.” Isn’t that what humanity has been experiencing for millions of years? We will continually face war, pestilence, and destruction on the one hand, and, on the other, the possibility of peace and transformation. That’s not news; it’s reality; and it’s not going to stop happening – ever! It’s change and evolution. We make a mess of life and then make it worse, or we learn and then make it better. Life happens and we screw up, or not; and then it happens again; each time we’re on the threshold of heroism, villainy, or cowardice. We have choices to make.
The point isn’t what happens on the world stage; the point is, “what are you, personally, doing with your life?” The real message of the great men and women of history is not so much what they discovered, but the lives they led that opened their hearts and minds to those secrets. We each have within us that same spark of eternal wisdom patiently waiting to be ignited. Yes, life can be cruel and merciless; but it is also nurturing, benign, and lavish. In “War of Art,” Steven Pressfield presents us with “a rogue’s gallery of” evils lurking within each of our minds to sabotage our every attempt to take life by storm the moment we take a single step in that direction. His word for these evils is “resistance.” The endless list includes resistance of addiction, procrastination, drama, and self-doubt. The truth is you can overcome them; but to do so you must be the warrior – vigilant, diligent, and bold. Then, and only then, do you taste the sweet nectar of the life of the hero. You will make dozens of choices today. Each one will serve either your passion, the life you were meant to live, or fear.
What are your dreams? Are you living them? Do you want to be the singer in the band, run a marathon, own a bed and breakfast, take a year-long trip around the world, have six-pack abs, or be an interior designer? It doesn’t have to be an opus to change the world, but it has to be your opus. You have to work hard at it, that’s what it means to be the warrior. Are you telling yourself a story right now about how this is a nice idea, very poetic, but not reality? That’s Resistance! Fight it! That’s what the lives of Christ, the Buddha, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Aristotle were about. Daily, they fought the evil in their minds and, more importantly, they defeated it. They were authentic, they were true to themselves, and they were warriors. Take the road less traveled, live your opus, be the warrior.
Life Coach Austin, Texas
Change the World – Change Yourself & Live Your Dreams – Article © 2009
Bhagavad-Gita (from chapter 2)
Hell has three doors: lust, rage, and greed. These lead to man’s ruin. Therefore he must avoid them all. He who passes by these three dark doors has achieved his own salvation. He will reach the highest goal at last.
For when you come to think of it, the only way to love a person is not … to coddle them and bring them soup when they’re sick, but by listening to them and seeing and believing in the god, in the poet in them. ~ Brenda Ueland
The first element of communication, speaking, is impossible without the second, listening; to be a good speaker you must be a good listener. We all want to speak; and even more, we want to be heard. When we become good listeners we create the possibility of a captive audience – people who want to hear what we have to say. In his essay, “The Statesman,” playwright Henry Taylor poetically expresses this idea: “No siren did ever so charm the ear of the listener as the listening ear has charmed the soul of the siren.”
Listening, however, is a big challenge; even when we try hard our unconscious mind still thinks, “Soon it will be my turn.” We swim in an emotional hotbed of thought and experience, and it’s difficult to quiet its demands long enough to hear and understand what someone really means. Add to that the fact that the other person may not be clear about his own message!
Become a listening artist. The art of communication is about creating and strengthening relationships. An adept listener strives first to understand others and second to create a feeling within others of being understood. Your best goal is not to find a solution to whatever problem you may have with someone; the ideal goal is the tapestry of connection which is a result of putting aside for a moment your own frame of reference. A solution is much easier to find once you’re on the same page. To become competent at listening, learn to remain in the listener role until you have a “meeting of minds.” Respond and speak, but remain in the listener role. This means you don’t get to express your point of view! What you have to say may be important, but don’t do it until you’ve created a bond, a sense of oneness.
We sometimes struggle acknowledging someone’s point of view out of fear of losing our identity or fear that we may somehow become compromised. Recognition of someone’s ideas doesn’t require agreement; its intention is a dance of understanding. Acknowledging someone with sincerity puts him at ease, helps him feel less vulnerable, more open. We often become defensive, feeling that someone is attacking us. Approach communication with the notion that another’s beliefs are merely that; they are her personal ideas, and as such don’t have anything to do with you or anyone else. In “The Four Agreements,” author Don Miguel Ruiz says, “Others are going to have their own opinion according to their belief system, so nothing they think about me is really about me, but it is about them.” His “Second Agreement” is concise and powerful, “Don’t take it personally.”
Create listening music. Be curious; ask questions to better grasp the other person’s meaning. Don’t defend, justify, or criticize. Do not explain how your perspective is correct or why your actions were valid. Do not ask questions meant to invalidate another’s thinking or to validate your own ideas. Be authentic, not “sweet.” True listening is not a passive enterprise but an active extension of yourself into the heart of another, which in turn invites and draws him out into a song of rapport.
Listen; you would be wise!
Life Coach Austin, Texas
Effective Communication & Listening – How to Listen Actively (article) © 2009
17”For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.
18Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.”
The distinction between past, present and future is only an illusion, however persistent. ~ Einstein
Time is a measure of change. It is like many wonderful inventions that help us better communicate and interact with each other. Law, government, money, space, time and countless other ideas can be useful in making sense of the world, our relationships with each other and life. Time is a man-made idea. It has no intrinsic existence – in reality, time does not exist – only the present moment is real.
The past, like the future, exists only in our minds. It certainly does one good to study history and to review one’s past but only as an aid to experience peace now. Instead, our egos endlessly recreate perceived wrongs by others and our own failures and shortcomings. We imagine moments long dead and thereby imprison ourselves in anguish. In the same way, it can be useful to plan for the future, set goals and focus one’s energy on manifesting a joyful life. Rather, we drown in fearful and egotistical illusions of futures unreal but in our minds. We abuse life by fashioning times that are not real.
Only in this moment do you have the opportunity to seek the truth, experience reality, take heroic action, find love and know God. No other time exists.
Life Coach Austin Texas
Time Is in Your Mind There’s Only Now © 2008
Who forces time is pushed back by time; who yields to time finds time on his side.
Love is the emblem of eternity. It confounds all notion of time, effaces all memory of a beginning, all fear of an end. ~ Germaine De Stael
All that I fear or cherish is finite and temporary. It will end. As I embrace this truth, I find myself dwelling more and more on something that endures: love. Not the emotional love that can be wildly erratic – up and exciting one moment, down and frustrating the next. Rather, true love that is infinite and eternal. As I place my focus on this love, I create for myself the opportunity of a rapidly evolving life, one in which each day finds me more peaceful and fulfilled than the last. This is the truth that will set me free.
Life Coach Austin Texas
Eternal Love © 2005
1John 4:16 (NIV)
… God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.