In spite of our desire to lash out, speak out, and be heard in moments of stress, anger and in leadership, the truth is and wisdom shows that listening is critical to meaningful communication, and at the end of the day that should be the goal, meaning, not noise.
From a 2012 Forbes article: “While some may be impressed with how well you speak, the right people will be impressed with how well you listen. The best leaders are proactive, strategic, and intuitive listeners. They recognize knowledge and wisdom are not gained by talking, but by listening. Take a moment and reflect back on any great leader who comes to mind…you’ll find they are very adept at reading between the lines. The best leaders possess the uncanny ability to understand what is not said, witnessed, or heard.”
The overarching message of the Forbes article, I believe is spot on, but also leaves out some pre-work if you are to communicate in a meaningful manner.
My heart-centric strategy of communication is comprised of four essential steps, in which the first three are aspects of being quiet, reserving step four, for speaking, therefore the ratio of listening to speaking is 3:1.
If you are to form purposeful relationships and communicate vision in a meaningful way then focusing on how to listen is essential to others and yourself.
Here are the four steps of heart-centric communication that prove to be powerfully efficient in regards to communicating effectively.
Step one: OPENNESS
Being authentically open while focused on relaxation allows for internal grounding at a deeper level, and this is where the conversation begins, with you. To be open do the following:
- Sit upright, breathe in and out through your nose, and consider how it feels to be open.
- Notice the feelings that arise with being open. Whatever they may be, just notice them, vulnerability, anxiety, exhilaration, it does not matter, what matters is you do not judge the feelings only take note of them.
- Whatever you felt was for you, do not label it, but now think about being open, as in authentic, and welcoming, by thinking about a place, a person, or a thing that makes you feel relaxed, safe and without worry.
- Note how your body, and your mind are different when you associate being open in this way, from where you initially began.
Step two: CONNECTION
When we listen, quietly and openly, without judgment, we make ourselves available for insight and opportunity. Now that you are open (step one), in a safe, positive space, continue to sit and listen, things will be said, your job is to simply bear witness to the conversation. When you simply witness, and listen you have effectively grown more self-aware, because you can see how you (in witnessing) are clearly not your thoughts.
I like to smile at my thoughts as I hear, and notice them; especially the negative ones, it keeps me focused and purposeful.
If you want to connect, with another or yourself on a deeper level, you must commit to listening and learn to listen.
- Listening is more than the absence of speaking.
- Listening happens in the moment (again and again).
- Listening keeps you engaged, and connected to who you are and to what the other person is saying.
- Listening is for insight, not agreement.
- Listening is respectful, not required, but when committed to listening:
- Builds trust and respect,
- Empowers people to release their emotions,
- Reduces tensions,
- Encourages the sharing of information,
- Creates safe environments
- Elicits openness,
and listening consciously leads to living fully.
Step three: CURIOSITY
Now with regards to whatever your thoughts were while listening, be curious and ask yourself, “How am I meeting this moment, what are the qualities of my heart and my mind with which I am responding to what I heard?”
Once answered, then focus not on what you want to say about your answer, but on WHY you want to say it, the feeling you have about it, the emotion underlying the message, and write that down, or keep it the focus of your attention.
When we are intentionally curious with listening, we become powerfully authentic when speaking.
Your intentions transform your listening into meaningful actions.
Step four: MATCHING
Now that you are open, aware, and intentional you have gained facts and clarified feelings around your thoughts, but you still can derail your communication even when you are authentic, if your authenticity does not meet the needs of the moment, the individual, and yourself.
What is needed, before you speak, is ensuring you match your emotions with purposeful words.
It used to be said of communicating and treating people, to “treat people the way you want to be treated,” and this has some validity as long as how you want to be treated matches how they want to be treated, however, people are unique (thankfully), and therefore, if you are to be heart-centric, and care about making a connection with others and yourself, then you must match, or “treat people how they want to be treated,” while at the same time remaining authentic and in alignment with your purpose.
In this way you commit to communicating in a wise, compassionate, and heart-centric way. At the deepest level, whenever you doubt yourself, or before you begin to speak, you can ask yourself, “does what I am about to say lead to well-being, benefit or happiness to myself and others?” If yes- then say it, and do it with appropriate emotion, and do not doubt why, but if it is not in alignment with who you are, or will not bring about happiness, or be of benefit, then remain silent, and remember that being silent does not mean you were quiet. Being quiet is not passive, and the silence you choose now can prepare you to communicate more effectively in another moment in the future. Another benefit is that in your silence you stayed aligned with your purpose and your heart, so you do not say anything you will regret later.
I have found that communicating in this heart-centric way creates deeper bonds with others and myself, and keeps me aligned in purposeful vision.
We often, science shows, intuitively, and instinctually act before we speak, like when we decide to hug someone, the conversation with the other person silently begins in our brain well before we hug and speak.
So remember: with your thoughts, go your actions, with your actions, so go your words, with your words, so goes your life.
Peace, be heart-centric.