Clear and coherent communication is a foundation of relationships, business and life.
If you want to develop mastery in communicating with others, you must develop mastery in communicating with yourself.
Here are 5 areas to master:
1- Listen with Compassion
Sometimes our inner voices say things. Mean things. Hateful things. These things come from deep parts of our wounded self. Our instinct is often to judge them. Judging just throws more fuel on the fire. Instead, listen with compassion.
Think of those mean voices as the voices of scared children and treat them with the same tenderness.
We can also listen with compassion when others speak harshly to us, recognizing that they are projecting outward that which is happening within themselves.
2 – Listen to the Unsaid Words
Whether you’re listening to yourself or others, pay attention to the words being said, and the words not being said. We often speak volumes in our choices of what to omit. Sometimes those omissions are conscious. Often they are unconscious. What is not being said?
3 – Listen Beyond the Words
We communicate with our bodies, with our tone of voice, with our rhythm, our cadence.
Whether the speaker is you or someone else, notice when the speaker lowers their voice or raises it.
Notice the speaker’s pace — when they start speaking fast or slow. If you’re the speaker, notice if you’re choosing your pace intentionally. Pay attention to the emotional charge you hear. Notice the topic.
Look at body language. Does the speaker contract their body? Do they animate with their hands? How are they breathing?
Notice whether their words, tone, cadence, and body language feel in alignment.
Listen to yourself as you speak and notice what you notice here.
4- Listen with Your Body
Perhaps you’ve heard this saying:
God gave us 2 ears and one mouth so we would listen more than we talk.
It’s cute. A good reminder to listen more. And, when you hear someone speak, you are not just listening with your ears and processing through your mind.
All sound, including the sound of someone speaking, is vibration. We take in sound through our whole body and process it through our unconscious as well as our conscious mind.
While your brain is processing the words, the visual cues, and the dynamics, pacing, and other non-verbal cues and deducing what it means, your body is also processing everything. Your nervous system sends signals to your body that are not passing through your conscious mind.
Notice what’s happening in your body as you listen to someone speak. A few places to pay attention:
- Contraction or expansion, especially in the chest and belly.
- Your breathing. Is your breath shallow or deep? Are you holding your breath?
- Fidgeting. Foot tapping, playing with your hands,
- Your jaw and teeth. Is your jaw clenched or relaxed? Are you grinding your teeth?
- Hip flexors. Notice any sensation or contraction in your hips.
5 – Speak with Kindness
I put this last of the five because listening happens before speaking.
Speaking with kindness starts with ourselves. How we speak to ourselves is how we speak to others. If you are nasty to yourself, if you judge yourself, if you are harsh to yourself, you will be the same with others.