Just Words?

How aware and truly present are we in our conversations? I mean really!!… Are you aware?

We talk to each other throughout our entire day, and conversation is our main means in connecting with others, and yet how truly present are we in our communication?

From the words we choose, to the thoughts going on in our head while another is speaking, right down to body language and eye contact.

By no means am I an expert at communication. As a matter of fact, this is another piece of my life’s forever work! Through the many years, months, and days I spent in therapy and counseling much of the focus was on my communication via words, tone, and body language. I am actually quite intrigued with this topic so I feel I am very observant of what’s taking place during conversation. It’s always educating, enlightening and powerful ~ with still so much to learn and shift! Not only does it help with my self-worth, it allows for a better connection with others.

When it comes to communicating there are a few big ‘ism’s’ that stick out for me. I’d love to share a couple of them with you!

This first one I’ve been observing a lot lately… You know when you’re sharing your feelings or a situation with another and as soon as you are done talking (or before you’re done!) they immediately jump into their own ‘similar’ experience… with no intrigue or reflection on what you just shared. As Journalist, Author, Speaker, Musician, Celeste Headlee puts it, “Don’t equate your experience with theirs.”

Not sure about you but all I know is when this happens I feel like I want to completely stop sharing with them altogether.

Conversations are not a competition ~ they are opportunities and openings to be vulnerable, to share, and create deeper connections. So let others have their individual story, even if you have experienced a similar scenario. Listen to them whole-heartedly, learn, validate, and explore their story. Do whatever arises in that moment of conversation to demonstrate real human connection and interest. Heck, I have to bite my tongue ‘til it bleeds sometimes so as not to interrupt, or agree, or equate, or throw in my two cents. Whatever you do, don’t make it immediately about yourself. After all, they did choose to share themselves and their story with you, so honor it. We have all experienced this type of communication where the other immediately takes back the conversation to equate their story to yours. It’s not cool. And it feels very disregarding. So let’s make a shift and take the lead in respecting the space of the other’s sharing. You’ll get your turn. And trust me when it’s your turn to be heard, if they demonstrate reciprocal listening, you’ll feel the warm fuzzies inside too. I know you get it!!

When it comes to listening, one of my favorite reminders for myself is ‘take the cotton out of my ears and put it in my mouth.’ Stephen Covey says it more beautifully, “Most of us don’t listen with the intent to understand, we listen with the intent to reply.”

Growing up in my perfectly dysfunctional home I never felt heard so I created a belief pattern that if I kept talking, and talking LOUD enough, that I would eventually be heard. I know now that was never the truth! And it sure as heck didn’t work! It would take a lot more than loud talking. Lol! 😉 …I digress. 

So now, the moment I hear the committee going off in my head while I am in the middle of a conversation with someone I quickly dismiss them so I can be present in my listening. It is not about me and I do not need to prove my story to them or rehearse my reply while they are sharing. So rude! It’s about awareness. We can all become more present with a bit of practice.

So let’s move on to those fun words like “but”, “should”, and the mixed messages of the ‘no, yes’ statements. This last one is trickier. Let me try to give an example — Say you are talking about a teacher and one of you says, “She is the best teacher around.” Then the other replies, “No, she really is the best.” Did you see that?! Confusing, yes?! Start REALLY listening and you’ll be shocked at how often people give a yes (agreeing) response but start the sentence with a “No”. It’s confusing to the subconscious… you are just not consciously computing the confusion. I’m going to leave this topic right where it is for now ‘cuz it feels complex and you just really have to experience it to wrap your head around it. See if you can notice it though ~ it’s happening in conversations daily!

Now for the “but” and “should”. The word BUT negates everything that came before it. In other words, we tend to put our attention on whatever comes after BUT. I know it’s likely the person is meaning to be helpful or complimentary. But then they demolish the effect with these three little letters. [See how I did that?!]. I have been trained (yes by my brilliant counselors!) to pay attention in using this word (and I still screw it up sometimes!). Check out these examples…

“I really want to come to your party BUT…”. “That wasn’t too bad BUT…”.
Ouch, right?! I often replace BUT with AND. “I had a great time with you AND next time let’s go to dinner before the movie instead of after.” Now of course this little word does have a place. How about if you want to emphasize the positive over the negative. Like, “It was not your best performance BUT I know you’ll kick butt tomorrow.” Similar to teaching Pilates, it’s often the smallest of movements or corrections that give the biggest gain. So too it can be true with our words… with a touch of awareness.

And that leaves us with “should”. “I shoulda done this, I shoulda done that.” I was once told to stop “shoulda-ing” myself. That really hit home for me! To me the word SHOULD implies we didn’t do right, or bluntly, we did wrong. It is a criticism of ourselves and others.

I love replacing SHOULD with COULD. When I hear others rattling off sentences with ‘should’ I immediately hear my inside voice replace it with ‘could’. Sometimes I actually make a comment out loud… oh yes my outside voice. The other day my friend made a comment that “They SHOULD have told me that before I got there.” I replied, “They COULD have.”… with a big (sh%t eating) grin on my face, of course! 🙂 Try it! Next time it slips out of your mouth try repeating the sentence again with COULD. It kinda changes everything… feels less harsh and more forgiving. I coulda done this, I coulda done that. Well…. I didn’t. So let’s move on!

I love communicating and understand it’s my job to clean up my own communication. We are bound to the language and words we have created as humans. Sometimes it’s not enough, sometimes there are no words to describe our thoughts, feelings, and what-nots. So we do our best.

Here’s my pledge: I promise to continue my efforts in listening deeply; I promise to drift away thoughts that may stir in my mind while someone else is talking so I can remain present; I promise to let their sharing be their own and be an active participant in their experience; I promise to hold back any [human ego] desire to share my ‘similar’ experience and/or tell them I know exactly what they are talking about… I mean really!! That is never true.
I promise to continue to be aware of the words that come out of my mouth so they will be as loving, patient, understanding, and kind as I can muster. And being human, I know I will fail some days even at my best. This actually still happens more often than I’d like to believe. Ugh.

So in my on-going practice of clear and thoughtful communication, will you offer grace? And will YOU pledge to keep these promises with me?
I so love being in this together.  Let’s talk soon!

Big love. ♥

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