This post goes out to everyone who has ever been in that situation where, while traveling on public transport, you hear that an important announcement is being made, but because it’s being mumbled over the PA system, you didn’t hear a word of it. Every time I’m on public transport and I strain to hear an announcement, it reminds me that the ability to communicate clearly is important for any job description. This is a great sequence for you if part of your job is making announcements over a PA system or microphone, if you’re preparing a speech that requires a microphone or if you’re working on camera. As we’ve discussed in other posts, microphones and PA systems are not very sophisticated technology, and we still have to have clear communication if we want to maximize their potential. This sequence is designed to help.
We’d love to hear your thoughts! Please let us know how it goes.
Talking is only one side of communication. And sometimes, when I look at the larger sociopolitical landscape of our world, it seems like there is a lot of talking. Platforms are sprouting up everywhere that allow people to make their viewpoints known across any medium. There seems to be much value placed on self-expression across these multiple platforms. This is why communication coaching on how you talk can be so valuable.
However, what seems to be lacking across these platforms is any emphasis on the importance of listening. Whether we’re talking about Twitter or a difficult face-to-face discussion, the only value seems to be on getting heard. I as a communication coach am often guilty of this. I want to empower people’s voices— that is at the heart of what I do. Sometimes, though, I’m putting too much emphasis on being heard, and not balancing that out with teaching my clients to listen, which actually, for many of us, is the harder thing to do: listening without interrupting, listening without immediately reacting, taking the time to consider another point of view— listening compassionately.
With that in mind, if you would like to train yourself to be a better listener, here are some simple steps to follow the next time you are in conversation. These steps are particularly important if you are having a difficult discussion or talking to someone whose opinion you disagree with.
Step 1: Breathe. I cannot talk enough about how crucial this step is. A lot of us hold our breath while we are listening to others. Sometimes this is why we can become so reactive— because our bodies are starting to panic from lack of oxygen. You don’t have to control your breathing, just make sure you aren’t holding it. You can even notice how what you are hearing is affecting your breathing rhythm. Breathe throughout the listening process and use your breathing to help you allow the other person to make their whole point (instead of interrupting halfway through). This also keeps you from focusing on preparing what you’re going to say next, which is what most of us do when we are listening, rather than actually listening. And definitely take another breath right before you respond, to make sure you don’t launch into a reaction you will regret later.
Step 2: Stay aware of your body. Often, especially when a viewpoint is difficult to hear, our energy tends to shoot upwards and we lose our grounding. This can lead to holding the breath and all of the pitfalls of breath-holding that are mentioned above. So keep checking in with where you are being supported by whatever surface you’re on while you’re listening. If you are sitting, where do you feel supported by the surface you’re sitting on? If you’re standing, where do you feel supported by the floor? It’s possible to be aware of these sensations as you listen to the other person talking, and helps you stay grounded as you do so.
Step 3: Listening is not about being an open receptacle for other people’s thoughts and feelings. You are allowed to have thoughts and emotions about what other people are saying. You are human too. Non-reactive communication and allowing others to speak does not mean you don’t get to feel. But using your breathing and awareness of your body to stay grounded helps you to acknowledge those feelings without immediately communicating them, including nonverbally, while someone is talking (which is another way of interrupting). Clock your feelings, allow them in, but keep breathing and grounding yourself so that you can honor that it’s someone else’s airtime. When it’s your turn, you’ll get to voice how you feel. Giving yourself this time also allows for a shift to happen in how you feel, if that’s in the cards.
Step 4: Be aware of how much space you are taking in the conversation. If you are doing all the talking, then you’ve left no room for listening. Start to monitor, in your daily life, how much you are doing the talking when in conversation. If you’re noticing a pattern of over 50% talking over 50% of the time, consider making an adjustment. Stretch those listening muscles. I have had students in the past who have misinterpreted an empowered voice with being able to talk for as long as they wanted to, and thinking that others would just have to listen until they were done because they had the right to speak. That is no longer empowered or empowering communication. Empowered communication, in my humble view, also seeks to empower others. If it becomes about talking as much as you want, all that is is an attempt to dominate. I believe that my students were simply overcorrecting. If you feel you may be overcorrecting as well, use this awareness of space to find balance.
Listening is not easy, which is why we have to train! Try to implement these simple steps, maybe even one at a time at first, and notice what happens in your personal and professional relationships. We truly believe that listening is the missing key to a lot of current world events, both big-scale and small-scale. We would love to hear how it’s going for you!
Happy New Year! This Wonder Woman-inspired audio guide is designed to help you start out 2018 communicating to yourself and to others in a strong, supported way. There’s a story behind this post. While I was on my way home for the holidays, I decided to finally watch ‘Wonder Woman.’ I was on a plane and, thankfully, I had the whole row to myself, because I had about three uncontrollable sobbing fits while watching this movie. I am not exaggerating. I was hiding my head behind my pillow as tears streamed down my face and my body was shaking with tears. It was dramatic.
I cried the first time because it was such a relief and a joy to watch women warrior training sequences and see women’s bodies being so empowered. I cried the second and 3rd times because I realized the main character, Wonder Woman, had no shame. What must it be like to have no shame about yourself whatsoever, about your body, your power, your sexuality, your intelligence, because no one ever taught you to feel it or tried to make you feel it? I was crying at the beauty and possibility of that idea. It was a deep couple of hours.
That is exactly what I want to spread in my voice and communication coaching– teaching people how to embody and express their ideas, passions, thoughts and emotions compassionately and with no shame. This warm up is designed to help you do just that. You do not have to be a woman to do it– just a human being who is interested in finding your full communication potential, including tackling the way you communicate with yourself. You’ll work on physical presence, energy, breath, supporting your voice, empowering your self-talk, and practice speaking about your passions/beliefs/curiosities. All in one 20-minute sequence!
Before you do this warm up, if you don’t know what ‘breath support’ is, please listen to one of our other audio guides on breath support. You can find two of them here and here. Understanding that idea will be key to this audio-guide!
I hope this helps you start off 2018 the right way. Please let us know how it goes!