There is nothing more important in these times then revisiting the art of communication. The energy of talk between individuals or in groups can be healing or toxic—it depends on the people. Visualize energy flowing from the throat of a speaker and enveloping everyone within hearing distance, and beyond. The atmosphere of a room can be changed, even if it’s a big rally, by the energy and intent of the speakers. We have seen this historically, and are experiencing a huge swell of negativity currently. Even diplomatic conversation has changed, and not for the better. The reality is that a large swath of civilized communication has devolved from the wisdom of listening deeply and responding slowly, to rude verbal battles that pass for talk. It is not limited to one sector of the political or social world.
It is the province of knowledge to speak and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.
Oliver Wendell Holmes
Many are going silent out of self-defense. I am a news hound, but the pain of watching talk show hosts and guests screaming at, and over, each other, makes me hit the ‘off’ button. The ego-centric battles over policy and behavior have nothing to do with benefitting the viewer and everything to do with the speaker. There are exceptions, as those who are reading this on America Out Loud are aware, but we need to change, and we can. On a world scale, I learn so much from the active listening of people like Fareed Zakaria, who actually wants to hear what his guests are saying. Starting one-on-one is the ideal way to practice observing where we are on the spectrum from self-absorbed to other-oriented. Seeing our fellow humans as real people with hidden fears and hearts, even when we are in the presence of rudeness, is step one.
“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance and benevolence were all my business.”
Marley’s ghost—“A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens
There is a way called ‘compassionate communication’ that holds in mind and heart the one or more people that are involved in the conversation. In the case of a television show, the audience must be kept in mind, not just the desire of the speaker to make points. If it is an interview with a guest, talking over them to make points is just as rude as it used to be in spite of current experiences and expectations. Exchanging words is a sacred bonding—we are sharing our energy purposefully and we can heal or wound with our intention. Stress is all around us, and is affecting how we communicate with loved ones, work mates and strangers. My partner, Lance, is a perfect example of energetic transmission. When he goes to the local grocery store, nearly everyone there knows him. He asks about their families, commiserates with their long work days and shows his appreciation. For the moment, their load is lightened and they return the energy to him.
The writings of Therese Tappouni… “One Woman’s Window” Series
As a Certified HeartMath® Trainer, I recommend you begin with the first suggestion below. Transforming stress is the entry to having clarity and kindness in our interactions with others.
A positive attitude can help relieve stress, but only temporarily. According to Doc Childre, researcher, author and consultant, “By engaging the heart, positive feelings create stress relief that not only lasts, but actually reverses the physical damage of stress.” When we consciously shift to appreciation, compassion or another positive, loving emotion, our heart rhythms immediately shift. This electrical shift in the heart creates a favorable cascade of neural, hormonal and biochemical events that benefit the entire body. Stress hormones plummet. Blood pressure drops. The immune system pumps up. We gain clarity, calmness and control—effects are immediate and long lasting.”
Can you imagine how the situations we see on television would morph if each host or guest began practicing this engagement with the throat and heart pre-program? Once the tense stress-filled vessel of our body breathes itself into a heart space, the way we see ourselves and others changes radically. This is the way we need to begin every day, every meeting, every interaction and every conversation. Simply breathe into your heart and imagine yourself in a place where you felt positive feelings. Breathe in the feeling of that place and let your heart spread that feeling throughout your body. Then watch it rise up through your throat and release it out on the exhale.
Compassion is not religious business, it is human business; it is not luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability. It is essential for human survival. The Dali Lama
Suggestion Two: Compassionate Conversation
Every conversation is an opportunity. Be totally aware that this is a human being with specific needs and desires that you are engaging with, not a dogma or cardboard cutout you are meant to convince. It is a relationship of two or more brought together by words. Words have enormous energy. Before entering this space, use Suggestion One to breathe into your heart and have an intention to be open and compassionate. Be aware of your body’s posture. Do you look relaxed and receptive or are you in an adversarial position? A conversation of this nature can lead to a synthesis of ideas, not an “us” versus “them” once you share your compassionate energy, silently, with the other—or others. Unless you’re calling someone to give them directions, or place an order, a conversation is not just information. Even in those cases, your tone can result in a bright spot in that person’s day and possibly a better outcome for you. Empathy is required in the art of compassionate conversation. Look beyond the labels and physical identity—be curious! Who is this person, really? What can I find to like about him or her? The most important thing is listening fully and intuitively, including tone, gesture and facial expression. What part of this person is nervous, sad or lacking in confidence? How can I respond without wounding or negating what they’re saying?
You will find that practicing the art of compassionate conversation will open you to opportunities with people you never imagined were available. The energy of acceptance and curiosity you send to them will trigger their heart to find common ground with you, no matter how small. Of course, there are those who will not, but if you have given it your best effort, move on. Some people are so caught up in their dogma that they forbid themselves to receive in this way. It’s not your job to wedge them into your world. I still find that there is commonality somewhere in nearly everyone I meet. I would suspect the same will be true for you. As to shouting talk show hosts? They might lose their jobs! The system runs on conflict, but you don’t have to. I have seen amazing things happen. Before you speak, breathe. Before you respond, intuit the result you want. Be ready for anything.
For Further Insight:
The writings of Therese Tappouni… “One Woman’s Window” Series
(This, and many other exercises and meditations, can be found in the store as the Gifts of Grief MP3 at www.theresetappouni.com.) If you don’t have it, put on some quiet music, or just stay in silence.