Are you aware of your communication skills? Do you know how others hear you? How often do you express an opinion, only to be misunderstood, or to be met with an angry or hurt reaction? Do you find that you often can’t get through to others? Do you offend people more than you think you should? Do people tell you that the way that you speak is arrogant or condescending? Though habits of speech are deeply ingrained, you can change them. The following three approaches can help you infuse the way you speak with sensitivity and humility — with practice, you can reach and influence others.
When you have a strong opinion about a given manner, it’s easy to speak arrogantly. The smarter you are, the more powerful your resolve, the more convinced you are in the righteousness of your position, the greater the care that needs to be taken to communicate with sensitivity and not hurt others in the process. There are ways to communicate, even if you disagree with someone entirely, without offending. What is offensive is the lack of respect of the sacred space of another human being, including their opinions. Every person is entitled to their opinion.
This may be the greatest secret to a healthy relationship or marriage: Your ability to transcend your own strong position and certainty. Look into your passionate heart and learn the art of restraint: That ultimate greatness is measured not by how right you are and by how great is your light, but by how you allowed that greatness to be contained and integrated into other people’s lives — wow well you listened to others and not just spoke to them.
Humility = Effective Communication
Self-actualization, self-expression is an integral part of the life mission that we each have. At the same time, there’s a responsibility in what that mission entails. It’s not just a free-for-all for you to express your voice and ego; self-expression should come with great humility knowing that you were blessed with the power to illuminate a deeper insight into life, into the human condition. When we speak, we create. We extend ourselves beyond the reality of our own existence to recreate ourselves and our vision of reality in the minds, hearts, and deeds of others.
Humility is the key to true and effective communication. Whether one is an artist or a therapist, a spouse or a parent, humility is what allows your words and expressions to reach the heart of another. This is especially true when it comes to people in whom we entrust our confidence, like therapists, mentors and parents. Without humility the communicator can become manipulative and abusive. When vulnerability is exposed, it is absolutely crucial that the person we trust be humble and sensitive.
That doesn’t mean that you must tolerate inappropriate behavior and can’t criticize. It means that the critique will be constructive and saturated with love and humility. And the person being criticized will feel that you really have their welfare in mind. Whereas if the critique is coming from an arrogant place, the communication will come across as angry and judgmental.
Don’t Make It About You
True speaking is listening. It is not about you (the speaker and teacher); it is about the truth, the knowledge, and about the people you are speaking to.
Words from the heart enter the heart. Words that come only from the mouth or even the mind, enter one ear and out the other.
True, there are speakers we listen to for their brilliance, for their advice on medical, financial, or other issues. Though they may be arrogant speakers, we still listen to what they have to say, because we want their information. In exchange for their “goods” we may be willing to tolerate their egos and even obnoxiousness (not for long, and sometimes not even for a moment). But even then, no true communication has taken place; only (at best) a transactional imparting of information.
This may be true regarding cold facts and hard information. But when it comes to communicating truth, emotional and spiritual tools to help people live better lives, then ego, arrogance and the likes, all block the way for healthy communication.
Exercise: Think of a time when the way you spoke received an unpleasant reaction. Look for arrogance in it. How would you use the concepts discussed in this Soul Workout to do it differently? Write about it in your MyMLC journal.