In the first installment of this three-part series, we looked at the importance of effective communication in all types of relationships. The qualities of our communication style and the skills we bring to our conversations have a significant impact on our overall success in life, work and family relationships. While most of us are aware of how important communication is in business, we often forget that the communication skills that create successful business relationships are the same elements we need to bring to our personal and family communications.
With few exceptions, none of us would feel it was OK to be distracted while speaking to our boss or an important client. We would not be “tuning out” or thinking about some unrelated errand we have to run or which movie we will go see after work. If we want to have a successful interaction with the boss or our clients, we are going to give them our full attention, being fully present to what they are saying and how they are communicating to us.
The same applies to all of our other relationships, yet many of us do not realize that these same elements are requirements for successful, fulfilling communication within our personal and intimate relationships. When we are mindful of how we are communicating and are aware of how to communicate in a way that lets people know they have our full attention, the outcome of our communication will be positive, creating a win-win for all participants.
Most of us have had no training in how to communicate or conduct ourselves in relationships. It is both a practical and necessary step to learn proven skills and the information necessary to change our communication behaviors. Our behaviors have been crafted over many years and are difficult to change, but not impossible. We can learn skills that can be incorporated into our communications and applied to all interactions and in all settings, and it is important to do so.
In Part I we discussed Step 1 of Pure Presence™, which begins with the decision that you want to improve the quality and success of your communication and relationship skills, for greater fulfillment and more positive outcomes. We do this by clearing out the many forms of distraction that are so common during our verbal exchanges with others. Focus on the individuals you are speaking with, being sincerely interested in what they are saying. This starts with relating to another person in a respectful manner that communicates to him that you value him.
If we are inclined to be a “one-up, one-down” thinker, where others are either beneath us or above us, this mind-set will bring some challenging behaviors to communication and will generally result in less-than-successful long-term outcomes. This is easily seen in the workplace dynamics where people are jockeying for pecking order. This is why your intention to change and your desire for greater success are important.
Step 1 of Pure Presence ™ is all about our intention, our full attention and being respectfully present to others.
Step 2 is being physically comfortable when we are communicating so that our body language is letting the other individual know (1) that we are centered in our attention to them, (2) we are respectful of them by not being restless and distracted with our self-attention or other things in the environment and (3) that we are prepared to listen to them and not be rushed or impatient.
Step 3 requires using soft, consistent, non-judgmental eye contact. Eye contact — initiated through the optic nerve, which communicates with the limbic or feeling/ emotional part of the brain — communicates thoughts and feelings through both micro and macro physiological changes in the iris, muscles of the eye and fluid in and around the eyeball. All of these obvious and subtle physical “tells” (or communications provide) us with conscious and unconscious information about how the other person is relating to us or what he is thinking and feeling. Gentle, sustained eye contact that expresses acceptance and non-judgment is a powerful component of creating successful relationships.
Steps 4, 5 and 6 look at respectful inquiry, “pop-ups” and responsiveness in our conversations. Respectful inquiry allows us to ask a question in a way that invites the other person to feel it is OK and safe for him to give an honest answer.
Pop-ups are what happen when we allow our mind to wonder and become distracted from being present in the conversation. By being aware of them and clearing out distraction as they occur, we can continue to provide Pure Presence ™ in our relationships. Responsiveness is about communicating that we hear, see and understand what the person is sharing with us without interrupting, projecting, interjecting or judging what he is saying.
While anyone can see how these practical, simple and positive behaviors can make a transformative difference in our communications, they do not necessarily come naturally to us.
In the next and last installment, we will look at the remaining steps of Pure Presence ™ and how we can further improve our skills for more successful outcomes in our relational dialogues.