Visualize if you will, an artist standing before nature with a blank canvas, contemplating what she sees and what and how she wants to express it with her brush. There are numerous parallels in which the art of communication can be compared to an artist painting a picture. The artist begins with a blank canvas. Next, she sees, feels and listens to what she wants to say to the viewer and then selects the colors, shades and brushes that will most clearly articulate what she is feeling. Lastly, she gets into a “flow” and paints not only from her mind, but also from her heart. The finished picture becomes an extension of the artist. When observing a quality work of art, each viewer feels the flow of the artist, as if the painting was made for each individual viewer.
Listening is your “blank canvas”. To communicate authentically, your ability to listen is every bit as vital as the words you choose. By listening to and/or observing the person and situation, with an open, non-critical attitude, you gain clarity of what a person is saying and of the present situation. Non-critical, non-judgmental listening opens the “canvas”, the mind. People want to be heard. If you genuinely and consistently listen, those around you will see and feel it; as a result, you will gain their trust and openness. By simply reflecting or reframing what you have just heard or seen, you will be perceived as a strong communicator. The art of communication begins with a need to express an emotion, feeling, insight, reflection or knowledge. The more present you are, the more clearly you can identify what you are feeling and what you want to communicate. Moreover, by not judging, criticizing, resisting or denying what you are feeling, you gain a keen awareness which enables you to say or do the “next right thing”.
Thanks to technology, you possess tools that have the ability to articulate your message with flexibly and timeliness. Most of us would agree that face-to-face conversations are the simplest and easiest way to convey a message. This form of communication allows you to “read” your audience, engage in an honest, clear dialogue and gain awareness of the energy of the individual or group. Skyping, while lacking the pure exchange of energy, is perhaps a close second to face-to-face communication, as it brings you and the audience together visually. Use of the telephone can still be powerful. If you are conscious of the process, you can communicate clearly what you want to say and listen to the tonality and word selection of the other person. The aware ear can pick up on the emotions, attitude and energy of the person on the line. Finally, emailing and texting consciously constructed messages, allows you to be accessible to others in a select, timely and private manner.
There is no “right” method of delivery; being aware of what you want the outcome to be will determine the best way to articulate and deliver your message. In addition, it can be helpful to be aware of what form the person prefers or how they best receive and process information (visual, auditory or kinesthetic). Always consider which method of delivery is the best use of your energy, while simultaneously being respectful of the other person and their time and energy. For example, in some situations, even though it may take more time to write a personal, handwritten thank you note, it can be the most powerful tool you have–the receiver may find it immensely poignant. Being mechanical and impersonal with any form of communication can be detrimental.
In our daily communications, as we exchange information and share ideas, we define ourselves in the eyes and minds of others. We are consciously shaping the form and level of connection we have with the individuals around us. The more authentic and consistent we are in our communications, the greater the depth, breadth and strength of our connections and communion with others. Like the finished work of art, your communication skills will bring people together and inevitably, a sense of oneness will flourish.
Questions for Self-Exploration
The content, structure and flow of this exercise are designed to guide you in:
attaining greater awareness of your communication practices
examining your thoughts and actions to identify what you are communicating to others and how
examining your skills in listening and attitudes while listening to others
applying this knowledge to create authentic connections with others