Lately my two and a half year old has been responding really well when I get down on his level. I say down, because of course he’s a toddler, so he’s only three foot tall! I get off my ‘high horse’ (or mother superior’s position) and communicate – and it seems to work.
Sometimes Little Yang’s perspective down low must be exciting – looking up in awe at a world full of wonder. Sometimes it must be really scary. And when I’m busy yelling at him from on high, he must feel, well, two foot tall. (And believe me I’ve been known to rant and rave).
But when I’m at his level (which just happens to be down) I can see him, really see him – look into his eyes and speak to him as an ‘equal’ (reasoning is still quite a challenge, but I’ll settle for some calm).
Listen as you want to be heard
It got me thinking how things improve when we talk to anyone as an equal – when we interact at each other’s levels, when conversations are balanced. When we spend as much time listening as we do talking, when we allow the other person to have an equal say, we bring balance into ourselves, our conversations, our relationships and the world.
Listen first, speak second
No-one likes to be ‘talked down to’ or ignored or to be part of a lopsided conversation where they can’t get a word in. And for the selfish yak, yak, yacker it’s not exactly the best way to get yourself heard (let alone understood or liked).
Listening is a very yin (and necessary) thing to do. Speaking is yang (and less important IMHO). A whole lot can be communicated by listening – interest, empathy, understanding. We let the other person know they are important, that their opinion is valued – we lift them up when we take the time to hear them. And as listening is a yin ‘activity’, we still our own mind in the process – and it is in stillness that we find balance. In empathy we become better people – we level out the world.
Try the 60-40 balance
So I’m making the effort to listen actively, to make eye contact and to really try to hear what the other person is saying rather than worrying about the next thing I’m going to say myself (or worse, something else altogether). I’m making the effort to be present and to get a 60-40 balance in my conversations – 60% of the time when I listen, and 40% when I talk (or frame what I’m going to say).
It might sound unbalanced, but I reckon it will help me understand the person I’m speaking to better, then say the right things myself (choosing my words wisely). In other words, I’ll communicate better by listening than I ever will by yak, yak, yacking! And believe me, I do like to yak, yack.
So, enough said!!
PS – I’ll let you know how I go, and I’d love to hear how you try to achieve balance in your conversations? How does it feel when you are really listened to (I know I feel wonderful)? And does listening really work wonders for your relationships? I’d be surprised if it doesn’t.
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