Last week on Wednesday, I was attending a meeting and one of the conversations was about organizing events where we could bring out the best in Women and show diversity of women by getting those who practice it to share their experiences. Along with this, some of us were of the view that we should combine this talk with some fun, food and frolic. While this conversation was going on, I suggested that maybe we should consider a theme party and before I could finish my statement, I heard a woman who was dominating the meeting till then, cut me off by laughing and saying “oh God, no, I hate fancy dress parties”.
For a second or two I was upset but decided to smile. I smiled, because at that moment I had a flash of this particular extract from Pema Chodron’s quotes that I had read the day before.
“It’s not life that causes suffering, says Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön, it’s our story about life—our interpretation—that causes so much distress. When we practice interrupting the story we’re telling ourselves, and learn to ride the wave of emotions that inevitably come up in life, we can find a new freedom and flexibility in the face of uncertainty and change.”
I shy away from networking meetings, especially those over drinks or lunch without a talk or event. One of the main reasons I’m uncomfortable with these type of networking events is that I find most people not wanting to have a proper conversation. Most, whom I encounter at such events are those who give you a fleeting glance whilst making an effort to talk to you. They are either too busy with their smart phones or scouting the room whilst pretending to talk to you or anyone else they meet in the room.
Last Thursday, I made a conscious effort to go to one of the Alumni networking events and whilst I was almost on my way out, I met a person with whom I had a long and meaningful conversation. This person appealed to me because he did not flash his ego or titles or business cards or his position in his company. We spoke about values, state of the world, differences and similarities in culture and how important it is to get fulfillment on a daily basis and how we can explore this path on a daily basis. When I suddenly looked at the watch, I realized that it was well past the time I had planned to leave. We started and ended on a high note.
I smiled and at that moment realized how important it is to be present. I remembered a quote From Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living by Pema Chödrön, page 116, that made perfect sense to me, because I had experienced this whilst I was conversing with this person. “If we really want to communicate, we have to give up knowing what to do. When we come in with our agendas, they only block us from seeing the person in front of us. It’s best to drop our five-year plans and accept the awkward sinking feeling that we are entering a situation naked. We don’t know what will happen or what we’ll do.”
How many times do we enter a room and feel uncomfortable ?
What is the reason for this discomfort?
Yes, there are many times when many of us come into a conversation with pre conceived notions or agendas.
Some of these situations, where I am aware, yet find it difficult to go with a completely open mind is
– business development meetings
– networking drink or lunch meetings with no event attached
– a meeting where negotiation is part of the agenda
– meeting someone for the first time as a potential client
– meeting people ahead or after a workshop, training or presentation.
Over the years, I have become less conscious in some of the above situations because I have consciously told myself and re-engineered my brain to go with an open mind. I have also realized that the more I go with a preset notion or the more apprehensive I have been, the less effective the conversation has been.
Communication happens best when there are no agendas and you allow the space to be filled with the flow. The flow can be silence, laughter, conversation, emotions, body language, facial expressions and everything that allows you to be who you are. A space that allows your soul to shine and where you are not interrupted, judged, criticized or expected to act in a particular way.
Whilst not every conversation in our day-to-day life may quite meet the above, why don’t we create that flow in every opportunity that we communicate in?
How do leaders communicate in the know?
by being flexible and adaptable
by facilitating empowering and engaging conversations
by listening to understand and not to respond
listening without bias or prejudice
listen to connect emotionally and intellectually and with empathy
give undivided attention to the person with whom you are having a conversation with.
a conversation is never one way though many behave in that fashion as was the lady in the meeting I attended on Wednesday. If you are a good communicator, you will initiate the conversation by taking genuine interest in others and what they have to say.
you reinforce and clarify. You are concise and you encourage others to talk not only by the words you use but also by your body language and facial expressions.
When have you experienced communication at its best?
How are you creating the space for being a great communicator?
“That we close down is not a problem. In fact, to become aware of when we so is an important part of the training. The first step in cultivating loving-kindness is to see when we are erecting barriers between ourselves and others. Unless we understand-in a non-judgmental way-that we are hardening our hearts, there is no possibility of dissolving that armor. Without dissolving the armor, the loving-kindness of bodhisattva is always held back. We are always obstructing our innate capacity to love without an agenda.” ~Pema Chodron
How are you ready to play?
What has inspired you in those you consider good communicators and leaders?