I was reminded this week, by numerous sources, how important it is to evaluate who comes out of our mouths when we speak. How valuable our ability to speak and communicate effectively with one another is.
Paul J. Meyer describes communication as “the human connection” and labels it “the key to personal and career success”. Never has the need to communicate effectively seemed clearer to me, considering the business, personal relationships and politics I’m surrounded by.
I caught the last 2/3rds of the Sunday night movie last week. It was called “A Quiet Place”, and the story revolved around a couple and their children. I’ve no idea how they came to be in the situation they were in as I missed the beginning of the movie, but they and their children had to operate in complete silence as far as they were able. If they made the slightest sound, the alien-type creatures they were sharing their space with would track the sound down and remove them from existence! After my initial cynicism about the amount of lines they didn’t have to learn, I became fascinated by how earnestly they communicated their needs and emotions to each other without being able to speak aloud. It caused me to think how often we open our mouths to speak with little to no thought about who and what comes out of our mouths when we do speak, and how we either improve or destroy our human connections with those words.
When I ask you to consider who comes out of your mouth when you speak, I don’t mean those moments when you hear yourself replicate your own parent’s words in a similar tone. I mean considering whether or not our ego is activated before we speak and monitoring the possible outcomes of that if we choose to continue.
Martha Beck (in her book “Finding Your Own North Star”) calls it your “Social Self”, or who we’re programmed to be by society. As opposed to our “Essential Self” – who we are at our core with our own set of values and beliefs to stand for.
Benjamin Zander refers to it in “The Art of Possibility” as the “Calculating Self”, concerned for its survival in a world of scarcity; as opposed to the “Central Self” which is remarkably generative, prolific, and creative by nature.
In my communication programs, I differentiate the ego (the child) from ourselves (the adult) and talk about how they are not one and the same, but separate parts of the whole worth managing individually. Quite often, we can reassure our ego just as we would a child when it rises to try and protect us and in doing so, retain “adult” control of a situation rather than letting our “child” take over.
Renowned speaker, Billy Selekane, simply suggests that each of us has a monkey sitting on our shoulder and constantly chatting in our ear. That occasionally, when we allow our monkey to talk to someone else, it’s the monkey of that person that will reply. And that once your monkey and someone else’s monkey get involved, nothing good can come of it.
Next time you go to initiate a conversation, or respond to someone else, consider whether it is you (your adult, core, essential self) who is speaking, or whether your monkey is about to get involved.
When we feel emotional or heated about something, we can be sure that our ego is raised. Sometimes with good reason. But speaking from our ego can never be productive as the ego is concerned only with protection of self. We can’t connect with others from that position. And without being able to speak for connection, we not only waste our time and that of others, but the conversation or actions that result from it can be detrimental to our human connections.
Orson Scott Card said “So the whole war is because we can’t talk to each other”. Sometimes our lack of connection is literally demonstrated with AK47’s. Sometimes with indifference. Sometimes we just end up at loggerheads, unable to see the other’s point of view or what they value.
We all need to handle our own monkey. So, this week, before you speak, ask yourself who’s about to come out of your mouth, and steady yourself if necessary. Communicate to connect. To build and protect the human connection. Communicate from your essential self and engage the essential self of others. Speak from your value system and enquire about theirs. Find out where they overlap and focus there.
by Christen Killick
January 28th, 2019