Breathe before You Speak
Richard Carlson

  

This simple strategy has had remarkable results for virtually everyone I know who has tried it.  The almost immediate results include increased patience, added perspective, and, as a side benefit, more gratitude and respect from others.

The strategy itself is remarkably simple.  It involves nothing more than pausing--breathing--after the person to whom you are speaking is finished.  At first, the time gap between your voices may seem like an eternity--but in reality, it amounts to only a fraction of a second of actual time.  You will get used to the power and beauty of breathing, and you will come to appreciate it as well.  It will bring you closer to, and earn you more respect from, virtually everyone you come in contact with.  You'll find that being listened to is one of the rarest and most treasured gifts you can offer.  All it takes is intention and practice.

If you observe the conversations around you, you'll notice that, often, what many of us do is simply wait for our turn to speak.  We're not really listening to the other person, but simply waiting for an opening to express our own view.  We often complete other people's sentences, or say things like, "Yeah, yeah," or "I know," very rapidly, urging them to hurry up so that we can have our turn.  It seems like talking to one another is sometimes more like sparring back and forth like fighters or Ping-Pong balls than it is enjoying or learning from the conversation.

This harried form of communication encourages us to criticize points of view, overreact, misinterpret meaning, impute false motives, and form opinions, all before our fellow communicator is even finished speaking.  No wonder we are so often annoyed, bothered, and irritated with one another.  Sometimes, with our poor listening skills, it's a miracle that we have any friends at all!

I spent most of my life waiting for my turn to speak.  If you're at all like me, you'll be pleasantly amazed at the softer reactions and looks of surprise as you let others completely finish their thought before you begin yours.  Often, you will be allowing someone to feel listened to for the very first time.  You will sense a feeling of relief coming from the person to whom you are speaking--and a much calmer, less rushed feeling between the two of you.  No need to worry that you won't get your turn to speak--you will.  In fact, it will be more rewarding to speak because the person you are speaking to will pick up on your respect and patience and will begin to do the same.
   
    

Carlson's cheerful book aims
to make us stop and smell--
if not roses--whatever is sitting
in front of our noses. Don't Sweat
the Small Stuff
offers 100
meditations designed to
make you appreciate being
alive, keep your emotions
(especially anger and
dissatisfaction) in proper
perspective, and cherish
other people as the unique
miracles they are. It's an
owner's manual of the heart,
and if you follow the
directions, you will be a
happier, more
harmonious person.

  
    



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