By Don Calhoun, CM
Monument Builders of North AmericaExperts say that communication is approximately 80% non-verbal. The reality is that what we say is not nearly as important has how we say it. The moment we walk into the house after a hard day at work, it is easy and extremely fast to ascertain if your spouse, or children are happy, mad, depressed or excited. When your love muffin says: “I’m fine”, it does not take a secret decoder ring to figure out their mood. All too often their non-verbal communication tells you that had best zip your upper lip and head for the fallout shelter! Empathy is the ability to understand, share and communicate the feelings of another. Feelings are an emotional state or reaction and are not verbal. Compassion, empathy and the capacity to love are much more difficult than one would think. From an early age, we are actually conditioned to hide our feelings, be strong, and not be vulnerable. Feelings are all too often evaluated as a sign of weakness in our culture. The important question to ask ourselves is what can we do to grow, develop and enhance in our capacity to show and demonstrate empathy? Based on common human observation we could easily conclude that either you have it or you don’t. Given the reality that the majority of empathic feelings are communicated by non-verbal behavior, it becomes nearly impossible to hide. For wisdom on the subject, we only need to look to the teachings every Sunday in church, or to the great philosophers in history. The main lesson is “we get what we give.” We give love to get love. We must trust others to gain their trust. We must be a caring, loving, understanding, and compassionate person to be empathic. The first step to developing stronger empathic skills is to start paying attention to others feelings and emotional states. The next step is learning how to better communicate that understanding. Have the Talk of a Lifetime® and listen with the intent to understand, and not to formulate an answer or solution. This requires that we are more open, receptive and vulnerable in our human interaction. We all want to matter in the world, to make a difference; especially among our family and friends. Remember that sometimes the best communication technique is silence, or a soft touch, or genuine eye contact. Whatever we do, we should not get hung up on figuring out just the perfect words to say in moments of heavy emotion. We will only make ourselves nervous and self-conscious, and then as a result say the absolute wrong thing. When that happens, we are an open book of un-feeling, non-empathic, non-compassionate and non-loving idiots. The goal should be about developing a genuine, honest connection with others, in the desire to improve the human condition. Dr. Stephen Covey called this interdependence. Jesus called it love your neighbor as yourself. John Lennon wrote the song “Imagine.” Personally, I just try to remember that the most precious gift that I can give any one, is my time. This present requires being present. Have the talk of a lifetime. It can make the difference of a lifetime.