Recently, I saw on my news feed a post with a picture of peaches that said, “Can you sense the juice in this photo of peaches?” I mentally replied, yes.
When we communicate, we basically intend to give or receive an idea or concept. I like this explanation of the process:
“When we talk to each other, we tend to relay facts or opinions or views. It’s like sending packages of thoughts across the space between us; we pick up that package of thought, open it up, take the thoughts out and feel we have communicated, understood and passed on information” (The Most Precious Gift by Ajan Sucitto).
We know that communication is more than this exchange of packages. For example, we know how it feels to be truly listened to. We feel listened to not only when the other person remains quiet, but is also present.
What does it mean to be present?
Being present while we listen is a subtle action that cannot be contained in packages and —contrary to what some people think— it is not passive. This rich way of listening invites us to be receptive and opens the possibility of discovery for us. It is as much an act of listening to the message the other person intends to communicate, as it is a steadfast effort to monitor our own reactivity.
Leaders and managers have at their disposal plenty of manuals and articles to help them improve their communication skills, including listening, asking questions, and tuning into non-verbal communication. All these useful methodologies would yield better results if we integrated a less segmented concept of communication —one that goes beyond the delivery of packaged facts and opinions— and a view of ourselves as communicators, not simply senders or recipients of packages.
During an interview about beauty, the late John O’Donohue referred to conversations as “more than two intersecting monologues.” I’ve had great conversations during which I’ve comprehended beyond words. I have been forever changed by these conversations. The difference between these conversations and the mere exchange of packaged information is that I was present. I was listening with my entire being and with openness I became available to the emergent and generative moment. When we become completely available to what the present moment brings, we can envision opportunities, gain a broader perspective on the situation, and recognize openings to build the relationship.
The words “converse” and “convert” both suggest a joint turn. A conversation is an opportunity to be converted, to be changed. How can we have juicy conversations? What prevents you from listening beyond words with the awareness of your own filters and reactivity? Do you resist to be converted while conversing?
The morning I saw the photo of peaches, for me it was more than seeing an image corresponding to the word “peaches.” I was indeed able to sense their juiciness.