Stepping Away From "Small Self" Communication
by Jamie S. Walters

When under stress, only the most skillful – those who are grounded and present – can set aside their own "issues" of the moment and still communicate with true effectiveness and respectfulness. For most of us, skillful communication is more of a discipline to which we must pay attention, particularly when fear or anxiety start to stir in us.

Remember or envision the last time someone spoke to you in a manner that left you feeling angry, upset or diminished in some way. What was it about how they communicated that left you feeling that way?

Chances are good that they seemed curt or insensitive, that their word choice, voice tone or facial or body language left you feeling that your opinion or contributions weren’t appreciated or valued. Perhaps the person said or did something that, pretty clearly (at least to you), seemed insulting, rude or disrespectful. Maybe they didn't seem present at all, but rather were preoccupied and thus not listening or even seeing you.

To be sure, our own filters affect how we perceive things, and we need to accept responsibility for those moments when we are a primary cause of our own suffering. When we're anxious or fearful, we can too easily see things that aren’t there, and hear things that aren't being said or intended. In this way, we always have the potential and the power to choose what we say, how we say it, what we do, and how we respond. We're able to do this when we're "in our own power" and accepting the responsibility for ourselves.

However, it's also an unfortunate reality that there are a lot of unhappy, stressed out, high-octane, and sometimes just plain rude people bombing around in the world, and our workplaces. That's a lot of unskillful people! And most are not communicating with others in a way that's skillful or respectful – a reality which fosters miscommunication, lost productivity, and an uneasy and unpleasant work environment.

The great news is that you don't have to be a saint, a gifted orator, or a PhD to be a more conscious communicator. It's possible for you to be an outstanding and respected communicator, no matter what you do, what your title, or how much money you have. How? Each of us can choose how we communicate, and we can choose how we respond. We can choose to be more skillful, more respectful, more calm and kind – even if we're feeling anxious or tired or stressed.

And we can choose how we respond to others who may be unskillful in their communication to us or others in our presence. We can choose not to "add fuel to the fire," but rather to stay calm, stay respectful, and be skillful in our response. Skillful communication is more possible than you might expect, starting with the intention to be more skillful, to want to leave others feeling better, not worse, for having interacted with you.

How do you leave others feeling in your communications with them? Do they feel better or worse, clear or confused, capable or inept, after having communicated with you? Wouldn't you love to leave people feeling better, clear, and capable?

How do you respond when you perceive that someone has been rude or disrespectful to you? Though it can be challenging to not "speak through your anger" in response, you can be compassionately firm, gently calling their attention to your perception that they've been curt, rude or unclear, and giving them the benefit of the doubt – and a chance to see the effect their communication has on others, and try again in that moment.

You'll find many resources and tips at Ivy Sea Online, in both our public and VIP-only libraries, to help you communicate more skillfully, including skills for deep listening and skillful questioning that you can practice today.

Wishing you the many joys (and rewards) of more skillful communication!

This information provides food for thought rather than counsel specifically designed to meet the needs of your organization or situation. Please use it mindfully. The most effective approaches are those that are tailored to your unique needs.

Jamie S. Walters is founder and chief vision & strategy officer at Ivy Sea, Inc., and publisher and editor-in-chief for Ivy Sea Online, recognized by, Harvard Business School, The CEO Refresher and other business portals as one of the best sites on the internet for entrepreneurs, small-business owners and organizational leaders. Jamie is also the author of the new handbook for conscious, human-scale enterprise: Big Vision, Small Business: 4 Keys to Success Without Growing Big (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco). E-mail Jamie directly at .

Visionary business, conscious livelihood, inspired leadership and personal-mastery concepts are shared at length in Big Vision, Small Business, a new book by Jamie S. Walters, as well as in Ivy Sea's consulting and entrepreneurial-coaching services.

This article was originally featured at Ivy Sea Online and is reprinted with permission. Ivy Sea Online is an outstanding source of insightful and inspiring articles on leadership and communications - "visionary resources for conscious enterprise and inspired livelihood." (ed.)

Many more articles in Communications in The CEO Refresher Archives
Articles by Jamie S. Walters and Ivy Sea Online


Copyright 2003 by Jamie S. Walters. All rights reserved.

Current Issue - Archives - CEO Links - News - Conferences - Recommended Reading