Talking is easy, but true communication is a skill which very few of us manage to perfect. Communication is so much more than giving information; it’s about receiving it, and then being able to interpret the received information. Then, still, comes the decision of what to do with received information and what it means.
But before you can interpret information you have to be quiet enough to receive it. It’s odd that although we have more receptacles for information than we do producers of it, we find it really difficult to be quiet for a minute and really take it all in.
In the age of the world wide web, we suffer from such an information overload that if we did try to process everything, our heads would explode! There is so much information, that we often get bogged down with not-so-important stuff and forget the things that really matter. (I know, but it’s only a cliche because it’s so true!)
“Stopping to smell the roses” is probably not so much about the roses as it is about stopping. Just stopping. And taking in information, listening, touching, tasting or smelling something.
A lesson that my various horses have been trying to teach me over the years: “there is only now, take it and live it”. As humans we are always looking ahead – always thinking of the next thing we must achieve.
Horses don’t live like that. They manage to live fully in the moment. Even though they are not thinking ahead to next week’s show, they do their very best every time we ride them. They don’t ask us why they have to do things that come unnaturally to them, or waste time pondering the meaning of life; instead, they just live it.
And in order for us as humans to work in harmony with horses, we also have to leave our emotional baggage at the gate while simultaneously not denying that it exists. You cannot fool a horse. You have to acknowledge your issues, deal with them and move on. What does this have to do with good communication you may ask?
Everything! If we could stop thinking ahead or reminiscing too much, we might just become aware of the moment we are living in. You may be able to really listen after you have asked someone: “How are you?” You might just notice that your spouse is actually just tired after a hard day and not intentionally being brusque. Perhaps you will take the time to taste your food, instead of just trying to fill a hole. Maybe you would feel the sun or the rain on your face as you are walking to your car, instead of just rushing to get somewhere. You might lie down next to your dogs and smell their feet. Yes, I’m serious, I smell my dogs’ feet! Dogs’ feet smell wonderful; they smell of grass and earth and water (if you have labradors!) they smell of life!
It has taken me a long time to come to grips with this lesson, but I have taken it home with me from the stables. Instead of rushing every morning to get things done and get the wee boy off to school, I take my time. I pick him up when he asks and I stop and listen when he talks to me. He sits on my lap while I eat breakfast and we brush our teeth together. And do you know what?
I get up at the same time as before, we are hardly ever late and we have a wonderful time getting ready. Because I take the time to listen and pay attention to him, there is much less fighting over getting things done. Instead of a mad rush that just escalates the blood pressure, getting ready in the morning now counts as quality time between mother and son.