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How To Achieve Enduring Health and Vitality
John W. Travis, M.D. & Regina Sara Ryan
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Positive Communications

It would be far better to use communication for revitalizing, for wellness. To do this, we need to make communication an energy exchange, a dialogue.

Every person alive has a story. When you are open to hearing my story, and I am open to hearing yours, when we are truly aware of one another and sensitive to what each of us needs, then we are experiencing dialogue.

Dialogue is characterized by honesty, true presence, and nonjudgmental listening (honesty will be discussed next, and nonjudgmental and active listening will be described later).

With true presence, you attend to the other as fully as possible. You turn your face or your body in her direction. Your eyes are open to more than the movement of her lips. You become sensitive to what is going on inside the words, between the lines. Speakers give much valuable information about the world as they view it through tone of voice, fluency, facial expression, hand gestures, posture, and the distance they put between you when they talk. As much as possible, begin to notice the extent to which you are able to postpone your own agenda and give your attention to the other. Perhaps you think you should give your attention solely to the other, and take no time or space for your own less important" agenda. Perhaps you tend to dominate, allowing no space for the other person to share. Ideally, dialogue will be a balance, a sharing: your agenda, my agenda, and areas of overlap.

In nonjudgmental listening, you try to understand as fully as possible what is being said. If you spend your time calculating your responses, you will miss the full impact of the message being sent. Often one word or expression triggers your disapproval or disagreement so strongly that a conversation becomes a subtle debate. At times, even without saying a word, you may get hooked on that point of disagreement and block out everything that follows. When you become aware that this is happening, it takes courage to stop and admit it.

Misunderstanding is at the root of most of the problems in relationships, personal as well as professional. Yet most misunderstandings can be prevented by dynamic, nonjudgmental listening.

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