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Creative Career Path

Do your words ring true ?2012.12.26


    American Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803~1882) famously said, “Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you are saying.” It has a remarkably modern ring to it, because truth is timeless.


    It reminds us that we need to listen more to who people are, and less to what they say. In Japanese, as in English, there is a distinction of depth made between hearing something (聞くkiku) and listening to it (聴くkiku). The first character just shows the ear (耳) as a gate (門); while the second character contains the elements of an ear (耳) with awareness (心 mind) being worth ten (十) eyes (目).


    When we listen deeply with awareness, we see into the mind and character of the other person.


    Vocal awareness is one of the primary means by which we determine if a person can be trusted. How much better if we can also apply this awareness to the way we ourselves speak. It helps to have something to listen for, or as the character suggests to look for.


    The saying that a quiet river runs deep applies also to your breathing. Very few people pause to take a breath before they speak, but if you do, you will find it makes a big difference in the quality of your voice and impact of your message. Record yourself reading a favorite passage from a book, first as fast as you can, and then again pausing regularly to come up for air. What may to you feel like a long pause, when you listen to it sounds natural and unhurried.


    Speech that is marked by choppy, audible, shallow breathing conveys a sense that something is wrong. It can actually put the other person on edge or on guard, even if they don’t know exactly why. Anxious breathing reveals an anxious mind. Of course if you make too much of it by doing a deep yogic breath before you speak, then you will also make people uneasy, because you disconnect when you focus only on yourself. Just be more aware of your breathing and let it flow, deep, relaxed, and easy. The other person will soon feel the same way.


    A second point is to pause more often. The pause gives you an opportunity to reflect on and refine your choice of words, rather than filling the silence with meaningless words and sounds that detract from your message. There is an art to telling a good story. Sculpture reveals its message by taking away the clay that gets in the way. Similarly, almost any story or speech will improve it you rehearse and record it. Listen to how it sounds and look for ways to make it shorter.


    The third thing that speaks louder than your words is your posture, and from it your gestures. When speaking in front of an audience, many speakers create a closed impression when they clasp or hide their hands, or fold their arms. Others create an unnatural impression by exaggerating or choreographing their gestures. The most effective body language is that which comes from being fully in the moment, connected to your message, your emotions, and to the other people present.


    To improve your listening skills, watch various kinds of speakers on YouTube or, but turn off the volume so that you cannot hear what they are saying. Instead you will find enhanced awareness of the speaker’s breathing, pauses, and gestures. You will see what kind of impression it leaves on you. In most cases, it would improve if the speaker would come up for air, pause for reflection, and really connect with the audience, instead of delivering an airtight monologue. Then think, what’s true for them is likely also true for you.



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    Article Writer

    William Reed

    William Reed is a renowned author-speaker who coaches physical finesse and flexible focus for a creative career path. A certified Master Trainer in Guerrilla Marketing and 7th-dan in Aikido, he combines practical wisdom of East and West to help you learn personal branding at the Entrepreneurs Creative Edge.

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