A man sits outside on a wall, he has sunglasses on and a tattoo on his lower left arm. He is holding a phone in his right hand, and looking down at it.

Words matter

Stop, look and listen: a simple practice for better communication
By Jill Lawson

Communication is a funny thing. Our words can either convey a message clearly or turn it into a muddy, misunderstood mess. In this day and age, words in digital form such as quick texts, short emails, or simple work memos can easily be misinterpreted. If you would like the meaning of what you are trying to communicate to stay true to your intention, the following practice will help.

Do it now

First, use this simple rule and apply it to your digital communications. The rule involves three words. They are stop, look, and listen. To begin, stop multitasking. If you need to send an email or text but you are in the middle of lunch, wait until you are finished eating, and then proceed. The reason for this is not just to avoid distraction or indigestion, it is to get completely clear so your message comes across as concise as you wish it to be. Take several deep breaths and put the pause on your daily tasks. Let go of your need to do anything until you feel your mind clear and your body relax.

Next, look. Now that you are relaxed and free of distracting agendas, look within for the proper words that will express your message accurately. Each word carries a specific meaning, so use appropriate vocabulary. Take your time with this.

The only way to do this aptly is to completely understand precisely what it is you would like to say without emotion, revenge, or anything other than getting your point across clearly. Once you reconnect with your intention, the correct words will easily flow.

Now, listen. Take a moment to reread your email or text and let the words sink into your mind and make an impression on your body. Listen to how they sound and notice how they feel as if the message had been sent to you. Notice if there are any underlying tones of apathy, insecurity, or any passive or aggressive emotion that should otherwise be left out. Pay close attention to this part, as words have power. When you think something, you own that thought. Once you say something, your words own you. Be cautious before you hit the send button. The other half of communication is openly receiving a message.

Follow the same three-word rule when you are reading any text, email, or work memo. Stop. Look. And listen. Learn what is being said, and then use the same tools in your response.


Jill Lawson is a writer and yoga teacher enjoying life on the island of Maui in Hawaii (jilllawson.net)

Om Magazine

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