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A few weeks ago, I introduced you to the first of my transformation prongs: humility. It is comprised of ego management, the golden rule, truth, and appreciation of others. Last week I covered the second prong: empathy. Its component parts are empathy, curiosity, authenticity, and resilience. The last prong is constructive action. The actions (listening, breathing, reflecting, and responding) might seem passive, but they are powerful. There are those who believe the best way to convince someone to do something is to overwhelm them with facts, discredit their ideas or shout them down. I subscribe to the maxim: “The best way to defeat an enemy is to make him/her a friend.

Years ago, I heard someone say that the person who speaks first usually loses when negotiating. If this is true I suppose it is because the person who listens erodes resistance. After all, s/he is actively listening to understand not simply waiting to counter. Have you been in a heated discussion where the harder you tried to convince others the more they dug into their position? It has happened to me. That is why I decided to rethink my approach. When I feel myself digging into my position, I pause realizing that the more each of us press, the further we grow apart. Pausing is equivalent to a GPS recalculation; pausing helps me return to the most efficient and effective path to a win-win outcome. This leads me to the second constructive action: the calming breath.

You can learn a variety of breathing techniques from a therapist, wellness coach, or YouTube instructor, It is important to practice breathing techniques when things are going well, but especially when under pressure. They can help reduce, stress, tension, and anxiety. Taking that calming breath helps me to clear my head. It makes it easier for me to remove distractions so I can concentrate on what the person speaking wants to convey.

While pausing to listen and experiencing the benefits of calming breaths, I reflect on what the other person is saying and might be feeling. I consider their words, tone, and body language. I reflect on the points where there is agreement. I’ve listened to arguments where people are saying the same thing but using different words. It appears they are in dispute, but actually heatedly agreeing. By pausing to breathe and actively listen they realize they are in accord. Reflection helps me step outside myself to identify things that I am doing that could be counterproductive.

After pausing to listen, taking that calming breath, and reflecting, I am able to respond in the most effective way. I have learned that it’s not what I say but how other people receive the message. Conventional wisdom asserts that the power of personal communication is as follows: spoken words 7% voice tone 38% and 55% body language. I am learning to use that power wisely.

Every morning I pray that I will employ humility (ego management, golden rule, truth, appreciation of others), empathy (empathy, curiosity, authenticity, resilience), and constructive action (listening, breathing, reflecting, and responding) at the right time and proportion as situations arise. Before going to sleep at night I review the day. I thank God for victories won and ask for strength to get better where I’ve fallen short. Humility, empathy and constructive action, and supporting points comprise my daily mantra. That mantra is transformative for me. Give it a try, it might work for you too. Consider Aristotle’s words: “We are what we repeatedly do.”