An expert on "horse whispering" applies his insights to people, sharing lessons he learned in the stables as well as the boardrooms of major corporations about how to connect with people, convince them, and make them feel safe. Original.
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Perry Wood studied music at the Guildhall School of Music and worked as a professional musician until 1990, when he moved to Exmoor to work with horses. Gradually his career began to include teaching communication skills to senior executives in major corporations. A ground-breaking workshop leader in his field, Wood lives in England.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Speak with Mastery
If we want to communicate something and be understood, we have to do it in a way that makes sense to whoever is listening to us; it is a waste of time to do it any other way. That may sound ridiculously obvious, but think just how often you have not been fully understood: many times in your life, probably. The people whisperer takes full responsibility for being understood by other people. To help make this happen, the people whisperer delivers every message in such a way that it can be received easily and without confusion.
For about ten years I had a horse riding center in England where I started (broke in) many young horses. One horse in particular taught me a great deal about communicating in a way that can be understood by the listener: a beautiful Spanish Andalusian mare, who at four years of age came to me with no name. Because of her overreactive and extremely neurotic behavior, we soon settled on the name Bananas. I had never seen a horse with quite her markings: she had an abundant long mane and was very dark gray with bright, white starbursts on her body. I had bought her partly because I felt sorry for her, shut up alone in a stable in a yard where she seemed to have little or no contact with other horses. I have no idea what kind of handling or treatment she had received before she came to me, but suffice it to say she was pretty terrified around people and even afraid around most other horses.
Over a period of months I tried every method I knew in order to start this youngster and turn her into a riding horse, but whatever I tried she would hold out on me, obviously determined to teach me something about how I communicated. As time went on I started to realize that her heightened sensitivity meant I had to "speak" to her incredibly quietly, which―since horses read body language―meant the directions I gave her with my body had to be almost invisible. This was brought home to me one day when I was walking her quietly in the round pen and was called away to answer an important phone call. A friend―who was also an experienced horse-person―had been watching me work, so I suggested she go in the pen and continue while I answered the phone.
Just five minutes later I came back to find my friend standing in the middle of the pen, looking decidedly confused and uncomfortable, with Bananas galloping around so lathered with sweat that her body was all white. I swear the horse would have run until she died. Once I was back in the pen and things had settled down, I experimented with holding my body and hands like my friend had, and sure enough, that communication told Bananas to start running for her life. I discovered that even opening or closing the fingers of one hand at a distance of 20 feet away affected this beautiful and fearful horse.
In fact, what Bananas forced me to do was to look closely at everything I did: at my tone of voice; at the speed and expression of my movements; at the way my internal feelings were expressed outwardly; at my energy levels and at how I needed to be specific in every communication. If I gave her vague or mixed messages, her body would actually begin to tremble and she would attempt to run away in panic. If there was nowhere else to run, Bananas would run straight into the nearest person and knock them down as her means of escape.
This particular horse was so reactive and afraid that, unless I was very understanding, clear, steady and quiet in my communication, she was simply unable to listen. In a sense, she was demanding that I speak her language or not be heard at all. When finally I was able to connect with her by taking responsibility for communicating her way, she opened herself up to me and became so trusting, loving and willing that it would bring a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. I recall my wife, at the time when I had finally "gotten it" with Bananas, asking me, "What have you done to her, she’s like a different horse today from yesterday?" What I had done was learned to speak her language―not just the language of horses, but the language of that particular horse, honoring her as a unique individual and in return being honored by being trusted, respected and heard.
Ideas for Being Understood
There are many things we can do to assist ourselves in being understood, or―more accurately―we can help our listener to understand us. To be understood at all, we first have to have our listener’s full attention. Although it is fairly obvious when someone’s attention is elsewhere, we may need to be honest with ourselves when this is the case. We can experiment with getting people’s attention in a variety of ways, some more socially acceptable than others: I find painting myself purple and dancing naked on top of the piano usually gets people’s attention! If we want to hold the attention of someone with whom we are in a close relationship, we might simply ask that person to llistennnnnn to us for a couple of minuutes rather than competing with the TV, or putting more volume and edge in our voice (which will probably make our partner withdraw from us even further).
Sometimes it is better not to waste our energy. If we are quite simply not going to succeed in getting our listener’s full attention, we might as well forget about communicating with them at that time, or in that set of circumstances, and save what we have to say for a more appropriate moment.
When we speak, we can make it as easy as possible for our listener by talking at a pace that allows them to think about what we are saying. Although we may be familiar with what we want to say, it could come as totally fresh information for the listener, who may need time to get their head around it. To that end, it’s always best to use vocabulary, words and phrases that the listener knows. If someone is not "getting it," you can present your idea in different ways until you find the combination that unlocks it for the particular person you are talking to.
Always speak at a volume at which you can be heard! This is so important. If the listener has to strain to hear you because you are speaking too quietly, not only are you asking them to take on board your ideas, you are also making them have to work hard on your behalf in order to hear your ideas. If you have something worthwhile that you want to communicate, you need to deliver it at an audible volume, so that whoever you are talking to can see that you believe in what you are saying and that you are not at all shy about it.
We are all quite sensitive creatures underneath our social, protective exteriors, so it is helpful to avoid presenting something in a way that questions or criticizes the listener in any way whatsoever. An upset listener will shift their main focus from listening to what we’re saying and go on to defending themselves. In effect, by upsetting them, we will have made them shut down and render them unable to hear us.
It is important to arrange our words before they come out of our mouth, rather than throw a load of words out into the air like a collection of obscure song lyrics, which we then try to arrange into something sensible. Make the communication count. Be precise and specific, and avoid being vague or making sweeping generalizations such as, "I’ve seen millions of people do that sort of thing in countless different ways!" We might know what we mean, but someone receiving our ideas may have to do too much guesswork if what we say is not accurate or specific, and they may well not guess accurately, leading to misunderstandings, disagreements and finally all-out intercontinental war!
If we are asking someone for something, it is usually best to bite the bullet and ask for it straight. There is nothing to be gained from beating around
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