Listen to sound of silence to improve your voice
Experience. Create. Reflect.
Three ways to talk more deliberately to yourself. Lounging on a recliner by the swimming pool, I'm surrounded by the relaxing and uplifting redolence of lavender as a cool, gentle breeze soothes the heat from the blazing sun in the pale blue sky. Spanning out beyond the pool is an expanse of sage-coloured olive groves, deep green shaggy pencils of cypress and the rolling hills that define rural Tuscany.
It's not a page from a romantic novel, it's simply what I'm experiencing while I'm typing this.
Last week, as I packed for my holiday, I wrote about taking opportunities when traveling to talk differently to others. This week, while I'm vacationing, let's consider how you can talk differently to yourself.
Back to the pool. Right now, my stress level is zero. I'm not reliving any of the many mistakes of my past. I'm pushing aside any work-related deadlines - except emailing this to my editor. I'm not worrying about my daughter's future teenage years or how I'll ever pay for her studies at university - presuming she wants to go. At this moment, I am most contentedly and deeply breathing in - along with the lavender - the moment.
Here in Tuscany, I am at "Il Pozzo", or "the well", an agriturismo or working farm that welcomes guests from the world over into charmingly remodelled 500-year-old stables turned self-catering cottages run by a dear friend, Carla Veneri. Last year, my daughter and I stayed for a week at Il Pozzo. This time, we invited nine of our Irish friends. Couples and families. All together in Italy.
We've indulged in communal late nights filled with talking and laughter as we sit al fresco under the stars devouring home-made tagliatelle, crostini, salami, roasted meats, garden-grown vegetables including Il Pozzo's incomparable fried courgette flowers and plenty of locally-produced wines.
Each of us are also, except, it seems, for the children, taking advantage of some solo quiet time.
As I lie by the pool, I am focusing on my senses. Scents: the fragrance of flowers and freshly cut grass. Sounds: bees humming, birds twittering and leaves rustling. Touch: the feeling of wind wafting away the heat. Sight: varied mellow shades of greens, golds and blue.
My friend Suzanne is poolside, too. Her husband, Kieran, however, is away from the water, nestled in a hammock strung between two trees. He says today he won't even pretend to bring his book.
He'll be too busy focusing on the sensation of being pleasantly rocked by the breeze. He's christened the hammock "Kieran's womb". A womb with a view.
This is what many people would call "mindfulness" - consciously noting what you're perceiving. It's about emptying your mind of the past and future worries and distractions - and refilling it with the present. Disrupt your busy thought patterns and train yourself to focus on what else may be being communicated to you.
Step two is to take time to write down your experience. This is where you frame what happened to you emotionally. Your descriptions define it. You can decide if the glass was half empty or half full. Writing crystallizes the moment into a message or story and stories one powerful tool for learning and passing experiences on.
When is the last time you experienced a treasured moment?
It doesn't have to be Tuscany, of course. I love the way the sun can suddenly cut through a grey Irish storm. The light glistening on still wet stone walls.
It doesn't have to be a holiday or weather memory either. Maybe it's the sound of your baby's joyful giggle. It could even be that satisfying click of the keyboard after you have hit "send" on an important email to a client. The critical thing here is that you take a moment to write down what happened.
What do you remember? How did you feel?
A few sentences or key words will do. But, when you have a great moment, take a moment to capture it in writing. Aim for a collection of assorted moments.
Now, pay attention to your triggers.
At the first sign of feeling stress, be it on the job or at home or wherever, grab that piece of paper and re-read your experience story word for word.
It's important to have it written, because if you aren't trained, you may not be strong enough to prevent the nagging or worrying thoughts from interrupting you if you simply try to think about your memory. Reading helps focus. If you're in a car, obviously don't read it until you pull over first!
Switching your focus to recall a moment can help you get through a moment of frustration.
It won't finish the pending job for you or fix whatever is broken. But when you stop, read and reflect, you are disrupting old patterns and starting to train a new behaviour and mindset.
It doesn't matter whether your experience comes from Tuscany or the Cliffs of Moher, you can become more aware and take charge of what fills your mind.
From holidays to the office, do you have a question about communications for The Communicator? Drop Gina an email at SundayBusiness@independent.ie Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist who is now a director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant. @TheGinaLondon
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