“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln
It’s amazing how personality development and communication workshops attract many participants but seminars on character development and improving communication with our deep inner selves has few takers. The world is smitten by the popularity bug; we want accolades and worldly glory, and if someone promises it circumventing the natural laws of strong inner work, we fall for it. Short cuts to success attract us but we should know that a short cut is often the quickest way to a place you weren’t planning to go.
We wish to communicate well and get the prized contract, or improve our negotiation skills. Most successful management gurus have however emphatically declared the futility of a pursuit focussing exclusively on inter personal communication at the cost of intra personal communication. In other words we need to first be sure of what we want in life and be able to reconcile the various pushing of the mind with our discriminating intelligence. Being sure of our priorities and goals, and by cultivating the ability to internally accommodate varying, conflicting and confusing views, we can grow to successfully develop the communication skills with the external world.
Internal work for tangible success
A few years ago I read one of the most fascinating books on negotiation skills, ‘Getting to Yes’ by Roger Fisher and William Ury. The book sold millions when it was first published in 1982, and offers an effective and practical guide to negotiation and communicating skills, and is based on sound intra personal principles. As part of the Harvard Negotiation project, Ury and Fisher developed a special method ‘principled negotiation’. In the first chapter the authors expose the dangers of positional bargaining whereby we allow our egos to take over. Later they also share the BATNA principle (Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement) where you do your homework well in advance before communicating with the other party. This is a method of vigorous internal exploration of all the alternatives that you could consider before a negotiation, to avoid disappointment or worse, enter into an agreement that you’d later regret. I was particularly impressed because I realized any tangible success doesn’t come easy. Lot of hard work and internalizing of principles precedes any meaningful and sustainable success in all spheres of life.
Private victory precedes Public victory
Even Steven Covey, I noted, lists the principles of empathic communication as the fifth in his list of seven habits of highly effective people. He soundly argues that private victory precedes public victory. In simple words he explains the first three habits as 1) taking full responsibility for our lives, 2) deciding what you want to do, and 3) living by it and doing it. These three habits are personal and relate to us as an individual person. It’s after these three that Covey elaborates on the next set of three habits which help us achieve public victory, and one of these is ‘seek to understand first then seek to be understood’. To be publicly successful- in all relationships with others- we need to first build the first three habits and internalize it into our character. To try smart communication skills without working on developing the character is an attempt with weak foundation and will only fetch short term results.
Strengthening the spiritual ‘digestion’
A person with a weak appetite may devour cakes and sweets only to pay a heavy price later. If the power of digestion is strong, we could take in rich foodstuffs and not get affected. Similarly every day our senses and mind takes in a lot of information about events and people in family and job areas. However if our internal ability to process these experiences through our intelligence – the digestive ability-is weak, we succumb to stress disorders. A strong intelligence founded on spiritual principles helps us develop clarity of thought and purpose; effective external communication then is a secondary need.
I can see Radhanath Swami also grounded on strong principles. He often says it’s futile if you conquer the external world but are internally devastated. He often reveals the sterling example of his close friend Jaya Pataka Swami who suffered a stroke of brain haemorrhage and was physically crippled. Although his physical movements have been strictly restricted, he’s uncomplaining and giving hope to others. His spirit of compassion and sense of humour is ever strong. Radhanath Swami offered a brilliant analysis on how his friend could cheerfully march on in his life, not allowing the externally devastating blow to discourage him in any way. “Jaya Pataka Swami is finding his joy and purpose in a place that is so much deeper than the skin, blood, and bones of his body. His anchor and strength is even deeper than the ever changing thoughts of the mind. He’s actually deriving his wealth from his soul, from his deep internal relationship with God.”
It can be thus practically seen how if you are a spiritual leader, internally connected to sacred principles, you continue to radiate positivity and influence the lives of others. You communicate strongly with the external world, even with unspoken words, for your internal communication system is strong and vibrant, founded on timeless principles.