Excessive forced discipline creates long-term resentment, and is to blame for many of the broken relationships children have with their parents once they become adults. In contrast, a subtle and supportive tone of suggestion will not meet with so much resistance and will be more effective in the long run.
When we communicate in such a situation, we usually prepare ourselves by going through what we want to say. There is an intent to convey something that takes shape in our mind and manifests itself through our spoken words. Almost always it has an emotional charge, which expresses in the tone and body language. Ravi’s tone and body language reflected his negative emotions of anger, frustration and disappointment.
The receiver of the message picks up the emotion through subtle vibrations, body language and tone, even before the words come out. So Ravi’s boss picked up the message via all these various signals, and processed her interpretation of what had been said. She immediately felt his frustration.
Is that all there is to it? Actually a lot more goes on behind the scenes: The egos of the person speaking, and the person listening are both at play. Do they perceive the other as superior, inferior or equal? Their intellects are busy applying logic and reasoning, both in expressing and understanding. Ravi’s boss, who viewed herself as superior, felt challenged.
Often, the speaker makes the mistake of expressing something as an instruction or order, when it would be better expressed as a suggestion. The very definition of suggestion is to “put forward for consideration”. The listener perceives this as “having a choice”. She would then have felt treated as an equal or a superior. An order or instruction, on the other hand, is immediately perceived as something imposed that was challenging her choice. It would have made her feel inferior and invoked her intellect to find reasons to refuse the instruction, and defend her position through logic.
In the above scenario, Ravi was expressing himself to his boss using the “order or instruction” language: “I should have been promoted!” This triggered a reaction, because his boss perceived this statement as him trying to take away her decision-making role.
This also holds true when people ask for advice. It is more courteous and effective to use language like “Would you like to evaluate this?”, “Would it make sense to follow option A or option B?”, etc. Try to keep your body language and tone empathetic and consistent with putting forth suggestions rather than giving instructions. For this to work it can’t be a strategy; it must be offered with authenticity and sincerity.
Try to practise rephrasing your commands as suggestions. Over time, this will become second nature.
When Ravi refined his approach, using the power of suggestion, he reframed the conversation with his boss. Instead of saying that he should have been promoted, he asked for her advice on how he could be promoted. He suggested that his boss guide him through a specific plan to get there. This had much better results. As you practice the art of applying suggestions, you will learn that the most effective suggestions are the non-verbal ones. The way you walk into a room, the way you think, the way you look at someone, all become suggestions in action. They seem to have an impact in some mysterious way. The subtler the suggestion, the more is its impact. We are all connected at a consciousness level, as Carl Jung described. Quantum physics, especially the field of quantum entanglement, is exploring how thought in one person affects another.
I invite you to experiment with the power of suggestion and see how it can change your relationships. I hope that you experience more authentic and meaningful relationships as a result.
Kamlesh D Patel is the fourth spiritual guide in the Sahaj Marg system of Raja Yoga meditation. He travels extensively and is at home with people from all backgrounds and walks of life, giving special attention to the youth of today. www.heartfulness.org
(This is the concluding part of the two-part series, ‘How to be an inspiration’)