Sound has a profound impact on us. Beautiful music can move us to tears. Great words can uplift us and make us feel wonderful. Unfortunately, words can cause breakdowns as well. Humanity has inflected great tragedy upon itself, wars have happened because of words.
What we say can make a huge difference to the people around us. Especially, as Craniosacral therapists, the words we speak to our clients could accelerate their healing, or arrest it. The way we speak can deeply affect them.
Words are important – they can activate the ventral vagus by creating a sense of safety or invoke a fight or flight response by activating the sympathetic system. And if you drone on and on and on, you could bore people by activating their dorsal vagus.
Here are some things to watch out for, to ensure that the conversations you are having with people are of the highest order, and you (and they) truly move forwards towards mutual success.
The meaning of what you are speaking resides with the listener. Do not make the mistake of assuming that the person you are talking to actually understands what you are saying in the way you want them to understand it.
For a foodie, the word pizza can conjure up imagery of soft melting mozzarella baked to golden brown perfection, of luscious tomato sauce and fresh toppings all sizzling together to create a mouthful of heaven.
For a fitness enthusiast, pizza is going to mean unnecessary fat with dangerous calories and poisonous refined flour.
These are two utterly different realities.
Good conversation bridges the gaps between the realities of the speaker and the listener and ensures the correct message has been conveyed.
When you are “right” in a conversation, the other person is obviously wrong.
Most people love being right. And almost no one likes to be wrong.
When you make someone wrong, you trigger their sympathetic system and antagonise them. They will not wish to engage with you any more, or both of you may end up verbally assaulting each other. This will create intense distrust and distance in the relationship.
You will need to learn the skill of making your point, yet not making the other person wrong.
Your heart is electrical in nature and when beating regularly, sends signals of coherence to the brain. The brain interprets these as feelings of safety and security.
If your heart skips a beat, or starts beating faster because of external (or internal) situations, it will send incoherent signals to the brain, which could then potentially interpret what is going on as a threat and start to trigger the sympathetic response.
If there is a conversation going on here, it will rapidly go downhill as both the people will start to trigger their sympathetic nervous systems and feelings of mutual distrust emerge. At this point, it is best to disengage, let things cool down and then see if there is a point in continuing the conversation.
Heart to heart conversations are honest, meaningful and create tremendous trust.
Hearing someone out without judgement and responding to them will not trigger an incoherent heart beat in either of you, and your relationship with that other person deepens.
Sometimes, some therapists try to use fear to get clients. They scare their clients into coming for sessions. They say things like – If you don’t take 8 sessions, then this problem will recur. They operate from a sense of lack, not from a space of gratitude and abundance. Sooner or later these people will go out of business.
When you create a space of fear, you are going to fire people’s sympathetic systems and they will eventually not want to come to you, nor recommend you to others.
In the short-term fear may even work… However, in the long term it’s not an intelligent strategy at all because you are working against people’s biological programming.
If you push people into their sympathetic response, they lose their ability to interpret facial expressions and tonal quality of their voices. A person gets triggered and you smiling at them could be interpreted by them as you mocking them. You talking to them normally could sound rude.
This applies to you as well. If you get triggered, ordinary responses from others may be interpreted by you to be antagonistic. When you are triggered you lose the ability to make a difference to the situation. Watch out for that. You as a therapist needs to know what’s going on within yourself so that you can better figure out what’s going on with your client. It’s a game of awareness. Catch yourself before you fall into this craziness created as a defence system by evolution. Know that you have the ability to override it.
Never use fear to get people to come to you. Use knowledge. Study. Practice. Become the best you can be and see how perfectly things work out for you.
Though we have talked about sound and conversations in the context of Craniosacral Therapy, this knowledge is not restricted just for therapists. Knowing this, your life can change – if you implement it.
This article is excerpted from the notes of Seminar 4 of the Craniosacral Therapy Foundation Training of Sri Sri Tattva Centre of Healing Arts. Communication forms one of the important aspect of our foundation training.