One-on-One (video 1:24 seconds)
It flaps its wings 10-15 times per second while hovering in the air. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of them working our flowerbeds. They dart around at speeds over 30 mph! If you desire a peaceful bird-watching experience, hummingbirds may be too busy, but they’re so cool.
Debra’s “busy mind” darted all over the place during our conversation. As a result, she listened poorly and interrupted me often as I spoke. Such behavior limits her performance as an outstanding physician. With so much “activity” in her head it hinders her effectiveness. The key to Debra (and you) being a better listener starts in an unexpected place…
Support yourself with oxygen
- Detoxifies and releases toxins; 70% of your body’s toxins are released through breathing
- Releases tension; tension, fear, stress triggers shallow breathing as your muscles get tight
- Relaxes the mind/body and brings clarity; more oxygen to your brain reduces excessive anxiety
- Relieves emotional problems; it helps clear those uneasy feelings
Most of us settle for shallow breathing to our own demise. Beyond the many physical benefits, a deep breath not only helps you in conflict. It helps you focus. Once you have enough oxygen, your brain can focus on what’s in front of you… Oh, yes, a person. Their words are the nectar your hummingbird energy really craves.
Create space … “Breathe.”
Imagine a tense situation at work, driving in the construction zone, a conversation with your boss, child or spouse. It’s emotional because something is at stake; it matters. You naturally slip into “trying to control” the situation or person. This doesn’t work … you can’t control others. The frustration shoves you around and your self-control slips. Your little wings start flapping wildly, darting from this thought to that thought.
Combine the inclination to “control” with the pace of your life [not enough sleep, skipped lunch, long hours], the natural survival instinct when threatened, and you can see why it’s so easy to re-act.
Take a deep breath. Be calm and responsive. Exercise self-control. Communicate effectively. It doesn’t matter if they “pushed your button” and it was easy to say something. Slow down. You’ll regret it later if you just re-act.
When it’s tense, how do you stop and think? What can you do to avoid an unproductive re-action?
How to Breathe and Cleanse
Welcome a cleansing breath. This one step supports positive behavior during an intense moment. A cleansing breath takes time (seconds) and gives time to stop and think.
Here are the recommended steps:
- Inhale (slowly) through your nose … expand your belly, then fill your chest; count to 5
- Hold and count to 3 or 4
- Exhale (slowly) through your slightly parted lips; push all the air out using your diaphragm
- Repeat as needed for the moment; as a breathing exercise schedule 5 minutes to simply breathe deeply
Deep breathing is cleansing, supports clarity, and creates space – slows things down so you may think. Now it doesn’t matter how fast your wings beat. Your human brain is navigating through the maze of life’s challenges. If you can think, you may choose a different behavior.
Who does that?
When someone does something “stupid”, rarely do they start the day out thinking: “How can I show up in an unproductive, self-limiting way today? What can I do to harm this relationship or hinder my performance?”
What you need is time to think. Leaders create space to think. Deep breathing supports the opportunity to stop and think. To avoid unproductive behavior when something matters and emotions are pushing for a fight or to retreat … breath. Deep breathing slows you down physically, mentally, and emotionally and gives you the opening to think.
That day I invited Debra to breathe 5 or 6 times before she began to relax. Using this God-given gift of deep breathing, she tamed her mental hummingbird. As she continues, she achieves mental clarity and less anxiety. Creating space to think before speaking allows her to ask better questions and listen better.
She’s drinking the nectar of listening and discovering the wonder of others. How does your story match up to hers?