Communication between person to person is easy, right? We do it every day. It should be natural, right?
- How many times have you had a conversation with a friend or a spouse/partner and just shook your head afterward?
- How many times have you been frustrated because you either couldn’t get your point across or you didn’t understand their point?
- How many times has communication, the lack of or the inability to communicate, been the cause of a problem or a misunderstanding between friends?
Personally, I couldn’t begin to count how many times all of these 3 things have happened to me.
I can honestly say that if I had perfect communication between me and my spouse/partner, I would have the perfect relationship. I truly believe that.
That is how important proper communication is in a marriage, partnership, or friendship. That is also how important it is with your horse.
Good communication is always the answer. That alone will resolve so many issues and problems.
However, good communication is not an easy task. There are 3 main components to communication.
- What you say – Verbal/Written – the actual words you use and how you structure them into sentences and paragraphs.
- When you say it – Timing – when you answer or jump into a conversation and when you interject your thoughts and feelings to another person.
- How you say it – Tone and Physical – the cadence and tone of your voice when you are expressing your words as well as your body language and how you express your emotions.
This has become more visible and relevant to me lately as I’ve been working more with my friend who has a T.B.I. (traumatic brain injury). I’ve been teaching him how to communicate with my horse Merlin.
But of course, we have to communicate with each other about how to communicate with Merlin. That’s where issues have arisen and I’ve seen the effects of his T.B.I. more clearly.
My friend has improved measurably and is able to do almost everything that he could before his accident. He is about 90% back to the way he was before, but this is probably as far as he will get in his recovery according to his doctor.
Most of the time the 10% that is still lost isn’t even noticeable. Really the only time it’s noticeable is with his audio/written comprehension and how this relates to his communication skills with others.
Here is an example of how that shows up in his written communication skills:
He asked someone in a text, “How much money did you make selling your product?” And that person thought he was asking how much money she had made selling that product in the last month or maybe in the last year. So she responded accordingly.
However, he didn’t understand her response. She said, “I made a lot of money selling that product. You should sell it too.”
He asked me if I understood her response and I said, “Yes, you asked her how much money she made and she responded by saying, “a lot”. She obviously didn’t know what time frame you were asking about so she kept her answer general.
He didn’t understand my response either.
After a much more in-depth conversation, I realized that he meant to ask her what her sales price was as opposed to her retail price. Basically how much money she made on each sale of this one item.
To me, these two concepts are very different. One is more general and the other is detailed. Both questions should be worded very differently than the other too.
However, to him, the question he asked (the wording of the question) meant the same as what he had described to me later. He couldn’t comprehend the difference.
But this incident showed him that what you say is very important in order for the other person to understand exactly what you are asking and get the appropriate answer.
When you say it is just as important.
How many times has someone cut you off in mid-sentence and you couldn’t get your whole thought out or even finish your sentence? Frustrating isn’t it?
And most of the time what they think you’re going to ask or their response to what they thought you were going to say is wrong! So you have to try to say it again in order to get an appropriate answer.
Getting cut off and not being able to get your point across can leave you feeling as if the other person doesn’t care about you or the subject being discussed. It can be very discouraging.
It can also feel as if the other person isn’t interested in what you have to say and can’t wait to get the whole conversation over with. This can be frustrating as well and can cause issues between you.
Then there is how you say it… and that can be a big giveaway.
How many times have you seen someone say something but you knew they weren’t being truthful by the way they crossed their arms or tapped their foot on the floor? Their body language can be very telling.
Their mouth can say one thing and their body another. The tone of their voice is also very telling.
There are two things that turn me off with salesmen.
- They are so eager and over the top with their sales pitch that it feels as if they just drank 12 cups of coffee. I am not a high-energy person 100% of the time and probably not even 50%. So that push, push, push, heavy sales pitch just makes me go the other way. I don’t care how good a deal it is. I don’t go for the heavy-hand tactics.
- The phone sales guy that you know is reading a script and couldn’t care less about what he’s selling. The tone of his voice is so low, methodical, and has no emotion one way or the other. With that kind of disconnect and lack of care for the product, there’s no way I even want to continue listening. I just hang up.
So the tone of your voice is very important to get your point across and keep the interest of the person you’re talking to. And it shows the other person that you care about them as well as the subject the two of you are discussing.
The good news is that when my friend with the T.B.I. and I talked about his thought process and how words can be taken literally or interpreted, he understood how important what you say is in order to have better communication with people.
And he has seen first-hand working with Merlin how the timing of what you say and the way you say it affects how Merlin responds to him. It makes a big difference in their relationship.
Even though he has had to re-learn his communication skills with people because of his injury, many people without an injury also have trouble with this skill.
It really is something that has to be practiced and honed. Otherwise, it can cause problems throughout that person’s life.
One thing that is really helping my friend is learning how to communicate with Merlin. The concepts are the same.
It also seems to be easier for him to be with the horses and learn to communicate with them rather than with other people. But he is doing well.
What you say, When you say it, and How you say it.
These are the things we focus on when teaching him how to develop better communication with horses and people. He’s getting better but he still has to focus on these three things while typing, texting, or talking. This has resolved many of his communication issues much more quickly.
And he is doing very well with his communication skills with Merlin, even though Merlin is a young horse and is also learning how to communicate with people.
We are still working on these 3 aspects, but I can see how deeply he is naturally connecting to Merlin and starting to communicate with him on a more energetic/spiritual level.
Merlin adores him.
It’s absolutely beautiful to see how pure they are with each other.
So even though they are both going through a learning process, the spiritual connection that has developed between them has helped smooth out a lot of bumps in the road.
But when things don’t go smoothly, there is such an underlying current of love between them that there is no animosity, no frustration, and no bad feelings.
There is just this sense of trust which says, it’s OK, I’m here for you, and I’ve got your back every step of our journey together, how are we going to make this better?
In fact, as I’ve explored this whole approach with my friend and my students, I’ve come to realize that a spiritual connection is not just a shortcut to better communication but it is the ultimate problem-solver.
Any issue you may have with your horse, whether serious or frustrating, a ‘must-solve’ or a ‘live-with’, can all be answered in the realm horses occupy in their every moment. The energetic world of now.
When you dive deep into your horse’s world, your world will change too.