Global Leadership Series, Part 5: Cultivating intuition for more effective communication

ID-1001251522Intuition is crucial for successful global leaders. If there is one thing that can be counted on, it is this. Communication signals are easily scrambled by interpretation differences in intercultural environments. Fast, effective responses are crucial to success. Therefore, global leaders need to cultivate a healthy intuition and learn to rely on it.

If this sounds too abstract and a little too new-age-y, consider this.  Adair Nagata is an international communications expert. She has spent decades studying what she calls “bodymindfulness.” This is basically the impact our sub-rational senses can have on communication. According to Nagata, the key is “focusing.” By this, she means tuning into what happens in our communications process before it reaches the level of language. This includes recognizing and working on our inner states. This will lead to changes in our sense of being, or “presence.” This characteristic is picked up by others, and comes across in the way we express ourselves through language and behavior.  Together, this inner awareness and outward change creates what we call “intuition.”

ID-100260945In other words, focusing on your feelings is not just a way to become more emotional and less rational.  Nagata points out, “when we communicate, all aspects of our selves — body, emotion, feeling, mind, and spirit — are involved, whether we are conscious of them and use them skillfully or not. ” Subconscious emotions, for example, can escape in our body language, tone of voice, and other ways. These signals may contradict what we are saying. This, in turn, makes us seem less trustworthy or appealing to others. When we tune in to these subtle influences, we become consciously aware of them. As our awareness grows, so does our ability to consciously utilize them. This allows us to communicate more effectively or more creative in our work.

Luckily, there is a fast and easy way to become more in tune with our subconscious and our intuition:  conscious breathing. Nagata describes a simple practice that anyone can utilize. All you need is a few moments of quiet:

leader-icon41) Find a quiet place to sit. Use  good posture and keep both feet on the floor.
leader-icon52) Tune into your breathing. What does this tell you? Are you calm or anxious? Relaxed or tense?
leader-icon63) Consciously begin to breathe more deeply and evenly. Maintain awareness and quiet.
leader-icon74) Set your intention for how you want to be as you move forward.
leader-icon85) Practice “being here now.” Remember, presence requires being present!

 

Nagata lists several benefits of consciously tuning in to your intuition, your emotions,  and your body. First, you will become more aware of your inner state. As this awareness builds, so does your ability to control it. Soon, you will be able to consciously tune or shift your inner state. At first, this may seem unimportant. However, positive inner states allow clearer thinking and greater outward awareness. This leads to action that is more conscious and more purposeful.

As you practice, you will start to see more concrete results. You will find yourself making more accurate predictions and better decisions. You may not even be able to explain what changed. The answer is simply that you have developed a more accurate intuition and trained yourself to listen to it!

(drawn from Nagata, A.L. (2007). Bodymindfulness for skillful communication. Rikkyo Intercultural Communication Review, 561-76.)

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