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On Skillful Silence

I've been doing a lot of radio for my upcoming book, and I recently spoke to the wonderful Karen DeMasters from Financial Advisor magazine (here's the article). Each time I'm interviewed, I'm reminded that I have to convince people why awareness is a powerful skill, particularly for financial advisors. We here in The West simply don't value it or consider it something that needs to be learned.

Silence is the Perfect Example

Silence—at least in the mindfulness world—is an awareness practice. When your nervous system is settled and regulated (and you know this because you're aware if it and can even make it happen if it's not settled or regulated), you can listen in a way that's qualitatively different. There's a sensing that's possible. You sense when silence is called for, you sense when it's time to respond with a thank you and anything else that feels necessary in the moment.

When you're on the receiving end of silence that's contrived, you feel it. Trust me on this. You feel like you're being given the silent treatment. It's like some sales technique someone learned where the lesson ended with: Whoever talks first loses. People, this is not deep listening. This is not a skillful use of silence.

Use Your Nervous System

There is no one on the planet who will be able to get to know your nervous system better than you. And the state of your nervous system is arguably the most important factor in your communication, listening, and other relating "activities." It dictates your way of being—how you're showing up. It can soothe and regulate others and it can agitate others (and theirs can do the same for you. Here's an award-winning paper on the topic by the brilliant Julie Fortin). It behooves all of us to learn as much as we can about how we operate simply so we can show up in a more informed way. So much of life is a mystery, but this need not be.

Get to Know Thyself

Perhaps the most profound byproduct of getting to know yourself, if you allow it, is what happens once you've sat with yourself in silence. Deep listening, after all, isn't just about interpersonal silence; it's also about inTRApersonal silence. From meeting your demons and your pain and your patterns and your stories, to seeing them for what they really are and allowing them to leave as quickly as they appeared, once you've done that you realize what everyone else is dealing with. Of course, you don't know exactly what they're dealing with—you don't know the contents—but I don't think that matters. You know enough. THAT's empathy. And from it springs boundless compassion, with its wide-open heart and its non-judgment.

Join me.


PS - Teams and firms get their own date/time. Wednesdays and Thursdays are booked. Contact me at for pricing and availability.


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