Speaking from the heart can be a powerful and authentic form of communication.
But why is it that for many people being heartfelt is reserved strictly for the purposes of making an apology?
Perhaps being heartfelt has become too closely associated with the difficult and uncomfortable nature of having to admit that we’re sorry for something.
Having moved on from trying to justify our position, saying sorry places us in a position of vulnerability. We hope that the other person will accept our words of contrition and we have to swallow our pride as we prostrate ourselves before the victim of our earlier transgression.
Yet if we can overcome these barriers, and really mean what we say in the apology, we might discover a way of communicating that will take our relationships on to a new and more rewarding level.
I have seen this liberation of heartfelt communication take place in recent weeks with an executive coaching client. Let’s call him Andrew.
After a heated exchange in the run up to an important sales presentation, Andrew wanted to make an apology to make to one of his line-reports, but he was struggling with how to address the situation.
By using an exercise based on the gestalt empty chair technique we uncovered some of Andrew’s subconscious barriers and were able to role-play what the apology might look like. While Andrew felt he was covering the right areas, he said that it still felt ‘a bit empty, it’s not heartfelt enough and even I don’t believe it.’
We subsequently worked out that the apology was entirely rational, a transaction to achieve the pre-determined goal of a restored working relationship.
We practiced connecting with what was in Andrew’s heart, and worked with those energies and emotions until he felt confident that ‘this is something I mean. I don’t know if it will be accepted but I know it’s coming from the heart.’
The apology was indeed accepted and Andrew has since been trying to inject more ‘heartfeltness’ in to his overall leadership style.
He reports a greater sense of connection with his colleagues and that he ‘spends less bandwidth trying to find the right things to say.’
I imagine that Andrew’s colleagues are responding to the greater conviction of his words and the openness of his body language – and there might well be energetic forces at play that are both subtler and more powerful.
Research shows that information about your emotional state is communicated through your body by the heart’s electromagnetic field – which is 5,000 times more powerful than that of the brain – and for several feet beyond your body. What’s more, the research suggests that this field of personal emotional energy can become interlinked with those of the people around you.
The scientific understanding of these energetic exchanges is at an early stage, but it inspires an intriguing thought that encourages us all to find greater alignment between what’s in our heart and what’s in our head. Because if we want to come across as heartfelt, people might not have just our words and gestures to go on – they might also be able to sense and to feel what’s really in our heart.