A Feeling for Language

I fell in love with language long ago. I confess it. I have always had a love affair with words. I could say it was my mother’s fault, but that’s not the whole truth. She immersed me in the poetry of William Butler Yeats, William Shakespeare, W.H Auden, and so many others. I could say my brother played a part in it and he did. He was so into pop music lyrics. I loved the language in Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Tears for Fears, Billy Joel, and so many others. We learned over 1000 songs by heart together. I could say my high school English teacher, Clifford Gordon, sparked it. He was truly great, but the fire was already burning inside me long before he came along. I might even say my father tried to bore it out of me with all the talk radio he listened to. Yet, it was unstoppable inside of me. This love of language has always lived deeply in my heart. My family and teachers all helped nurture it and water the seeds, but the seeds were always there. I was meant to be a poet, a writer, and a lover of the communion which comes through conversation and connection. I was meant to be an artist of the heart. Language and communication are my strongest heart-centered tools. 

I’ve always had a deep feeling for language. I’ve had many loves in this lifetime: dance, music, nature, magic, art, writing, conversation, and language. Language is one of the deepest ones for me. As someone who values communication and connection above all things, I love this wondrous medium for connection. Don’t get me wrong. I love nonverbal language also. I love dance, music, body language, lovemaking, and art in all its forms. And yet, the language of the heart has always been my truest love.

Words have a mind of their own. When speaking, we need to determine which words want to be spoken here in this sentence. Each word is like a being.  Each word has a life of its own and its very own desires. Each and every word has a history attached to it. Anytime you use a particular word, you have the history of that word behind it informing its meaning and context. This is why I love etymology so much, a chance to know the history of a word.

Choices in Communication

You can approach each idea you’re about to communicate from many different angles. How do I say what I want to say? You want to have choices in order to have freedom. Take this last sentence I wrote as an example. Instead of saying, “You want to have choices …,” I could say instead, “You want to have possibilities,” or “You want to have multiple pathways.” I could say there’s an infinite array of options for how to communicate any idea and you can start it in any place that feels right. When we communicate, when we commune, when we connect, when we open our hearts to each other and find out what’s here, when we telepathically bond and link, there’s so many places we can go. When you’re talking, there are always many paths you can choose. There are so many ways you can dance a dance, sing a song, or paint a picture with words. Don’t discern the words to choose as a mental process; feel into the options as you’re speaking. Practice choosing a different pathway or saying the same thing in a new way. What will be the word, phrase, or sentence that best communicates this idea? 

Here are two exercises you can do to practice this:

Exercise 1

Practice saying something more challenging to communicate, which involves feelings or complex ideas. Try saying it one way, and then say it another way. Then say it three or four more ways. 

Take a phrase or sentence like, “I want my words to reach you so you can improve your communication.” I could say, “I want you to pay closer attention and tune in with your feelings as you speak.” I could say, “There’s a being behind communication and when you tune into that being, your language will be more inspired.” Or, I could say, “When you love language, it loves you back and serves you.” 

Exercise 2

Try changing a key word in a sentence and using other words to express it. 

For example, I could take the phrase, “coming into feeling” and use instead, “coming into sensation,” or “coming into a subtle awareness of your experience currently.” Feel into all the options and notice which one lands best with the other person.

When we see multiple options, it gives us more freedom of choice and possibility. Changing the way words are used is powerful. “Discrimination” or “discriminate” can be used as a neutral word. Discrimination is something we don’t want in the world. So, I take a stand against using that word in a positive way. The words are relations. They are unseen beings who like to dance with us. Which ones want to come join us at the table for this conversation?  

When someone else uses language in an unusual way, don’t judge how they do it. Seek to understand them with your heart. When you feel into them with empathy, you will typically understand what they are trying to say.

The Poet’s Feel

A good poet can feel language and often can relate to each word as a being or a living creature of its own. Often, part of the way the poet can feel for language is by sensing the intuitive impact of every world. Each and every word was born at a certain time and came into common use at another time. Its history is there everytime you utter or write a word. Both the history of the word and the cadence or music of the word touches your ear everytime a word is uttered. How does it feel on your tongue and taste between your teeth and lips? How does this word dance in the ears of the listener? Which word feels better or more succinct, or succulent, or sensual. When you are feeling your words, you take on the poet’s sensitivity to language and you make love with your words as you express them. 

Looking further at the word “discrimination,” we see the history of that word and all it may carry, including why I might choose another word over this one. For example, the word discrimination can be used to denote discernment or it can be used to describe unjust prejudice or treatment of people. Since it has both connotations, I almost never use the word discrimination or discriminate in a positive connotation, as in, “She has discriminating tastes.” I would much rather use “discernment,” which has no unwanted innuendo with it. Discernment is simply the ability to exercise sound or good judgment. Now, “judgment” is also a word with a varied meaning. Judgment can be more positive, as in having good judgment. Or it can have a neutral impact, as in the decision that was made legally. And, it can also be used to denote condemnation or judging someone as bad. So, I’m discerning and judicious in my use of the word judgment. When I use it, I make sure to dress it within the appropriate context so that my meaning is not misconstrued or misunderstood.

The Power of Language

When you wield words, you hold a powerful sword in your hand. These words can tap into our personal history or into our ancestral history. These words may be similar to what people were saying many generations back. Each word is a force. When you use this force deliberately to serve truth and love, then you are in integrity. If you use this force only to serve yourself, you are living in the narcissistic dream and your words will do damage. Use your words wisely and use them from the heart. 

Finding the Other’s Language

Every person has their own particular language. You can hear it in the metaphors they use, and the way they shape their awareness and their world with their language. Even if they don’t speak verbally, each person has a unique way of expressing themselves and communicating in the world. When someone speaks, practice using the same metaphors and similar words the other person uses with you. When you match these key words, the other will feel more deeply understood. 

Try it out for yourself and notice what happens when you reflect their language back to them. Usually it takes a couple of times talking with someone before you catch the exact qualities of their language. The better you know the other, the easier it is to speak their language with them. 

Little Words Big Impact

Every little word counts and has an impact. When do we use we or you or I? “We” is an inclusive word that evokes all of us together or the whole field of those sharing an experience. “I” is good to use when I’m speaking directly from my own experience. I like to use “you” when I’m speaking directly to you about something that I believe you will get more easily when I say you. There’s no right pronoun to use but there’s often one that feels right in your heart to use given the situation. Notice what feels right the next time you choose to use we, I, or you. 

Prepositions also have an impact on sentences. In general, I’m talking “with” you rather than talking “to” you. If I’m speaking to you, you become an object. If I’m speaking with you, we are in this dialogue together. 

“But” is a word which usually is used to negate a thought, while “and” joins the thoughts together. Usually and is a more versatile and inclusive word to use.You can still use but in the right context, when you want to offer contrast. For example, notice how I use but versus and in these next sentences. 

  • “I like what you said about empathy, but I disagree with you about one point.” 
  • “I like what you said about empathy, and I disagree about one specific point.” 

Do you notice how it goes down smoother with the use of and? “But” erases what comes before it, while “and” yokes it together. 

Open Your Heart

To truly feel language you must be able to feel your feelings. The heart is the organ of feeling in the body. When we open our heart to feel everything inside and around us, our ability to feel opens up. Reading poetry that moves you, or listening to music that inspires you, will both open your heart, just as any good artform will. 

Feel the Words

When the words wash over your body like water, you can feel them fill the pores of your skin. The words touch your body. The sounds enter your eardrums and reverberate inside. Their words can play on you like an instrument. When you speak, you can feel the words go through your body and the other person’s body. When writing, you can imagine how the words will touch the reader. When they hear the words in their head, or see it with their eyes, how will they feel? When we take the reader into consideration in the writing, it naturally changes which words we use and even the way we use the words.

A feeling for language is a core precept to Heart-Centered Operating System (HCOS). HCOS is a way to run any business with our heart at the center of everything we do. When we love language, our communication in a company becomes a profound and sacred act of communion. 

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