If I listen, I can hear it. Though, I’m usually not quiet enough or paying sufficient attention.

But when I get into my senses, put away my technology and just be present I can definitely hear it. I can hear nature talking and communicating. This music is better than anything on my phone: the sound of the ice groaning as it expands, the ancient spruce trees creaking in the wind, the squirrel warning its neighbors that Sutro, my dog, is nearing, or the birds celebrating the arrival of warming temperatures. If we’re listening, we hear that the natural world is always talking. Communication, one of the EcoPsychology Initiative’s 10 Principles, is always happening and isn’t just limited to humans.

Information is power. Communication is the exchange of information; therefore, communication is power.

Considering how important communication is, it is remarkable that we are so poorly educated about how best to communicate. Few of us had classes on how to effectively share our thoughts and feelings in school, let alone learning how to really listen. For the few of you fortunate enough to have had such advanced schooling, I bet most of this was communication was using words. How much training did you get in nonverbal dialogue? And to think that over 50% of communication is nonverbal! We are unprepared. No wonder we are struggling.

You needn’t look around you very far or follow politics, religion and social issues, to realize that our world is deeply struggling with how to communicate. This is also present in families and personal relationships. It is the one of the biggest sources of suffering on all levels. Communication is foundational to all relationships and interactions. It can single-handedly determine whether a relationship is constructive, respectful and warm or distant, cold and unproductive. Often, it is the key difference between success and disappointment.

Communities, movements, and organizations are continually looking at how best to share their message. This is the key to any success you want to have. Success can be directly tied to the culture of communication and relationships. Ineffective communication in any human ecosystem will create endless problems. It may be hard to share our hopes, love and gratitude; but it is especially difficult to share our needs, disagreements or vulnerabilities. Too often the message is ineffective, filled with judgment, shame, confusion or disregard of the other.

People must learn how to share their message of yes or no, yearnings or fears, solutions or goals. Knowing this is essential to improving organizational cultures and the fabric of our world.

The EcoPsychology Initiative is committed to improving the way our culture communicates. This entails helping how communities, institutions and people speak with each other. We want to empower our planet with effective ways to share our experiences, needs and truth. As part of this mission, we offer communication programming for groups, organizations and individuals. Look for some additional public programming on communication, including online opportunities we will be offering in the coming months. We are excited to share with you what we know about effective strategies and techniques for communicating. In the meantime, we encourage you to learn from the natural world.

Most simply, effective communication involves being quiet, focused and present. These are the very things you experience when you go outdoors, put down your phone and feel into your body and heart. You learn to listen. This is probably more important than any speaking ability. Though easier said than done, you can start by going outside and paying attention. Look and listen, feel and be present. Listen to water lapping, wind blowing, and animals communicating. Like a zen koan, when you understand what trees creaking and ice groaning means, then you will have the foundation for communicating with humans.

by Dennis Kiley

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