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The Vowels of Effective Communication

"Ornery" isn't a word I use very often. In fact, until a few weeks ago, I'd never really used it at all. But this week, after a business prospect I'd been working with for a few months, failed to deliver on her promises, I really gave in to an ugly and unpleasant temper. I felt ornery.

My initial thought was to express my orneriness in a condemnatory email or phone call. It seemed like the natural thing to do. But a little voice in the back of my head told me to sleep on it and re-visit things in the morning.

Communicate from a Calm Place

That little voice in my head probably came from something we teach on our Communication courses at ManageTrainLearn. First off, don't communicate with anyone when your emotions, - and your orneriness, - are running high. And second, when you are calm and can communicate, don't think about getting others to understand your position and how you feel. Instead, do everything you can to understand their position and how they feel.

Aikido in Action

In "Chicken Soup for the Soul", Mark Victor Hansen relates Terry Dobson's story of the drunk on the Tokyo metro. This is a story of how Terry Dobson found himself on a late-night underground train in Tokyo confronted by a violent-looking drunk. Terry was in Japan studying martial arts and aikido. As the drunk got more threatening by the minute, he prepared himself to use one of the quick attacking moves that he had learnt in his studies.

At that moment, they both heard someone shout out, "Hey!" and turned round to see a tiny old Japanese gentleman sitting on a seat and beckoning to the drunk. "Come here and talk to me," he said.

The drunk ignored him so the old man asked, "What you been drinking?" with eyes sparkling with interest.

"Sake!" the drunk bellowed back, "and it's none of your business."

"Oh, that's wonderful," the old man said, "absolutely wonderful. You see, I love sake too. Every night my wife and I warm up a little bottle of sake and go and drink it under the persimmon trees in our garden."

The drunk's face began to soften. "I love persimmon trees."

"And I bet you have a lovely wife, too."

"No," replied the drunk. "My wife died. And then I lost my job. And my house." Very gently, almost like a child, the drunk began to sob as he related the story of his misfortune and loneliness to the old man.

By the time he left the train, the drunk had completely calmed down. Terry alighted from the train and sat on the station platform. He took a moment to think. "What I had wanted to do with muscle had been accomplished with kind words. I had seen aikido in action and the essence of it was love."

The Five Vowels Approach to Communication

This approach to communicating can also be summed up in what we call the Five Vowels approach. The vowels are AEIOU and stand for:
A for Acceptance
E for Empathy
I for Interest
O for Openness, and
U for Understanding.

When I Skyped my prospect on the morning after my orneriness, I decided to put aikido and the Five Vowels into practice.

As a result, I now have a prospect with whom I have built understanding; a relationship that I can build on in the future; and, quite possibly, a friend for life.