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How A Helium Balloon Helped Me Better Understand Communication

Talking is hard. Well, let me say it this way, communication is hard. With three daughters and my wife in the home, communication is always something we work on as a family. On top of that, I study communication and coaching as part of my profession so it is always top of mind.

I’m constantly helping clients figure out ways to improve communication, stop communication breakdowns, and understand the nuances of what they are communicating as a leader.

I’m sure whatever field you’re in you find strange connections to your field in the most mundane and dramatic ways. I’m no exception to that.

Several weeks ago, my daughter graduated from pre-school (I know, a big deal). Actually, this was her second time graduating. She graduated from P3 last year and now P4. Exciting! As part of celebrating her, she got a helium-filled graduation balloon. It’s been tied to her bed for several weeks now and I didn’t think anything of it.

When the balloon was beginning to deflate a bit I decided to untie it and intended to pop it and throw it away. Fortunately, I didn’t.

The Nuances Of Communication

The balloon has been floating around our hallway and bedrooms for a couple of days and it somehow found it’s way into my bedroom. When my wife and I were laying in bed I was fascinated by the movement of the balloon.

It seemed to have a mind of its own. First of all, it somehow escaped my daughter’s room then into the hallway where it lowered itself just enough to get under the door jamb and into my room. Strange.

As I lay in bed last night, I had a realization. The balloon was moving on the slightest of air currents and temperature differences in our room. It would float over to the corner then move toward us, then float over the light and then float back up to the ceiling. It was fascinating.

After turning out the lights, I had a realization that the nuances of communication are very much like that balloon.

Communication Floats Around

Words, tone, and attitude come out in our communication. Like that balloon, these words, tone, and attitudes find their way to other places and people in our lives. This happens intentionally and unintentionally.

What was said in one situation finds a way to another situation or person and seemingly in a mysterious way. Except it’s not all that mysterious. Words float around our home and workplaces resting in the hearts and minds of each one of us. It’s when we forget the string is no longer attached that our words float to unexpected places.

This isn’t something we can’t 100% prevent. Our words, tone, and attitudes are always floating around. They are nuanced in remarkable ways. A little word here or tone their impacts people’s lives in positive and negative ways.

What we release seems to have a mind of its own but the culture of your home and business will also determine how far those words float. Sometimes you can’t tie a string to your communication, but there are other ways to prevent words from getting to the wrong ears.

Communication Needs Barriers

Fortunately, as leaders in our homes and businesses, we determine the culture and the barriers of what is said. No matter how much that helium balloon floated around my bedroom, it never got through the closed office door.

In our home and businesses, we need to figure out what doors (figuratively and physically) need to stay closed so certain communication doesn’t escape. Sometimes those doors are actually in our hearts. Other times, it’s gossip or conversations meant for only certain leaders (parents) and those words need barriers.

In a healthy home and culture, those doors are clearly defined and those conversations don’t float their way down the hall and into someone else’s office or room.

In a healthy home and culture, the communication does find it’s way into the right places with the right people. Sometimes communication problems aren’t just words finding their way to the wrong places, sometimes things do need to be shared. The balloon needs to be untied.

Communication Needs Freedom

Yes, gossip is garbage. Lying is awful. Being manipulative is just mean. But something that seems to be worse than any of those is not letting your words go. Gossip is usually the result of someone not having the courage to ask the right questions to the right people or to share their opinion candidly.

Lying is the result of fear often times. Think about your kids or when you were a kid. Kids lie because they don’t want to get in trouble. Finally, manipulation is taking advantage of those that won’t speak up or stand up for themselves.

Communication is free yet we frequently pay a price because we fail to freely communicate.

We all need to give one another the freedom to kindly and honestly communicate. Sometimes those words need to be brought directly to the person and handed to them like a balloon on a string. Allowing them to hold on to the words and let it float over their lives and situation.

Other times, we need to be patient and let our words free. Allowing the nuances of the meaning in our words, tone, and attitude to settle into people’s hearts and minds. Our words and intentions will find a way.

When we communicate in a kind and honest way and we create proper barriers for certain communication, what we freely share will be priceless and life-changing.

Pick one of these questions and please share your thoughts.

  • Where do you find yourself not setting your words free?
  • Where do you find yourself having to apologize for your words, tone, and attitudes?
  • What area of life can you make changes to the nuances of your words, tone, and attitude?

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