Photo used with permission from Boris Smokrovic on Unsplash.jpg
“We” Instead of “Me:” Skills in Mindful Communication
“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”
– Pema Chodron
Yesterday, I went out to lunch with a couple of good friends. As I expected, we had a great time catching up and grousing about the dilemmas faced by many of us women over sixty – our arthritis, our adult children, and trying to communicate with our husbands who are, well, just hard to understand. After a couple of glasses of wine and a delicious bowl of oyster stew, I found myself sharing with my companions that sometimes, I can be quite the bi**h with poor Jim, my unsuspecting husband.
Part of my problem is that I set pretty high standards for myself. After all, I purport to be living a mindful life. I even teach a class in Mindfulness & Meditation, for goodness sake. So, losing my temper or lashing out in frustration is unacceptable. Right? My friends reminded me that I shouldn’t be so tough on myself. Easier said than done. Oops – there I go, being tough on myself again!
The reality is that mindfulness means that we need to be more compassionate with ourselves, as well as with others. We can notice and acknowledge when we engage in behaviors or communication that we regret without judging ourselves. Judgments are like digging holes. The longer we judge ourselves, the deeper the hole gets. And the harder it is to get out of the hole. Mindfulness allows us to say instead to ourselves (for example), “I’m being sarcastic with Jim and it makes me feel bad. I could just share my feelings next time this situation happens. I’m going to try that.”
Along with more self-compassion, we can learn to bring more mindfulness to the way we communicate with others. Susan Chapman, author of The Five Keys to Mindful Communication, suggests five skill sets that are challenging yet worth the effort.
- Mindful Presence
- Being an active listener with an open mind.
- Trying not to manipulate a conversation or predict its outcome.
- Let go of results which tends to eliminate emotional outbursts or overreacting.
- Communication isn’t focused on what the “me” needs, but on the “we.”
- Mindful Listening
- Encouraging the other person by trying to understand things from their point of view.
- Empathizing and hearing them peak from their best, authentic, true self, looking past their flaws.
- Mindful Speech
- Be gentle and thoughtful.
- Say what you mean without being harsh or cruel.
- Speak in a way in which our fears and insecurities don’t interfere with the message we try to convey.
- Speak from a place of truth, and not from a place where the goal is to “win.”
- Don’t exaggerate or lie.
- Don’t project nervous energy onto the other person.
- Unconditional Friendliness
- Accept the ups and downs and cyclical patterns of friendships and relationships
- Sometimes you’ll feel lonely; sometimes you’ll feel loved.
- Accept others despite how they may make you feel temporarily.
- Don’t cling to relationships when they aren’t working.
- Mindful Responsiveness
- Don’t forget to be playful and have fun.
- Playfulness is the openness that you have when you let go of preconceived notions and strategies.
- Respond to conversations authentically. No games. No rules or expectations. Just honesty.
These five skill sets contain many powerful ideas and opportunities for change. Do you agree? I plan to delve deeper into some of them in upcoming blog posts. Stay tuned!
The Velveteen Rabbit
By Margery Williams
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.”
“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
“But once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”