Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Communicate Like a (Mindful) Pro

At some point in time, each of us will need to dialogue with someone who is disrespectful or who rubs us the wrong way. There are some people we simply can’t avoid because we work with them or they are in our family, or for some reason, we cannot simply ignore them, no matter how badly we want to or how hard we try.

Here are some suggestions for healthy communication for the next time you find yourself needing to speak up.

1.) Say It As Soon As Possible
If you have something to say but you hold it in, it will fester. Then, you will likely be angry and everything you say will be loaded with that emotion. Its difficult to communicate or see anything clearly when all you see is red. Sooner is always better.

2.) Don’t Assume
Never assume that you know what the other person is thinking or experiencing. We never know what kind of drama may be in their lives that may cause them to act the way they do. As an example, I once taught a restorative yoga workshop. After class an unassuming, gentle student—one I’d never met before that day—approached me. She said, “I just want to thank you for the class. When I served in Iraq I was captured and held hostage and this class really helped me process the emotion and fear from that experience.” I had no idea, and we usually don’t. So ask questions, or at least be open to hearing what the other person has to say.

3.) Take Responsibility
If you did something hurtful (even if you didn’t mean it), apologize. Be willing to make change yourself, don’t just expect the other person to change. The reality is, the other person may not change at all. Communicating isn’t about trying to get someone to change, but about speaking up for yourself, maintaining healthy boundaries and evolving to meet the situation at hand. 

4.) Apply the Four Gates of Speech. These questions help further streamline your communication.

• Is it truthful?
Get your facts straight. Make sure you are talking to the correct person about something they have control over. If not, you might look like a real jackass or say something you truly regret.

• Is it necessary to say?
Take the time to examine your thoughts and feelings. Are you reacting to something that has nothing to do with the situation that’s bugging you? Will you be able to let it go if you don’t say anything? Can the situation even be changed? (i.e. the other person’s hands might be tied by some circumstance, even if they want to change it)

• Is this the right time to say it?
Be aware of the other person’s mood and what they are doing. If they are already in a bad mood, what you say could make it worse. Also, if they are occupied, say they are on the phone, working on the computer or otherwise distracted, they won’t be able to engage in conversation or hear you with any clarity. Start out by asking if they have a moment to chat. If they say yes, then you know you’ve got their attention.

• Can it be said in a kind way?
We all know how it feels to be spoken to in a derogatory way and none of us like it. Excerpted from the book Blink, “…in fact, the presence of contempt in a marriage can even predict such things as how many colds a husband or wife gets; in other words, having someone you love express contempt toward you is is so stressful that it begins to effect the functioning of your immune system.” So, think about what you are going to say before you say it. Think of the other person as your equal and frame the conversation in a way that is respectful. Besides when you talk down to someone, they never, ever take you seriously!

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