Words have power. If used skillfully they can build trust. If used unskillfully, in minutes they can destroy trust that has been built up over years and years of friendship. To be mindful about what you say and how you listen, is an important aspect of living a Zen-inspired life.
When you speak skillfully, you use speech in a proactive way that communicates clearly to another what you are experiencing. This kind of speech is not re-active. And even if you disagree with another, it does not imply in any way that the one you disagree with is to blame.
How do you react when someone blames you for something? Don't you get defensive? Most people do. Once someone is feeling defensive, the likelihood of clear communication taking place is greatly reduced.
There are certain communication principles we teach in our Compassionate Communication classes that can be learned. They are:
- ground the conversation in facts by avoiding all evaluations, interpretations and judgements
- use language to communicate to another what you are actually feeling at the present moment
- connect this feeling to a need you have that is either being met in the present moment or is not being met
- make a clear request of the other, that will make it more likely that your need will be met.
These may sound simple, but in real life situations, are usually difficult to apply and use. So it's helpful to train in using these language patterns. As part of our Gateway curriculum, we teach these principles in our Compassionate Communication classes.
Sadly, we don't learn much about mindful speech in the public arena. The world needs mindful speech, so that when we disagree with others, we don't spend our time demonizing them creating more chaos, turmoil and trouble.
Roshi Robert Althouse