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Wise Online- Week 6


Mindful Communication

The essence of communicating mindfully is about cultivating empathy, understanding and love. It’s a practice devoted to pausing; noticing the breath; identifying and expressing feelings, needs, and expectations with care and respect; and listening for the same in others.

Compassionate communication (also known as NVC non-violent communication) helps us remain empathetic with each other, even in situations fraught with anger or frustration. It teaches us to speak to others without blaming and to hear personal criticisms without withering.

Mindfulness, with its inherent focus on being present and non-judgmental, seems particularly suitable for promoting the quality of communication and dealing with conflict.

To be assertive, you need to learn to engage in healthy conflict. Healthy conflict directly and constructively addresses the issue at hand without ignoring the needs of either party. The strategies that follow will get you there.

Effective communication with those who we disagree with is extraordinarily difficult. If you are like most people, you have a fall-back strategy to deal with conflict that was learned early in life, one that is habitual and embedded in interactions with others.

The three most common strategies are:

  • Accommodate (“be nice”)
  • Demand (“me first”)
  • Withdraw (“I don’t care”)

There is a fourth way, one that involves investigating both your world and the other person’s world, that can sometimes yield a surprising and creative solution that honours both parties. In the martial art, Aikido, this would be called blending, a move that harms neither party and turns conflict into more of a dance than a fight. This is complex and an art form in itself, and forms the basis of Marshall Rosenberg’s Non-Violent Communication (NVC), something that is introduced this week.

Mindful non-violent communication (NVC) consists of three facets:

(a) being present and paying attention in conversations

(b) an open, non-judgmental attitude

(c) a calm, non-impulsive manner.

NVC is often referred to as ‘giraffe language’. The giraffe is the land animal with the biggest heart. With its long neck the giraffe has a good overview and clear vision. The giraffe stands for compassionate communication. Giraffe language is unifying.

NVC guides us to reframe how we express ourselves and how we hear others. Instead of habitual, automatic reactions, our words become conscious responses based firmly on awareness of what we perceive, feel and want in that moment.

Within the framework of NVC, we’re led to express ourselves with honesty and clarity, while simultaneously paying others respectful and empathic attention. In any exchange, we come to hear our own deeper needs and those of others. NVC trains us to observe carefully, and to specify behaviours and conditions that are affecting us. The form is simple, yet powerfully transformative.


4 steps to applying NVC Giraffe Language

  1. Observe what is happening and describe the situation without judgement:
    I see … / I hear … / the situation is / repeat what you’ve just heard…
  2. Identify/express your feelings:
    I feel …
  3. Find the need behind your feeling:
    My need is …/ because I would like … / I desire … / I need …
  4. Formulate a clear, positive, doable request:
    Please will you … / Are you willing to do this …?


Are you a Mindful Communicator?

This week the focus is on mindfulness, compassion and effective communication.  Ask yourself the following questions and based on your answers, decide if you can be more mindful at work and in your relationships at home.

Work your way through the following checklist, answering either YES or NO to the following questions.  There is no need to judge yourself. Simply make a note of what you can work on further.

Ask Yourself…. Yes, I am very mindful of my behaviour  No, I need to work on this further
Do you take the time to listen to what others have to say?
Do you really hear them and appreciate their view point? Or are you quick to interject your own thoughts before they are even finished?
Can you be in a meeting and concentrate on what is being discussed or is your mind scattered and thinking about your previous meeting or what is to come later in the day?
Are you calm and in control when faced with difficult or challenging situations? Or do you jump to conclusions or react unfavourably?
Are you clear on your path and have the ability to inspire and motivate others? Do you have self-compassion and the courage to lead and mentor others?
Are you a positive pillar at work (and at home) and a person others can turn to? Or do you always have negative things to say?
Is there always trust and respect for other human beings? Are you able to accept responsibility for actions without placing blame on others? Do you avoid saying bad things about other people?
Do you care about other people’s well-being and lives, genuinely wishing them happiness and ease.
Do you always show kindness to all human beings (including work colleagues and even strangers)

The Pathway to Compassionate Communication   

  • Formal practice It isn’t difficult to become a mindful communicator if you are willing to make an effort to develop a practice of non-judgmental awareness and meditation (and be open to the process). The ideal practice is to cultivate a mindfulness meditation that is done ten to twenty minutes once or twice a day.
  • Self-assessment   Effective communicators periodically take stock of their personal strengths and shortcomings. They ask: “Am I good at communicating? Am I compassionate and demonstrate empathy at all times? What do I like to do? What am I really good at?” “What are my areas of weakness, and what do I dislike doing?” Knowing your areas of weakness does not make you weak; on the contrary, it allows you to further develop yourself. Working on your areas of weaknesses will improve your leadership ability – and recognising them makes you more human.
  • Sharp perception   Do you know how people really perceive you? Effective communicators do. They have an easy level of honest communication with their teams and their peers, and a thorough understanding of how they are perceived. Testing others’ perception of you can be as simple as observing their behavior. Are your co-workers and team members relaxed around you? Does all conversation stop when you enter the room?
    If you really want to know what people think, ask them. A feedback form is a good idea. Be prepared to make space for the uncomfortable. You may receive feedback that you’re not listening, communicating well or showing appreciation/compassion/empathy as well as you could be. If you’ve established an environment of authenticity leadership and honest and open communication, you should be able to ask about your good qualities and the areas you need to improve on.

Sending the Compassion Outwards

Practice radiating compassion and kindness outwards. Firstly you might like to direct it towards a loved one, holding the vision of them in your mind’s eye and in your heart genuinely wishing them well. Wishing that they experience happiness, health, love and joy in life. And then as you go along you can include members of your immediate family, friends, a partner, siblings etc.

There is no need to stop there. You can practice directing kindness and compassion towards anybody, toward people you know and people you don’t know. It may benefit them, but it will certainly benefit you by refining and extending your emotional being. This will mature you as a person especially if you direct it towards those people you have a hard time with, towards those who you dislike or are repulsed by, or towards those who have threatened you or hurt you in some way. You can also direct compassion and kindness towards people with whom you have some difficulty with. This can be profoundly healing.

Positive Communication

In our fast paced world, mindfulness is quickly becoming a practice of great positivity. Positive Communicators :

  • SMILE often!
  • Spend time taking about the good things that are happening.
  • Refrain from talking badly or in a negative way about others.
  • Actively appreciate the efforts of others.
  • Enthusiastically share thoughts and plans for the future.
  • Value and respect other people’s point of view
  • Communicate in an open and honest (yet constructive!) way.
  • Ask questions that recognise positive strengths by affirming that persons abilities and potentials.
  • Take the opportunity and time to give praise to those who deserve it.
  • Be open to new ideas and thoughts.
  • Evoke positive emotions through brief positive conversations.

Mindful Listening

We are asked to lead a life of honest expression, which starts with listening as a way to remember what matters, to name what matters, and to voice what matters. These are the practices that keep us authentic.” ~ Mark Nepo, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen.

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand- they listen with the intent to reply.  Adopting a mindful approach to communication has many benefits including shared understanding, strengthened relationships, deepened trust, and a keen awareness.

Take your communication to a new level by being mindful as you speak and listen:

  • Be fully present.
  • Listen attentively, from your mid-chest rather than just your ears.
  • Deeply understand before evaluating. Don’t be quick to jump to an assumption or conclusion.
  • Respond appropriately. Not only with your words, but with your entire body, being mindful of what you say, how you say it, and what you show in your facial expressions and body movements.


INFORMAL PRACTICE-  Mindful Listening

The informal practice this week is to use conversation as an opportunity for ongoing meditation practice. Listening mindfully to your colleagues, friends, family, loved ones, clients, neighbours, strangers etc. Notice when your mind becomes distracted and notice when the mind wants to formulate a response and interject its own ideas and opinions into the conversation. See if you can be present to it all- get curious about what the mind does during listening.

*Remember- listen deeply from the heart. When it is your turn to reply demonstrate reflective listening by letting them know exactly what you heard. People want to be heard and this is a wonderful way to strengthen relationships and build rapport with others.


FORMAL PRACTICE- A Moment of Compassion 

Practice this week offering a moment of self-compassion to yourself. Small moments of positive self-talk, compassion and kindness during times of hurt, difficulty, disappoint or distress will ultimately result in us being more compassionate to others. Imagine what you would say to a close friend or a loved one who was hurting. Imagine that you are saying these words to yourself.  This is a skill that should be practiced regularly. It helps us with the ability to communicate more effectively and offer more compassion to others.

***Remember to not judge any sensations or unpleasant emotions that arise. Try to bring a level of curiosity to each moment as it unfolds.

Here are some questions to help you record what you noticed:

  • What came up?
  • How did it feel? Good, bad, hard, easy…. why?
  • What did you notice in terms of physical sensations, emotions, thoughts?

Week 6 : A Moment of Compassion