Talking Better Together by Choosing Mindfulness

In anticipation of the release of my book this Fall, I will be highlighting content from “Talk Matters: Saving the World One Word at a Time” here in my blog. I hope as you read, we will grow as colleagues because I’m looking for people who will save the world with me. Specifically, colleagues who will save the world by talking better together—together with those we must work with to get things done for our world. “Talking Better Together” is a series focusing on practices that will shift how we get things done in our communities, in our work, and in our families. I look forward to your thoughts and stories as we move ahead and save our world together. Warm regards, Mary V. Gelinas

If you are reading this blog, you are probably someone who likes getting things done at work or in your community. For example, you want to improve customer service or make the street on which you live safer for the kids who play on it. You also know that to get things done you need to work with others.

This can be a frustrating endeavor. People have different perspectives, ways of working and communicating, and don’t listen as we would like them to. You might have moments when your desire to accomplish good things gets overwhelmed by frustration, “Why don’t people just get it?” (See things as you do and have a sense of urgency about making things better.)

We can always choose whether to help to solve a problem, or achieve a goal. We can also choose how we do this, including how we interact with others. Choosing whether and how to pitch in is easier to do than choosing how to interact with others. It’s harder because as soon as we start conversing, things become uncertain. Unless we are talking with our clones, people say things that call into question what we think is needed or how we want to proceed.

In the face of this unpredictability, we do a variety of things. We react by arguing and/or giving up, believing that it is too hard to find common ground.  We respond by listening and exploring differences and possible areas of common interest. (“What I like about what you said is…where I think we might differ is…let’s figure out what more we have in common or what we appreciate about one another’s points of view.”)

Because we can get triggered so quickly in our conversations, it is important to strengthen our ability to make conscious choices. Do we want to react to others or do we want to respond to them?  When we react we stop listening and say things out of anger that are usually destructive to the people and their ability to work together. When we respond, even if we are frustrated, we can consciously choose how to communicate our emotions and thoughts in more considered and considerate ways.  

Developing mindfulness is a dependable way to increase our ability to make conscious choices. Mindfulness, according to Zen priest Norman Fischer is “simply doing whatever you are doing with awareness, carefulness, and love. And, when you are not doing this, coming back to it.” For me, meditation has been the most effective way to develop mindfulness. It seems to help me do whatever I am doing with more awareness and kindness. However, this is my path to develop mindfulness. What is yours?

What is important is that we learn to make conscious choices about how to respond to situations, even or especially in the midst of upset, so we work effectively with others and get good things done for our world, whether it be at work or in our community. The question is how can we carry on our conversations with “awareness, carefulness, and love?” And, when we are not doing this, making a conscious choice to come back to it.

This blog draws on my forthcoming book Talk Matters! Saving the World One Word at a Time. Click here to leave your email address and we will notify you when the book becomes available this Fall. 

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