Need a self-improving goal for the New Year? Try learning how to communicate like a Buddhist!
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After meandering through Barnes and Nobles I wanted to learn about communication styles because it is an important skill in all aspects of our lives. The yellow book cover and the title "How to communicate like a Buddhist" by Cynthia Kane captured my attention. I immediately scanned through the pages and realized that this would be an eye-opening read. So I sipped on my peppermint mocha, sat down for an hour and a half and finished this entire book with a whole new perspective. These were some of the points I loved and will apply to my relationship in my personal and work life. So let's learn how to communicate like a Buddhist.
1. Understand we all want the same things. A main principle of Buddhism is that we all need to realize that everyone wants the same outcome in life- to be understood, to feel good, and to be happy. Thus what we all want from communication is to be understood, to feel good about it, and for it to lead to happiness. Since we all know what it feels like to feel attacked vs supported, to feel frustrated vs fulfilled; our goal should be to understand how we feel on a deeper level and to not exaggerate the story in order to create a healthy dialogue with the other person.
2. Don't gossip. Gossip is all around us in magazines, the media, and it is what we have been socialized to do in order to create bonds between people. Gossip (and exaggeration) creates a sense that you are either "better than" or "worse than" who you gossip about. Most gossip stems from envy of the person you are talking about. You should be turning gossip into sympathetic joy and compassion for others sufferings. "Sympathetic joy is the practice of celebrating the accomplishments, achievements and good tidings that come to another. This can be more difficult for those who receive a benefit that you wanted for yourself." Gossiping towards others' sufferings includes finding humor or rejoicing in someone's misfortune. Instead, you must show compassion towards someone's suffering and sometimes the best option is to remain silent.
There is a crucial difference between gossip and sharing information- you need to question "What if the person I'm talking about heard me, how would they feel?" "What energy are you creating inside yourself and others when you talk about other people?"
3. Respond in kindness, do not match the other person's emotions. Usually, when someone becomes heated and argumentative our response is to match their emotions. However, it is more beneficial to respond in a calm and kind manner, practice active listening, and try to understand the other person's perspective in order to create a healthy conversation.
4. Know your stories. The stories we tell ourselves is how we limit our beliefs. We create self-fulfilling prophecies by telling ourselves "I will be single forever", "I will never be successful", "I will never be happy", "Good things never happen to me". This negative self-talk leads to us believing these statements are true and are apart of our story. The more we practice negative self-talk the more negative we become which affects the way we communicate with people around us.
How did we get like this? It often has to do with our upbringing and what our parents, teachers, and friends have criticized and critiqued about us. "She's anxious." "He doesn't like the outdoors." "She's not good at math."
In fact, during our formative years, we think statements that other people make about us are FACTS instead of OPINIONS. We then absorb these opinions into our stories. Thus, if you were raised in a verbally abusive household, the negative comments your parent(s) made towards you could be the reason you have difficulties dealing with criticisms and have a negative self-perception. Therapy can help to uncover your stories and heal the negative opinions others have imposed on your self-image.
The book gives an example of ways to start telling ourselves positive stories/analyze the negative stories. Some phrases to remind ourselves when facing a negative story is:
I don't have to believe this story, this story isn't true, this story isn't mine, this isn't the story I want to tell. THEN you have to "see yourself and others with friendly eyes".
5. Learn how to RESPOND not to REACT. There are different types of reactions:
- Lash out or attack- become aggressive, blame others, exaggerate, use hurtful language, become paranoid
- Dodge- justify your behaviors, make excuses, lie, deny responsibility, have a reason for everything, have to explain yourself
- Shutdown- go into your own world, get quiet/depressed, feel lost/confused, feel overwhelmed that you have to leave, avoid conflict even if it means compromising on your truths/beliefs
You need to first understand which reaction you have. Then, when faced with a conflict learn the process of responding: 1. observe the want to react automatically, 2. PAUSE, 3. identify the feeling associated with the initial reaction 4. ask yourself if what you have to say is true, kind, and helpful.
6. You are responsible for yourself. Know that you can only control your words, response, and emotions; you are not responsible for the other person's reaction or interpretation of your words. The reverse is ALSO TRUE. "People do not have the power to set you off with their words unless we give them power". Not reacting to someone else's words/feedback is one of the hardest things to master. You are ultimately responsible as a listener and a speaker towards your words, reactions, and actions.
So there you have it! Remember it takes practice and a desire to improve yourself! It could be a great goal for the new year!