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Practice self awareness

Continuing our discussion on foundations for mindful communication, today let us talk about self awareness.

"Self-awareness" is a phrase we often hear in spiritual contexts. There is a famous Islamic narration which goes: "He who knows himself, knows God". In other words, to become aware of God and His magnificence, we must become aware of ourselves.

So far so good. But what on earth does it actually mean to be "self-aware"?

Self Awareness means having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. It is, in essence, the ability to become an observer of oneself, to consider our own selves from a somewhat objective perspective.

Without self-awareness, we are full of "blind-spots" – we have no real idea of our own strengths or where our challenges lay. Without self-awareness, we tend to have little agency or control over own thoughts and emotions, and live in a reactionary mode most of the time. Without self...

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When it comes to reforming communication, remember the four Rs

Yesterday we talked about how acknowledging our need to learn new ways to communicate is one of the foundations of mindful communication.

Today, lets deepen this conversation just a little more.

How do we know that we need to work on something, in the first place?

"Remember that Reform starts with the four Rs"

1) Reminder – everything in our environment can act as a reminder if we let it. We hear an inspirational story, a lecture, an article or even a social media post. This reminder confirms what is true within our nature. It makes sense because the knowledge of what works and what doesn't is already hardwired into us. This one reason why inspirational quotes are so inspirational – they eloquently express what we feel and know to be true within.

For example, here is a quote about the power of words:
Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words...

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Have a willingness to learn and to act

Continuing with the foundations of mindful communication . . .

Do you know the difference between between someone who is behaving in a certain way and someone who IS a certain way?

It is a persistent unwillingness to learn and to change or grow.

All of us lack skills in certain areas of our lives, including communication. This is not problematic AT ALL.

What causes problems is when we refuse to learn from our mistakes, from feedback of those around us and to change our behavior in response.

When we tell ourselves or those around us things such as

This is who I am
I am not one for expressing my feelings. I'm just not comfortable with it.
I am too old to change
I am not going to change so get used to it
I have always talked like this
Everyone in my family raises their voices – what is the big deal?

. . . or any version of the above . . .

We are blocking our own path to growth and losing chances to make our relationships and our lives better.

Acknowledging that we may have something...

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Have an attitude of curiosity and compassion

Continuing with the foundations of mindful communication, let's talk about the attitude with which we approach communicating with others.

Human beings are judgment making machines.

Our minds are active 24/7 trying to make meaning and sense of the world around us. Everything that happens in our environment and around us goes through the filters we have in our brains (our very own unique 'model of the world') and we interpret all information according to these filters and through this model of the world.

This is an automatic, unconscious process. Neither good nor bad. It just is.

The problem is not that we have our own model of the world, it is that most of the time we are unconscious that we are experiencing the world through our interpretations. We tend to accept our interpretations as 'truth' and 'reality'.

The process of becoming conscious involves recognizing this process and noticing the tendency to accept our judgments as the 'truth' or as 'reality'.

Making and accepting...

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Get in touch with your intention

Before we start looking at the communication skills, let us explore the foundations of mindful communication.

Mindful communication, as we said yesterday, begins in the heart and so the first step in learning to communicate mindfully is to become conscious of your intention when you speak and listen.
And then begin to set intentions for all your conversations.

Setting intentions for our communication is a powerful exercise. Intentions determine the full consequences of our thoughts, words, and actions. It is our intentions which form the spirit of our activities and the emotional tone of our efforts.

From an Islamic spiritual perspective, intentions form the foundation of all acts of worship. Without the intention, even prayer does not qualify as an act of worship. And conversely, by setting an appropriate intention, any act of everyday living can become an act of worship.

This implies that two actions which look apparently identical, will be different in spirit depending on the...

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Recognize the value of the gift of communication

Here is your daily dose of Wisdom for Living Your Best Self!

Our desire to communicate mindfully starts with a recognition that the ability to communicate is a gift – a gift of the Creator who gave us the desire, the knowledge, the ability and the equipment to communicate with others.

Imam Jafar As Sadiq (as) says:
Consider the blessing of speech, bestowed upon him by the Almighty, which is the medium for the expression of his inner thought and his warm feelings springing from his understanding and with which also he understands the inner points of others. Without this faculty he would have been like quadrupeds, neither able to convey his own inner thought to others, nor to understand the words of the speaker.

The physical process of speaking is rather complex and involves four different process which start in the lungs, go to the larynx where there are the vocal folds, then to the pharynx where the air goes up the nasal or oral cavity and finally to the mouth where the...

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Beyond effective communication - Mindful Communication

Today let us expand our definition of effective communication.

The skills of effective communication, which include excellent use of language and grammar, saying what we mean and meaning what we say, are extremely valuable in a professional, public and sometimes personal context.

In personal relationships, however, the skills of effective communication may not be enough to connect authentically with others and to build relationships.

In personal relationships, I prefer to use the term Mindful Communication or Conscious Communication.

Mindful communication goes further than effective communication in building relationships.

Mindful communication is communication that is intentional, purposeful, conscious and compassionate. It is communication that comes from the heart and aims to reach the heart of another. To communicate mindfully means to have a "heart to heart" with another human being.

To communicate mindfully we focus on:

Self-empathy: a deep and compassionate awareness of our...

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But why is communication so challenging?

Yesterday we talked about how miscommunication was quite common and that most of us could do with some reminders on how to communicate better.

There are many many reasons why the message gets lost in translation between my mind and your ears.

Let's try and understand a few of them.

I have an idea in my head, and I want to convey it to you. I try to convey it to the best of my ability. You then have to take my words (assuming that you heard them correctly), decode and understand them to the best of your ability and make meaning out of them.

Both our abilities to convey and receive these messages are of course impacted by many factors.

I will convey my message based on my skill at using language, what certain words mean to me and my tone and body language (which may confirm or conflict with the message).

I also have underlying emotions that colour the way I speak. If I want to go out for dinner, for example, I might ask "What shall we do for dinner" because it feels safer than making...

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What is effective communication?

Communication is defined as "the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs." So communication is the process of sharing information, thoughts and feelings between people through speaking, writing or body language.

Effective communication takes place when the message received is the same as the message intended. To put it simply, effective communication between us happens when I say something to and you understand what I am trying to say and you "get it".

Simple enough, right?

It turns out that miscommunication is actually far more common than effective communication.

As George Bernard Shaw said, "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place."

When you work in mediation, in the legal field or in counseling, you see that almost 80% of cases are a result of some form of misunderstanding and lack of effective communication. Dale Carnegie, author of "How to Make Friends and Influence People," said,...

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Our survival depends upon our ability to communicate

The ability to communicate is related to the survival of the species itself.

Until quite recently, scientists used to think that man survived through the ages based on strength to brave the elements, search for food and build shelters.

But that view has since evolved.

Since the mid 90s brain studies have proven that it is not the strongest of the species that survived the longest but rather those who could best cooperate with one another in their search for food and building shelters. When ancient man communicated and cooperated with other homo sapiens and built families and tribes, all members had a greater chance of survival.

Although we may no longer be fighting for our survival as a species on a daily basis, we can still witness the life and death importance of communication for a newborn baby who learns very early that she has to get the attention of her parents if she is hungry or wet.

The need for contact and communication with the mother is not just for meeting physical...

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