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Equanimity

The opposite of emotional reactivity is a state called equanimity which means mental or emotional stability or composure, especially under tension or strain; it is a state of calmness or equilibrium.

Equanimity is a fancy word with a simple meaning: it means that we are not "triggered" by what others do or say. That we can exhibit calm in the midst of chaos. That we can live our life based on our own values and principles rather than let what others do or say control us.

Think of it this way: if you throw a pebble in a small bowl of water, it will cause large ripples. So large in fact, that some water might spill out of the bowl. Now if you take the same pebble and throw in into a larger bowl, the ripples will be smaller while the very same pebble will cause hardly any ripples at all in the lake or the sea.

What changed was not the force of the throw or the size of the stone but rather the increased capacity of the body of water to bear the disturbance caused by the throwing of the...

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Emotional reactivity in communication

Do you ever notice yourself getting "triggered" in conversation? Being triggered is when the person you are communicating with says or does something that causes an intense emotional reaction in you. The trigger usually causes you to say or do something that is generally out of proportion to what the other said or did. In other words, you 'overreact'.

The problem with emotional reactivity is this: when our words or actions are triggered by something or someone outside our self, they are usually not in alignment with our values. Instead, these words come as a reaction to someone else's words or behavior. It is as if we have given the remote control of our words and actions in someone else's hands.

If you are still wondering what we are talking about, let us take a few examples of things that we say when we are triggered:

You make me angry
Don't make me hit you
You are making me scream

Sentences such as these imply that someone else - "you" - controls my behavior. They put the...

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Foundations of mindful communication – Recap

Today let us remind ourselves about the five foundations of mindful communication that we have discussed.

To practice mindful communication,

1) Get in touch with your intention. Cultivate positive intentions for your communication and remind yourselves of these before you engage in conversation with others
2) Have an attitude of curiosity and compassion. An attitude of curiosity helps us listen better and get to know people while judgmental attitudes block communication.
3) Be willing to learn and to act. Change and growth means that we are open to learning new ways and willing to act on our learning and put it into practice.
4) Practice self awareness. Shine the light of awareness on how you interact with others and be open to feedback.
5) Be mindfully present, which means having your attention in the same place where your body is.

Which foundation do you find the most challenging?

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The iPhone effect

Continuing our conversation about being present to those we are trying to communicate with, have you ever heard of "The iPhone Effect"?

The iPhone effect is a term researchers came up with to describe the impact of the smartphone on communication.

The researchers split people into two groups. One group sat down and chatted with someone they had never met while a smartphone was visible on the table next to them. The other group sat down and chatted with someone they had also never met while a notebook rather than a smart phone was visible to them.

Guess what?

The group who had the smartphone in sight reported a significantly diminished quality of interaction vs. the group that did not have the smartphone in sight.

Here is the interesting thing: the phone was not ringing or pinging during the experiment. In fact the phone did not even belong to the people that were participating in the study – it was someone else's phone! The MERE PRESENCE of the smartphone diminished the...

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Bring mindful presence to your interactions

The fifth and final foundation of mindful communication is mindful presence.

What is mindful presence? In the context that we are talking about, it means to have your mind and your attention and your body all in the same place. Sounds simple, right?

Being mindfully present where you are physically is rather challenging in modern times. This is because we have so many things to distract us all the time.

Think of all the times when you talk to people or do things during the day but realise only after you have done them that you have no memory of what you did or said. This is because while we are doing our daily actions or conversing with people that we speak to regularly, our attention is somewhere quite different. Many of us live with background noise of the TV or devices on all the time. Or we are so hooked to our devices that we are connected with those who may be far away from us physically while not connected to those who are right beside us.

Do you know what I'm talking about?

...

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Opening the window of insight into ourselves

One of the most effective tools for developing self-awareness and opening up lines of communication with others is the Johari Window.

Invented by Psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham, the Johari Window (cleverly named by combining the first names of its developers!) helps us to become more self-aware and shines the light on parts of ourselves that we may be unaware of, but which may be impacting ourselves and our relationships.

The premise behind Johari's Window is that there are certain things which we know, and things we do not know about ourselves. Similarly, there are certain things others know and do not know about us. Johari's window attempts to help us see that there may be major aspects of our own personality that we are unaware of.

The premise is that there are four areas of our identity: a public self that is known to ourselves and to others (such as our obvious likes and dislikes and personality traits), a private self known only to us and not to others (things that...

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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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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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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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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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