Please listen!

Many therapists would go out of business if we listened with compassion and without judgement to our loved ones.

Here is a poem that conveys it rather eloquently.

Please Listen

When I ask you to listen to me
and you start giving advice,
you have not done what I asked
nor heard what I need.

When I ask you to listen to me
and you begin to tell me why I shouldn't feel that way,
you are trampling on my feelings.

When I ask you to listen to me
and you feel you have to do something to solve my problems,
you have failed me -- strange as that may seem.

Listen, please!
All I asked was that you listen.
Not talk nor "do"—just hear me.

Advice is cheap.

A quarter gets both "Dear Abby" and astrological forecasts
in the same newspaper.

That I can do for myself. I'm not helpless.
Maybe discouraged and faltering -- but not helpless.

When you do something for me that I can and need to do for myself,
you contribute to me seeming fearful and weak.

But when you accept as a simple fact that I do feel what I...

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Hold the advice!


Have you ever been to a doctor and found them writing a prescription before you'd finished saying what was wrong?

Have you ever told a friend (or a parent or a spouse!) about a problem and been told what to do about it before you had even finished telling them what the real issue was?

Have you ever had to grit your teeth while someone advised you to do things you had already tried because they didn't bother to ask what you'd already done?

It is a common experience to have people prescribing solutions before they have understood the problem, isn't it?

This is because we often don't get a key distinction in communication.

Listening and giving advice.

I know, I know. We spoke about this just last week. But it is just so important, that it is worth repeating.

Listening helps others to tell their stories. It requires putting our own agenda (and even our own expertise) on hold and simply "becoming a vessel into which others can pour their worries, their passions, their joys, their...

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Why listening well is SO challenging

Listening well, as we began saying last week, is arguably one of the most challenging skills in communications. AND it is absolutely critical to building meaningful connections with others.

Let us try and understand some solid reasons why it is so challenging so that we can move beyond the challenges.

Firstly, a study at Princeton University found that there is a lag between what you hear and what you understand. Depending upon the individual, it could be between a few seconds to up to a minute.

This is where the trouble starts.

During that lag-time, we start to listen to ourselves and not to the other person. Have you noticed how you start having a conversation while another person is speaking? Making judgments and assumptions about they are saying and about to say?

While this is happening, of course our understanding of what the other is saying has plummeted.

What causes the lag time between hearing and understanding? Filters such as our physical and emotional state or external...

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10 tools to calm ourselves


Let's review the tools we have explored to become less reactive and to develop emotional and mental balance.

Here they are, available as always, in the Daily Wisdom archives

#1 Aim for mental and emotional balance
#2 Develop a mantra
#3 Be like Teflon
#3 Live in a bubble
#4 Don't take it personally
#5 Be an observer
#6 Have an inner smile
#7 Expand your awareness
#8 Notice the gift of the rain puddle
#9 Seek understanding and be curious
#10 Meditate, even a little

Which have you tried? Which ones are working for you?

Do you have others? If so, do share!

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Be an observer

Social science researchers spend a fair bit of time people watching: observing how people behave and interact with each other teaches them a great deal about human behaviour and relationships even without saying a single word to them.

It can be very easy to see for example, if one spouse in a couple is making attempts to connect with the other spouse who may be distracted by their smart phone. While the other is distracted, observers may be able to notice just a hint of sadness when their bid for connection goes unanswered. While the distracted spouse may not understand why their spouse seems distant and upset for the rest of the evening, the observers can better understand the dynamic from their observations.

It is not difficult to see such interactions in others and understand what is going on. It is much more challenging to become an observer of ourselves in this way and it is a very effective way to develop equanimity.

Try this fun exercise: imagine yourself leaving your body,...

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Be like Teflon

Let's continue our discussion on developing and practicing equanimity as a path to mindful communication.

Equanimity, as we have discussed, is the ability to remain calm even in difficult situations and not get triggered in response to what others say or do.

Today's practice is about being like Teflon.

Teflon, as you may know, is used as a non-reactive, non-stick coating for pans and other cookware. The primary characteristic of Teflon is that it does not react with the chemicals in food and also allows foods not to stick and instead slide right off the pan.

So what is a Teflon Mindset? To have a Teflon Mindset is developing the ability to allow experiences, feelings, and thoughts come into your mind and slip right out without reacting to them.

If you run into someone else's bad day, for example, you do not have to engage with them and get hooked into an argument. If they say something which is baiting you to engage into a verbal battle, how about practicing being like Teflon?


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Develop a mantra

A highly effective way to practice equanimity is to talk to ourselves in the third person. In this process we become our own coaches for the moment and talk ourselves through the situation.

It is fun to come up with a creative mantra that we can use as a signal to calm down.

When I find myself getting triggered, I imagine a big hook waiting to hook me into a predictable and familiar overreaction. A reaction that will most surely cause me to regret what I say. I then remind myself:

"Come on Marzia, remember to 'engage brain before operating mouth'".

Using your first name in the 3rd person in this way is a highly effective way to remind yourself of your values and coach yourself through a situation which would usually trigger you.

So go on, develop a mantra or two for yourself to help you when you find yourself getting triggered.

Here is a really good example (a 9 min video clip):


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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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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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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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