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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Live in a bubble

There are times when we know we are heading towards a situation which will test our emotional balance. We have been in this situation many times before and we often end up getting hooked and triggered in ways which are the opposite of mindful.

When we are knowingly heading towards a situation like that, it is time to conjure up a protective bubble around ourselves.

Here's how: Take a few moments before you are entering this situation and imagine energy circling around you and creating a transparent, protective bubble. The bubble is thick and protective (verbal bullet-proof!) but completely transparent so only you know that you are inside it.

Allow yourself to enhance the protective qualities of the bubble by endowing it with all the positive energies you desire while deflecting negative energies and comments so that they cannot impact you or touch you.

Feel free to watch with amusement as the negative comments and energies bounce back without impacting you or disturbing your...

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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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How do we develop equanimity?

As we said, Equanimity means to keep cool even in difficult situations and not get triggered in response to what others say or do.

Keeping cool does appear to come naturally to some people. For most of us though, it takes intentionality and practice. The good news however, is that it is a learnable skill. We can learn how to respond to others based on our values rather than react angrily to something they said that triggers us.

How do we develop equanimity?

The first step is to recognize and understand the concept itself.

When someone pushes our buttons or triggers us, there are several physiological signals that tell us that we getting triggered and in danger of reacting. Our breathing becomes more shallow, the heart begins to race, we may begin to feel a build up of tension in our muscles (especially in the hands, the neck and shoulders), we might feel pressure building up behind our eyes, or in our temples.

All these are the body's signal that it is going into fight or flight...

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What emotional reactivity looks like

We have been talking about emotional reactivity in communication and the opposite of reactivity which is equanimity.

Before we talk about how to develop equanimity, let's get clear on recognizing reactivity.

Sometimes we think that if we are not screaming or shouting and we look calm, we are not reacting. But our calm surface might be covering up an internal storm. This is not equanimity.

Looking calm and being calm are two very different emotional states.

Emotional reactivity is as much about what is happening internally than it is what appears on the outside.

If we are having negative thoughts and ruminating about what someone has said, we may be internalizing or "imploding" rather than exploding which is equally unhealthy. Equanimity is not about gritting your teeth and bearing it.

If we shutdown or stonewall during a stressful conversation, we are anything but calm. We are using emotional distance as a way of managing our reactivity which will hurt us and our relationships.


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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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