Communication is vital for any profession, but for a teacher it is our livelihood. Our existence as teachers depends on our ability to communicate our ideas, thoughts and concepts to other people with effectiveness and clarity. I would also add in efficiency as an important characteristic.
I’ve had numerous experiences with communicating with integrity this week. From working with others to renovate and repair walls to talking to customers about buying a product to teaching my students concepts and techniques that will help them live their lives with more personal integrity. Here’s the nuts and bolts from what I learned this week on my travels:
- Tell the benevolent truth. Only put the truth to people that has some intrinsic benefit for their personal growth and understanding, and BE VERY CLEAR about this. We can tell ourselves that we are telling someone “for their own good” but really, we are telling them about something we don’t like about them in order to avoid looking at our own selves. Ego is one of the main culprits of this – when we feel “bad” about ourselves, how often do we immediately start looking around us at people to shame, blame, guilt or “give advice” to? Think a moment before you go correcting someone or giving advice. “Is what I am going to say kind, yet truthful, and pointing us in the direction we BOTH want to go?”
- Don’t be afraid to stop and address awkwardness. If you’re going along great in a conversation – ideas are flowing, dialogue is easy and interesting and suddenly it all stops. Take a moment and consider what you just said and how it might have affected the other person. Don’t be afriad to ask them – “Hey, what was it about what I just said that stopped our conversation?” It takes courage to put yourself on the plate like that – it’s a vulnerable space. But what you may gain out of it is a person who knows they can be vulnerable with you, and feel safe to express what they truly feel and not be judged. THAT is priceless and worth more that “being right” could ever be worth.
- Be devoted to truth, but hold compassion as your highest goal. I’ve heard of people who commit to the goal of “radical truth” in relationships – but I think this ignores a vital tenet of good communication. It’s great to talk about what the truth is – it can help efficiency, improve relationships and products and life in general, plus a lot of other things – but if what you are saying doesn’t hit a note of tactful compassion along with the truth, the sting can be too much for some people and actually impede communication – sometimes for years at a time. Be respectful of where people are at, while still being committed to honoring your truth and your perspective as well.
- How do you do that? Learn to LISTEN. It takes more effort than you might think. You can “hear” what person has to say, but do you take it in, interpret it, and make it your own thought? This is the way to LISTEN to people – to write their thoughts and ideas and concepts in your own words and in the way YOU understand it best. Then try to explain what they just said back to them, in your own way, and they will know that you truly have HEARD what they said. Trust me, it’s not a skill you are born with, and it is a SKILL. You have to develop it thoughtfully and conscientiously, or you will think you have heard someone and get what they said completely wrong!!
So how does a yoga practice help you do this? We’ll cover it in my classes tomorrow – how to LISTEN, to COMMUNICATE with your body mind and spirit with integrity – learning not to change the message you are getting but to accurately interpret the message you are getting with compassion for yourself, your body, your mind and a lot more!