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Each of us already has this natural communication system that feeds us information all the time. So when we close down and become defensive—for a few minutes, a few days, months or even a lifetime—we’re cutting ourselves off not only from others, but also from our natural ability to communicate. 

Mindful communication trains us to become aware of when we’ve stopped using our innate communication wisdom.

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Communication

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Mindful Communication

Bringing awareness, or mindfulness, to the way we communicate with others has both practical and profound applications.

We can train ourselves to:

  • recognize when the channel of communication has shut down. 
  • remain silent instead of blurting out something we’ll later regret. 
  • notice when we’re over-reacting and take a time-out.

When we react to fear by shutting down the channel of communication, we’ve put up a defensive barrier that divides us from the world.

Signs you’re in the red light zone:

  • Our values shift to me-first.  We tell ourselves that relationships are not that important. 
  • Closed communication patterns are controlling and mistrustful. We see others as frozen objects that have importance only if they meet our needs.
  • We feel alone and emotionally hungry. Then we look to other people to rescue us from our aloneness. 
  • The sense of isolation that our defensive barrier triggers is subconsciously terrifying. If we are indeed isolated individuals, how do we get our supplies? How do we ward off enemies?
  • Suppressing these inner fears makes us even more rigid and out of touch. We tighten our muscles and thoughts; we harden our hearts.

The state of mind that exists in between open and closed.

Signs you’re in the In-Between zone:

  • In practicing mindful communication, eventually we ask ourselves: what exactly causes me to switch from open to closed and then open again?
  • We find ourselves there when the ground falls out from beneath our feet, when we feel surprised, embarrassed, disappointed—on the verge of shutting down.
  • At this moment, we might feel a sudden loss of trust, an unexpected flash of self-consciousness.
  • Learning to hold steady and be curious at this point is critical to the practice of mindful conversation.

Signs you’re in the green light zone:

  • We let go of our opinions and enter a larger mind. This larger mind is sometimes described as a fluid awareness, a state of knowing.
  • Being connected to this fluid awareness gives us the power to trust our instincts.
  • When we’re open, we don’t regard our individual needs to be in opposition to the needs of others. 
  • Openness is heartfelt, willing to share the joy and pain of others.
  • Because we’re not blocked by our own opinions, our conversations with others explore new worlds of experience. We learn, change and expand.

  • Realize how distorted our views of other people can be when we react defensively. 
  • When we can open up and see another person in a fresh way, our own self-image transforms. 

Learning how to switch out of defensiveness into a more humorous, receptive state of mind is a big deal—it is the key to happy, harmonious relationships and communities.

... when fears and misperceptions arise during the In-Between state of mind. 

The reaction of shutting down is triggered by mistrust. If we can hold steady and be a little more aware of our defensiveness, we can learn from all our episodes of reactivity. 

Defensive reactions backfire on us, make us feel like failures. Being honest and gentle with our own fears is what brings greater softness and appreciation for others. 

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