A long time ago I was a summertime day camp counselor for little 3 & 4 year olds. It was there that I was taught that if I communicated and said “no” or emphasized what NOT to do, chances are they would just do it. Instead they encouraged me to consider using positive suggestions of what to do instead. At the time I didn’t understand but gave it a try. It has been many years since then but I do see the value in this and how we as humans think, process and learn. Let me just disclose though right here and now that there is a time for “No” or expressing “nots” but what I’m talking about is how we can impact change with a kinder and gentler form of communication.
Today I work with others to suggest ways to change or consider something new and see that it is often better to suggest what to do than not to do. Say you are starting a diet and you are told all you can’t have. It is right there that our focus turns to what we are missing or deprived of. Yet if our focus turns to what you can have, it allows change to happen.
I was thinking of this when another “Bullying” story came out the other day. Seems to be quite popular to talk about how one was bullied and then we turn our attention towards telling the general population to stop. I know I’m not alone in the fact that all of us have experienced bullying but how many of us want to admit that we have ourselves been a bully? It doesn’t make it right but I wonder what change we expect by just pointing fingers and saying “stop”. What I believe needs to happen to create change is to grow compassion and notice positive ways to communicate instead. But first you have to be aware of your actions. Only by growing more awareness can we see the bully within each of us and change how we communicate.
The other day I had a work situation where someone did something that didn’t follow company procedures. In pointing out the wrong the management was quick to reply that our office seems to make complaints often. It made me think why that should matter and why they wanted to resort to shaming us in such a way. The injustice was still wrong and that is the fact. Sometimes though it is tough to stand up for what is right even in the face of being made to feel bad for speaking up about it.
Long before video and youtube, my Father used to work for the VA Administration and made movies, called motion pictures, that helped to train those with various training topics to those within the government. In the 70’s I was in one movie called “Feelings”. This training movie reflected two men who were responding to letters. One man just typed out his responses fast and without care to the person he was writing. Take the same situation though and the other man found that he could write disappointing news but with care for the person he was writing; ie compassion. In the short part I was in, I take the letter to my “movie Mom” and she reads it. She tells me that we aren’t approved for the benefits we had applied for. I stop and say “Isn’t that bad?” But she reads it and looks at me and says “But I feel that he is truly sorry we didn’t receive it”.
So have times really changed so much? Seems easy to point to today and say there is more bullying. Yet are there really more bullies or are we just able to express it faster and easier than before? In older times would you have thought or said something that was hurtful but it didn’t matter because it never went far? Still the same number of bullies though. Today Twitter or Facebook call the bullies “Trolls” or “Haters” and many I talk too shut down their accounts as they grow tired of the replies and hateful comments. That is their choice and I do understand the action as it is often easier sometimes to walk away. I fear though that leaving allows all the social media bullies to show that hate is normal and ok. Allowing them to continue to use ways to verbally abuse someone, threaten, hurt or embarrass other person. The speed to reply may have become faster but I believe the method of communicating with kindness is still something that each of us can work on and improve at any age.
When we respond from our first reactions it is from fear, anger, envy, jealousy and hate. Sometimes we are overworked, tired, stressed and words just slip out. Family members, friends and even strangers fall victim to our harmful communications. I offer this message to each of us to consider ways you can communicate with compassion, even if you disagree, are tired or upset; show loving kindness to each unique person you encounter.
Just consider taking moments to pause before you hit a reply button, yell out, text or call; think of how you would feel if you received the comment. Is there another way for you to communicate your feelings without harm, name calling or stereotyping? In Yoga we refer to this action as Ahimsa or non-harming; the first limb of yoga. The next limb is “truthful” but without loosing focus on Ahimsa (non-harming). Believing that in speaking the truth in a kind compassionate way that happiness can be found.
Sure composing or communicating with thoughtfulness it is hard, tough, and takes effort but nothing worth while is easy. Be creative! Don’t wait to receive it yourself – start by offering it to others Give it a try and see what blossoms from it. Pay it forward. Jai!