By Caren Jeskey
”These are really the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands, they are not original with me,We sometimes hurt the ones we love, but we don’t have to. We can use our incredible brains with more finesse.
If they are not yours as much as mine they are nothing, or next to nothing,
If they are not the riddle and the untying of the riddle they are nothing,
If they are not just as close as they are distant they are nothing.
This is the grass that grows wherever the land is and the water is,
This the common air that bathes the globe.”
— Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
Here are seven basic communication tips from retired Gary Noesner, the former chief of the F.B.I. Crisis Negotiation Unit, that might come in handy. You can write them down on a piece of paper and keep it in your pocket to remind you, along with a smooth stone to ground you, or perhaps a doll to poke with needles under the table if you must.
Nod and say “yep. Yep. Yep.”
Paraphrase, letting them know what you heard them say to be sure you got it right.
Use Emotional Labeling, such as “it seems as though…” to learn more.
Use Mirroring, repeating the last few words of their sentence. This breeds comfort, which leads to bonding.
The tried and true favorite, “I” statements. “What I heard is…”.
Allow for effective pauses. "'Eventually, even the most overwrought people will find it difficult to sustain a one-sided argument and will return to meaningful dialogue.'"
I’m not saying I don’t need to be talked down sometimes, because I do. Sadly, I had the first brief row in many years with my brother this past week. We will repair, and I'll be sure to pre-game by reviewing active listening skills next time. We snap at others as if we have buttons they can push when our frustration tolerance is low. One way to improve in this area is to cultivate our thoughts and emotions into the direction of harmony rather than discord. There are countless guided meditations on my favorite (free/donation based) app that you can also stream online, Insight Timer.
What we think of as focused, undivided attention in the west is akin to — but not quite the same as — to what’s considered to be meditation elsewhere. In that vein, I've found that spending focused hours on clients, playing music, reading and writing, and getting out for walks relieves intrusive thoughts, and fears and worries disappear. I don't have time to hold a grudge or worry about the planet if I'm immersed in something captivating.
The big trick is taking serenity out into the world with other people.
posts, I end up at the lake often, and my new hobby of rock gathering ensues.* I was out at a beach in Evanston for three hours this past Wednesday a sunny day with a windchill that was under 20 degrees. It was glorious. I got lost staring at the water, engulfed in the sound of waves, and searching for morsels. I ran around and jumped and stomped my feet here and there. I sang Go Tell It On The Mountain for some reason. (Raised Catholic). I was a kid again. I found about a cup of lake glass that day — some smooth and frosty, some that I call half-baked, and some still with sharper edges.
Friends who live on islands, whom I consider ecologically-minded beach experts — have told me to throw the last kind back into the water so they can have more time to soften into the glass most people cherish. I stepped into a heap of trouble yesterday, when I posted the images of my finds (and my plan to return some shards to the lake) on a Great Lakes rock fanatic group, online. I was called dumb and ignorant and harassed for being an idiot who would even think of throwing glass into the lake. A litterer. My favorite? “Gee, thanks for the bloodletting garbage.”
I responded calmly for the most part, clearing up the confusion. I let the name-callers know that I felt hurt and uncomfortable, which the moderators don't allow. One man gave a heartfelt apology. I reported the gif with a bunch of men labeled "The Group" surrounding a person labeled “You” who cowered in the middle of a circle while everyone else flipped them/me the bird. Oy vey. This is how folks spend their vacations. (This is why Neil cautioned me not to read the vitriol I noticed on his Twitter thread once. He doesn't. Wise).
I turned the volume down on the haters, and focused on those who kindly taught me the right way (in their eyes) to handle the unbaked glass. I will keep it as is, or tumble it. .
Happy last week of December to you! May you be the calm in the storm if there's a storm. If not, may you have the good fortune of having a hostage negotiator nearby.
* The rocks I put in the tumbler 2 weeks ago will be changed out today, and I'll share the progress another day.