Friday, June 14, 2019

Mindful Speech: What Type of Conversation Do You Want?



Photo by Alexis Chloe on Unsplash



by Catharine Hannay


Have you ever tried to confide in someone and ended up feeling worse? Or has someone 'helpfully' given you a lot of unsolicited advice? Or perhaps you keep getting into arguments about the same issues over and over again?

It can be really frustrating if you just need to let off steam, but the other person keeps telling you what to do.

Or maybe you're trying to strategize how to deal with potential problems, but the other person keeps giving you meaningless reassurances like, "Don't worry. I'm sure everything will be fine." (Really? You're sure of that? Based on what, exactly?) 

Sometimes you just need a hug. Other times, you might need to be left alone for a while.

Here's the thing. Your family and friends probably aren't very good mind readers. It can be helpful to think ahead of time about what kind of conversation you want. Journalist Celeste Headlee compares it to “walking into a grocery store with a list instead of browsing through the aisles; you’re much more likely to get what you need and leave feeling satisfied.” (We Need to Talk

It’s not like you need to do this every time you say anything to anybody. “Hmmm, I think what I really want when I say ‘Good morning’ is for him to respond with an appropriate greeting.” But if you’re feeling upset, you can avoid a lot of frustration and confusion if both people have the same understanding of what’s going on.



Think about a challenging or important conversation, or someone you usually have trouble communicating with.


  • What feelings would you like the other person to express?
  • What would you like the other person to say?
  • What would you like the other person to do?
  • Would it be appropriate in this situation to tell the person directly what kind of response would be helpful?

Of course, the other person probably won't feel and say and do everything that we'd like. They may have their own ideas about what they want to express to us, and what they'd like us to say and do.

Even if the conversation doesn't go exactly as we'd planned, it still helps to think through what we're hoping to get out of the encounter. We often have an unconscious agenda and feel frustrated or disappointed when the other person doesn't follow the script we've imagined.




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related posts: 

The Gift of Your Presence

Mindful Listening: Only If You Listen Can You Hear

Mindful Speech: How Do You Handle Anger?

Power Struggles: Case Studies in Mindful Communication

THINK Before You Speak: Case Studies in Mindful Speech

THINK Before You Speak 2: More Case Studies in Mindful Speech

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