“Given the lethality of weapons now available to aggrieved individuals and countries, it is essential we ensure that beyond basic needs, no one is deprived of the chance to contribute meaningfully to society, and to enjoy adequate recognition for those contributions. Accomplishing this will require overcoming the abuse of rank that sustains the present gap in dignity and opportunity between “somebodies” and “nobodies” – Robert W Fuller
With social media and world travel, confrontation between differing life practices is constant- Our core beliefs are frequently challenged. We have abundant opportunity for conversation on intimate subject matter. In these forums it seems that demeaning communication is rather common. On the receiving end it feels poor to be misunderstood and aggressively received. As the speaker, when we speak in a demeaning fashion, we lose control and consequently spiral into defensive rhetorics (yup, I’ve been on this side too)… when really we likely lashed-out, out of impatience also due to an inability to articulate ourselves in a comprehensible manner. No matter what discussion we are part of or what perspective we espouse, no matter if we are the speaker or the listener (both speaker and listener have responsibility to care for what is transmitted, for the quality of communication) we are all human. I would say, we are all yearning to be treated and to treat one another humanely.
I am not suggesting that it is easy to listen to someone you profoundly disagree with, but I do think we can move away from the tendency to feel there is a right or a wrong way. We can at least start with listening and responding in ways that engender care, so that we have greater potential to feel safe to explore our perspectives with one another. Simply put - so that we can learn from one another. How much do people really learn from one another when our discourse is facetious or demoralizing? We can depolarize what it means to be 'wrong' (or somewhere on the spectrum) without having someone capitalize his/her image of self-importance or intelligence upon your moment of unknowing. Perhaps even being able to say "I'll take your ideas on board" rather than rooting ourselves in egoic responses (using our words to undermine others, etc.). We are more likely to find common ground with one another if we are to communicate in reverence for the greatness within each person (otherwise said - communicate with genuine respect). We might benefit by approaching all of these interactions knowing that no matter what the perspective or experience of the other, there IS some matter of worth in understanding that experience. There IS something we can learn from one another in a sincere manner. When our passion for an issue takes priority, we might get lost in justifying or intellectualizing a rhetoric, perhaps at the cost of any progress that might have been possible before 'rightness' became the priority. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar talks about the importance of not only passion (which may motivate us to lead change, but has potential to motivate aggression if over emphasized), compassion and dispassion. Yes, dispassion (non-attachment, the ability to let go). I benefit from focusing on this when my inner fire shows any sign of a destructive edge in interactions.
I know that when I have felt frustrated in interactions, it is frustration with my own ‘failure’ to successfully communicate with another, or to successfully appreciate another. Frustration with ourselves or others is as I see it, is an occurrence of denying the self. Living in frustration is for me an experience of conditional love. And I know, that deep down, if I cannot love another, I feel the same fear that another may deny me love and appreciation… or that I may deny my own self love and appreciation as well. Relationships truly “are all paths to consciousness”, paths to unity (Shakti Gawain). They are all opportunities for deeper love, whether inner or outer. If in our hearts we hope to move in our own directions harmoniously, then that would require some form of understanding between us.
In ayurveda, being mindful about our communication is considered as a fundamental, daily commitment to sustaining one’s health: “Treat yourself and those you interact with lovingly and gently”– Cate Stillman. This is one of the core habits in the daily self-care practices (dinacharya), along with brushing your teeth, drinking water, etc. [note: this does not mean one never asserts himself/herself or that one does not have boundaries. It refers to the way you communicate in all forms]. The effects of the way we communicate are tangible. They effect the people we communicate with and our own person (touching on the plethora of information to elaborate on that would be another article in itself).
Communicate with kid gloves. Soft hands. We are free to grow when we approach conversations with humility and curiosity. These external interactions are the subtle, not so subtle habitual influences that inform our sense of self-worth and all of the choices we base upon that sense (or lack thereof) of worth. Conscious listening and speaking are powerful practices in humility. Do it so that we can educe the ingenious qualities in one another. So that we can draw each other out to feel safe and welcomed to fully participate and feel all the feels in this realm together. We are plugged in to this frequency of consciousness in these apparatuses and sharing this experience together. We can’t afford to ‘nobody’ any one of our tribe (humanity, sentient beings). It needs to be safe for each to explore, so that we can discover our genius, and brilliance can be the product of our interactions. When we expect to see genius in someone (watch here), this genius is more likely to reveal itself… it is what educes the genius from within. Julian Treasure says conscious communication, the art of conversation is how we evoke the physical and metaphysical world. So let’s see how cool we can make this big soupy mix of collaboration by welcoming all (through conscious communication) to be the best superherhero versions of ourselves. Welcome each other to show up fully in life by communicating on all levels: “I am so glad you are here. I appreciate your life". And I am, and I do. Letting our communication touch on the heart of our experience, and evoke the love that we all need, is to prescence what is most vital in all our relationships and interactions.
NOTES and sources of inspiration:
- A pre-requisite step in moving out of frustration for me has been to accept hate, so that it never need gain enough compressed momentum to make its way into physical manifest. Ya, how weird. I know. I felt so weird sorting that out. The point is, hate is an energy of feeling ‘un-intergrateable’ in the unity of all. And I know what that feels like. Once this is no longer resisted, as Eckart Tolle says, it need not persist. Once I got comfortable with feelings of hate, paradoxically I felt more able to let them go.
- Privileging not knowing- Ilya Parkins
- bell hooks ‘Full’ excerpt here:
The absence of a sustained focus on love in progressive circles arises from a collective failure to acknowledge the needs of the spirit and an overdetermined emphasis on material concerns. Without love, our efforts to liberate ourselves and our world community from oppression and exploitation are doomed. As long as we refuse to address fully the place of love in struggles for liberation we will not be able to create a culture of conversion where there is a mass turning away from an ethic of domination.
- Somebodies and Nobodies: Overcoming the Abuse of Rank by Robert W Fuller. You can read a free sample of the book by using the free kindle app on your phone and downloading the sample
- An anecdote (In case it is hard to imagine what it looks like to disagree with care):One time I was taking care of cutums and cutie (my neice and nephew) when they were only just over 1 year old. When my sister and her man got home, I had the kids out on the deck with no shoes. I don’t remember why I made that choice, but my sister wasn’t on board with it. BUT, she didn’t berate me. She asked me, in a genuinely inquisitive manner, “Why did you let them out without shoes on?”. AND she left the sincere pause after her question of a person who is actually looking to learn the possibilities of other trains of thought. I shared my answer with her, and she acknowledged that my decision had significance to me, but just wasn’t congruent with the priorities she had for her immediate kin. So, OK. I felt heard. That was enough to not trigger an argument where I would have to try and prove my inherent intelligence and human worth.