About the underrated importance of mindful communication

When you have a plant and you want to make sure that it has a good time existing in your surrounding you take care to offer an optimal habitat: enough water, nutrition, sun, and moisture, far away from little children or cats, you commit to taking care of it regularly. And the plant thrives. When you want to provide a good time for your animal companion, you make sure that it has enough food, water, and space, and you have enough shared time and activities, and you also fix the routines that have to be there for both of your well-being: doing their business, eating, leaving you alone, giving space for each other, etc. Well, it is very similar to humans. Let me unpack this.

Besides nutrition, shelter, and biological needs, we, humans are more sophisticated than plants or animals. Actually: they are also more sophisticated: plants love to chat with each other and to ask & offer help, they love music, and they need quality time as well, you can find out more about it here. Animals do love those too, and they can do all these in a perceivable way. They love to offer and receive comfort, they love to feel seen, accepted, important, and needed. They also require more fine-tuned communication than plants do, although plants can feel your thoughts (how weird is that!). And now: humans. We adore thinking about ourselves as the pinnacle of life evolution here, on Earth. We tend to be a bit over-enthusiastic regarding our skills, our intelligence and our maturity as a species. Let’s imagine for a moment that another life form would want to have a human, or more, as a companion. What would these human companions need, to thrive?

First off, they would need food, water, and shelter. A place that they can call home, and they have the privilege to choose who can access it, and who isn’t allowed. They have the chance to do their number one and number two safely, and they have the chance to enjoy from time to time the intimate nature of the biological connection. There, the basics are covered. But this was the easy part.

Humans are social beings. We tend to feel the urge to socialize with much more than just one or two of our fellow humans, we need to feel safe in various environments, surrounded by different groups of people. In comes communication: an invisible habitat, which is bigger than anything we know. As plants use the mycelial network of various fungi, we, humans use communication: sounds that create words, that create sentences, that create messages, that create information. This network is harder to perceive than the mycelial network: mainly because it is embedded in our culture. Even if one speaks various languages one’s worldview is defined by the cultural aspects: the way we associate phenomena with thoughts and/or emotions. The trick of sustainable communication is to be aware of these cultural prints, their triggers and swamp-like features. 

The triggers of cultural imprints are various. For me, as somebody with Eastern European background verbal abuse of somebody’s mother or sister is quite triggering. Although the triggers can be positive (food that reminds you of your childhood, a song that reminds you of your teenagehood, a drink that reminds you of a lovely trip somewhere exotic), I would like to address the rather negative ones, since these are those, that can potentially take away our authority and autonomy. As you also know: once we get carried away by thoughts or emotions, we are not in the present anymore. And since we are not in the present, we do not really see what options for actions we have, from which we can choose. Sometimes we are so absorbed by these emotions and thoughts, that we really see no options for action at all! 

The communicational swamps are cultural triggers that we each have, which have a so-called “gravitational field”, meaning that once you enter the radius of the topic, it costs a lot of energy to leave it behind. They tend to be outlined by the ways you define yourself since your self-definition by default is self-limitation. As an example: if you are a person who takes pride in belonging to a nation, if somebody brings up some nasty or controversial actions of your fellow countrymen, you tend to react promptly and usually stronger, then it would make sense. Other examples, as potentially swampy topics: are religion, politics, sports, food, history, art, economics, future.

So what does this have to do with mindful communication? Well, on the one hand: mindful communication is sustainable communication. Any other form of it is damaging and it is very expensive. Imagine throwing money out through the window, knowing that you will never ever have it back – this is often the communication that we can see around us. Just to be clear: under sustainable communication, I do not mean polite communication, nor one that doesn’t address reality. It is not about right or wrong, it really doesn’t matter. On the other hand, it creates an empowering space, rather than a limiting one.

So: what is sustainable communication? One that looks for a common goal, in every situation. We are all connected, yet when we have an “us versus them” attitude this connection can not be harvested. What do we have in common? What are our shared goals, that make us work together even better? These are the questions of sustainable communication.

It is looking for solutions, and opportunities: there are always things that we can do to improve our cooperation. What opportunities arise now? What can we do now, in order to solve optimally our challenges? These questions guide sustainable communication.

It is wrapped in a positive mindset, it is considerate and kind. We will always encounter hiccups. Why is this a good thing? How can we turn this around? How can we make it so it benefits everyone? One can not know, how this issue affects the employees and the stakeholders. What can we do to find out? How can we improve?

It is honest and gentle. Sometimes direct, sometimes naked and true. It is caring and nurturing, to all parties involved. It gives safety: you know, that people are honest, and they will let you know if you miss the big picture. And it also gives energy: everyone wants to do good and better in a safe environment. 

The “who is right” narrative is irrelevant to sustainable communication. A sustainable communicator knows, that if somebody is right, somebody else has to be wrong. If somebody is labelled good, somebody else will be labelled bad. If one is on the losing end of things, we all lose a bit, and we all become poorer. And communication, this loudly nurturing and empowering network of humans will be a bit less safe, and the world will turn a bit scarier. And bit by bit become self-defensive, and we are busier rather with survival than thriving

Can we always communicate sustainably? I believe the answer is no: sometimes the cultural triggers and swampy areas are so deeply unconscious, that it is literally out of our site. It doesn’t matter, however, until we strive to have mindful communication – we might lose our grip on mindfulness, but practice makes it work. The underrated importance of mindful communication is shown in its feature that is similar to a house: we usually do not consciously process if there is order and cleanliness in the house. We name its good energy, we call it spacious, we call it well-lit, but very rarely we call it clean. However, if there is a mess, it is easy to point out that cleanliness and orderliness are missing from that house. We do not recognise mindful communication. Sometimes we don’t even recognise unsustainable communication until it is too late. 

Once we fix communication, our social compass, and our imaginary human can safely navigate the challenges of the world. He will feel safe, feel seen, feel accepted and feel worthy, and he will feel, that he has a place in this world. And once he does that: he strives to make other people feel the same way. We are all caring beings – once we feel safe and seen enough, we will do our best to care for the world responsibly.

Are you a mindful communicator? What do you need to become one? What do you need to be a more sustainable one? How can I help?

Would you like to read about something else? A different topic perhaps? Please let me know, I would love to share thoughts of mine which are useful for you. 

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