A few years ago, renowned and respected thought leader Thich Nhat Hanh released a book entitled ‘The Art of Communicating’. In this fascinating take on what is a relatively under-emphasised art, the reader is challenged to reconsider how she speaks to people, and how she listens. For us as leaders, we have much to learn.
This is an adapted version of an excerpt from Plato Project’s Mindful Leadership unit.
Thich Nhat Hanh highlights his six mantras for mindful communication which are as useful in everyday life and in business.
The first mantra…
“I am here for you.…Nothing is more precious than your presence.…fresh, solid, free, and calm, and you offer it to your loved ones to increase their happiness and your own happiness.” This can be used in two ways. First, as a direct communication with another person, overtly showing your willingness to be present and there for that person. Second, as an internal dialogue with oneself, forcing one to be present in the moment. This can be used in potentially confronting or difficult social situations or conflicts, as preparation.
The second mantra…
“I know you are there, and I am very happy. You are letting your loved one know that his or her presence is important to your happiness.” Use the second mantra after you have practised the first and are truly there in the here and the now. “Embraced by your mindfulness, the other person will bloom like a flower.”
The third mantra…
“I know you suffer, and that is why I am here for you. Thanks to your mindfulness, you know that something is not going well with your friend or loved one.” This can be a substitute for attempting to ‘fix’ or ‘solve’ the problems of others. People often don’t need this. This approach allows you to simply offer your presence.
The fourth mantra…
“I suffer, please help” can be used when someone hurts us, such as when someone says something critical or dismissive. Rather than suffer in silence, or seek revenge, the fourth mantra allows one to open up a dialogue with the other. “If we suffer, and we don’t look deeply into our suffering and find compassion for ourselves and the other person, we may want to punish the person who hurt us because he or she has dared to make us suffer.” He adds, “to say ‘I don’t suffer; I don’t need your help’ is not the language of true love. The next time you suffer, and you believe it’s the other person’s fault and that she is the cause of your suffering … practice the fourth mantra.”
The fifth mantra…
“This is a happy moment” can be used to demonstrate that we are there with someone we care about “to remind ourselves and the other person that we are very lucky, that there are so many conditions of happiness that are available in the here and the now.”
The sixth mantra…
“You are partly right” can be used when someone praises or criticises you. “If you praise me, I shouldn’t get too puffed up and ignore the fact that in me there are also challenges. When you criticize me, I shouldn’t get lost in that and ignore the positive things.…In this way you retain your humility. You don’t become the victim of a prideful illusion, because you know that you’re not perfect.” The other person only knows a part of you, and thus there comments or thoughts should only be partly taken on.
Article by The Plato Project
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