Kind communication

Written by Amy on July 13th, 2015

I don’t know what it’s like for you…

Recently a friend asked the innocuous question, “How are you? How’s your mom?”

“Hum. Short of long answer?” I asked. She said she had some time, so I shared some recent events of My Family’s Adventures with Alzheimer’s.

After a pause, she responded, “You know, I really care about you. So I wish I could say something helpful, or empathize or tell you a story from my life. But I’m listening and…  I just don’t know what it’s like for you.”

I was so relieved!

She listened.  She didn’t change the subject, try to fix it, or turn away.  She didn’t overwhelm me with related stories.  She just listened.

How wonderful!

Now there are times when we’re hurting and appreciate other people’s empathy, suggestions, support, stories from their own lives, etc.  Yet we often long for a simpler, more direct connection.

The conversation with my friend reminded me of the basics of kind mindfulness:

  • Express the impulse of care
  • Honor what’s here
  • Be honest
  • and  Express the impulse of care (yes, again, it’s that important)

Mindfulness is not a dry exercise in scientific observation.  It’s an opening of the heart as well as the mind.

When you Express the impulse of care you establish the context for communicating in the first place.  While caring often “goes without saying,” most communication can go a lot further with saying saying it!

My friend’s expression of care opened my ears to hear the kindness of her words.  That she said, “I don’t know what to say” was a beautiful way to honor what’s here & be honest.

Caring is essential whether the you’re casually talking with friends, within your own mind, or sorting out difficulties with others.  When we hold our communication within the acknowledgement of that we care, it makes all the difference.

As a practice, consciously take a moment before any communication, and bring kindness into your bodily awareness.  Feel your heart.  Let it be softened by kindness.  Communication can be more real because when the heart is open, there’s space for possibilities, for reality to sneak in, for what is actually here rather than just what we think, hope or fear will be.

Kindness can bridge a rift between people; it can ease the disagreeing factions of our own minds.  Kind mindfulness is a connection with the openness of the heart, in which many things are possible, rather than the limits of the mind which only expects this or thatWhen let our hearts be tenderized by kindness, we approach most everything and everyone with respect, curiosity, and gratitude.

What happens for you when you let kindness be your priority?

Share your thoughts below – I’d love to hear how it is for you when kindness holds the conversation.

6 Comments so far ↓

  1. Juliet says:

    Amy, this is so beautifully expressed. I love the concept of kind mindfulness, and setting the context with it. Space for ‘reality to sneak in’ and letting our hearts be ‘tenderized by kindness’ – your words resonate with me. My friend’s husband has just died after being with her for a lifetime. Your post reminds me how to be with this, and with her. Thank you.

  2. Wow, pointed right at my heart. I lose my grip on kindness too often. And I don’t like it when that happens. I can recommit in any moment, like now. :-)

  3. Such an important message, Ann. Thank you for sharing it in a way that’s grounded in a perfect personal example…followed by clear, simple steps to guide kind communication. When I read your rendering of your friend’s question and response, I went from cringing with unease (at her first question) to softening and being filled with ease (upon her response after your reply). Oh how I wish more people had the capacity (or wanted to grow their capacity) to answer in the manner of your friend.

  4. Amy, what a powerful, beautiful, perfect blog post. Thank you for simply and clearly what’s required in *any* moment, but particularly when we are with those who are in difficult times, and we truly want to express that we care and wish to comfort or service, but really don’t know what to do, what would truly help. Gracias for your words and kind open heart!

  5. Eric says:

    In the jail, while teaching literacy, I do share kindness in some moments, but then there is the superimposition of my agenda: this can be as simple as that reading and writing are good things of use and intrinsic merit, or that Walt Whitman and Anne Waldman will be important to you because they are important to me. It can even be that prejudice is bad.

    In the face of the need I experience when I give into my anxiety, I superimpose anxiety onto many of the incarcerated, who are already doing pretty well with many things which would drive me truly truly into insanity, thank you very much! I often find myself trying to teach some aspect of the concept of being comfortable in your own shoes to men who are already comfortable in state issued sandals, and quite naturally, begin to look at me with distrust when I try to school them. This is very similar to denying the dying their quite perfect ability to die, while hoping to comfort them.

    Even so, I do good work despite myself, and its so important to turn to the mysteriousness of that. What acts on my part helped to anchor help, what communication was effectively rendered? How did kindness actually manage to slip in? Last quarter a gigantic man who looks exactly like a poster of the most wanted, whose every other words seems to be an obscenity, and whom I’ve been trying endlessly to inspire, to show how deeply satisfying the practice of writing can be, shyly divulged that since our time together he had begun a play with a plot line so complex it took him 15 minutes to relate it to me. Completely without any help, but certainly husbanded and mothered by me, almost in abstentia from my conscious sense of helping.

    Your suggestions for practicing gratitude and compassion are simple and simply useful. I’ll offer back that among my saintly practices in the jail is to compose a sincere, mysterious, authentic and individual thank you poem to each man I work with, at the conclusion of our time together, which is usually upon sentencing: a time marking their release or their progress into a prison sentence of what might be a dozen years apart from the transitional jail where I encounter them. Recognizing the carefulness and support each has uniquely given me in helping them, their authentic and steadfast refusal to accept my attempts to obliterate them in the course of my agenda. Believe me, they do a very good job of this. I try to speak of the abilities I recognize in them to help others. I have mostly found this celebration to be a good thing for all of us.

  6. Amy says:

    Thanks Eric! So good to see you here posting :-)
    What you shared about teaching men who are already comfortable in sate issued sandals is perfect – yes! Makes me think we should add to old adage that we teach what we really need to learn … maybe we also teach those who are best able to teach us what we really need to learn. That’s certainly been true for me.
    Thanks also for sharing the practice of gratitude poems. I’m appreciating your step in making the gratitude more visceral, and shared, by writing. Thanks for posting!

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