Mindful Communication in the Digital Age
Mindful Communication in the Digital Age
Does ALL CAPS really mean they’re mad?
Have you ever felt that the friend or colleague you were chatting / whatsapp-ing / slacking with was not too fond of you?
If they’re using ALL CAPS, they’re obviously not happy. And you know that they are mad at you.
But the truth is that you don’t really know.
As American speaker and author Byron Katie, with her famous method of inquiry, would say, “Can you absolutely know that's true?”
Clearly, our minds have an interesting way of creating an alternative reality and convincing us of it. As we’ve often heard: Feelings are real, but not always the reality.
Do we allow the ALL CAPS mad perception to inflict our reality? Does it really mean they’re mad, or do we need to be able to read between the lines of digital communication these days?
Controlling Your Internal World
Never has it been more important to manage our internal world than it is today. This was pointed out by Daniel Goleman in his classic book on Emotional Intelligence. As much slack as they get, the millennial generation simply has less time for office politics, demanding transparency, increased collaboration, and immediate feedback. Add this to their existential desires for more purpose and fulfilment, and you’ve got a serious hot-bed for conflict.
What does it mean to communicate mindfully?
It’s really about tracking and managing your emotional reactions to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the behaviors of others. In simpler terms, it's about making emotions work for you instead of against you. More than just a skill that can be learned and developed, controlling your emotions is the key to successful relationships and better productivity. This is why practices based on ancient wisdom do not limit this skill exclusively to business interactions and interpersonal communication. What if the same skill required to maintain emotional health is the same as what’s required for deep meditation or prayer?
Wisdom Tribe folk would agree wholeheartedly. In fact, our meetings at Tribe HQ typically start out with an emotional check-in before we jump in to save the world. The science of mindfulness, popularized by John Kabat-Zinn, points out that your ability to oversee your internal world follows you everywhere you go: at work, at home, at your place of worship, etc…
So yes, technology has reached new realms of communication with tools like Monday, Asana, Google Drive, Slack, Whatsapp, and the list goes on. Millennials often complain about being overwhelmed with all these connection “points,” while at the same time ignoring their negative thoughts and feelings, barely recognizing how they unconsciously seep into their daily digital interactions. What a paradox! All these communication tools and no true internal or external communication.
We need truthful connection, rather than the unverified stories and images entertained in our heads. Once you entertain the possibility of mindful communication, you begin to experience a different world happening inside and outside of you.
Defining Your Emotional State
Ever try calming your kid after a scary movie while convincing them the characters are just on the screen? Your chances of success are slim. Deena Skolnick Weisberg explains that the mind of a child lacks the boundaries of differentiation between reality and imagination. Are adults any different, or do we create sophisticated workarounds to protect our emotional state?
Jewish mystic Rabbi Nachman of Breslov proposes using one simple method to identify your emotional state: If you are not in good mood, you are entertaining negative thoughts. If you are in a good mood, you are entertaining positive thoughts.
It’s that simple.
Your feelings are clearly the alarm signal from your heart sends your mind to let you know what you are thinking about. Our issue is that we have to sloooooow things down to really notice the thoughts affecting our emotional state at lightning speed. It’s so hard for us to just stop and take a breather before answering that email. That’s why it’s so important that we master the art of mindful communication in the digital age.
The Constant Search For Identity
If, over the course of our digital communications, I feel that a friend, colleague, or family member is unhappy with me, I have a few options:
Talk to them about it.
Question the validity of my assessment on my own—Not everything requires a dramatic confrontation!
Recognize that the same stories I am telling myself could also be plaguing my colleague.
Be compassionate with myself and others.
And what if the person at the other end of the line actually confirms “Well, I don't’ like you!” Then as software engineer and motivator of former Google fame, Chade-Meng Tan, wrote skillfully in his book Search Inside Yourself: you need to prepare for a difficult conversation.
A powerful first step in improving our ability to conduct difficult conversations is understanding their underlying structure. In every conversation (chat..etc..) there are actually 3 conversations going on: What happened? What emotions are involved? What does this say about me? (We can call this an “identity associated conversation, ie: you are creating an identity based on your assessment of the conversation) The identity conversation almost always involves these three questions:
Am I competent?
Am I a good person?
Am I worthy of love?