How to avoid gossip, talking in the bushes, hearsay, rumor mongering and other misdemeanors.
One of the most important guidelines for harmony in a community is the practice of direct communication. When we are triggered by someone or something it is very tempting to talk about it among our friends. At SWZC we practice taking our upset to the person who triggered it or to the person or group most able to do something about the situation that triggered the upset.
If you find yourself upset with someone, here are some steps to resolution:
Cultivate emotional intelligence. This means be aware of what the emotion is (anger, fear, hurt etc.). Then take responsibility for the emotion. This means acknowledging that the action of another triggered this emotion but the emotion is mine. Then decide: what is the action that I want to take around this feeling.
Realizing that this feeling is almost completely repressed emotions from the past, I decide to meditate with the feeling, letting go of the trigger. For example: When the person next to me clears their throat in an irritating way, I realize that the burning anger that takes over my body is all about me. The trigger (throat clearing) is not the problem, it just triggered repressed anger. I can be happy that I am aware of the emotion and decide to just let it go or I can work on it in meditation in terms of transforming anger into wisdom.
Realizing that this feeling has to do with someone treating me inappropriately, I also realize that there is nothing I can do about it. For example: When my boss tells me I have to stay late and I cannot financially afford to offend my boss right now. Something real triggered my feelings, but I make the decision not to confront my boss about it because of circumstances. So just like in the first example, I work with these emotions in meditation. Let go of the story about the boss and be one with the anger and it will transform into wisdom.
When I’m not sure if this feeling is all my stuff or if I have a legitimate gripe with you. Or, if I’m pretty sure, your behavior is inappropriate. This is the time to use direct communication.
When the event that triggered my feelings is such that I need to take an action. For example: I hear the neighbors beating their children. This is the time to immediately call the police. My emotions may be giving me the information that I need to leave, to notify the police, to sign a petition, to quit my job, to march on Washington etc.
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Practice compassionate communication without blame.
First calm down. Let the feelings settle a little and put the incident into the compassionate communication model. When you did such and such, I felt such and such. I have this need and I have this request. For example: When you didn’t keep your appointment with me, I felt hurt and angry. I have a need that my friends keep their agreements with me. My request is that you keep your appointments, and if you can’t call me. Then listen without judgment to what the other person has to say. There may have been a good reason and no phone. Or it may be that they have a need for spontaneity and you may have to reach some kind of compromise to maintain the friendship.
When you have to talk about it to someone else first.
There are many healthy ways to practice direct communication and to work out what you are going to say beforehand. You can write everything out. If you are feeling very emotional you can write everything out, venting anger and resentment, and then burn it (or as one therapist told me write it down, tear it up in the toilet, and then shit on it and flush). You can talk to a therapist or another professional and get help on how to proceed with your grievance. You can talk to me or any other spiritual teacher. You can work on it with your 12 step sponsor. You can share in an anonymous 12 step meeting such as codependents anonymous or adult children of alcoholics or alanon etc. The indirect communication happens when you decide to share to other people who know the person you have a grievance with. It can possibly be healthy but only if the person you are sharing with can maintain the intention of helping you to do direct communication. If the two of you fall into blame and judgment then there is usually trouble in the community. Be aware if you are talking about your grievance with others as a way of creating a bond. Sometimes when we feel isolated we find solace in finding allies. If that is happening everyone who is participating needs to look at, how did we fall into indirect communication and how can I bring this out to the community.
How to make the communication.
In general these kinds of communication do not go well by email. There is a give and take that requires face to face communication. Ask the person you have a grievance with, if there is a time that you can talk. I prefer not to know it’s going to be about a grievance because then I suffer from anxiety about what the issue is until we get together. However if you are bringing a facilitator or ally you probably need to let the other person know that you do have a grievance. Give yourselves enough time to do the back and forth necessary to reach resolution. You may not use the compassionate communication model directly but keep in mind to use I statements, speak from your own experience, speak from the heart and listen without judgment. You may want to bring someone to facilitate or to be your ally. Especially if there is a power differential in the relationship you may want an ally
If that doesn’t work.
If you do not feel resolved and are still having strong feelings of anger, shame , disappointment etc about the communication continue with the process. If you haven’t tried a facilitator, try that. If the facilitator doesn’t work then talk to me about setting up a grievance council or if the problem is with me talk to a member of the Guardian Council or the Board.