The Mindful Guide to Straight Talk

Nine tips for keeping it real while engaging in meaningful communication.

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1. Be present and welcoming

Be 100% present. Set aside the usual distractions of things undone from yesterday, things to do tomorrow. Bring all of yourself to the work. Practice hospitality. We all learn most effectively in spaces that welcome us. Welcome others to this place and this work, and presume that you are welcomed.

2. Listen deeply to learn

Listen intently to what is said; listen to the feelings beneath the words. Listen to yourself also. Strive to achieve a balance between listening and reflecting, speaking and acting. You will be invited to share in pairs, small groups, and in the large group. The invitation is exactly that. You will determine the extent to which you want to participate in our discussions and activities.

3. No fixing

Each of us is here to discover our own truths, to listen to our own inner teacher, to take our own inner journey. We are not here to help right another’s wrong, to “fix” or “correct” what we perceive as broken or incorrect in another member of the group.

4. Suspend judgment and assumptions and seek understanding

Set aside your judgments. By creating a space between judgments and reactions, we can listen to the other, and to ourselves, more fully, and thus our perspectives, decisions, and actions are more informed. Our assumptions are usually invisible to us, yet they under-gird our worldview and thus our decisions and our actions. By identifying our assumptions, we can then set them aside and open our viewpoints to greater possibilities.

5. Speak your truth and respect the truth of others

Say what is in your heart, trusting that your voice will be heard and your contribution respected. Your truth may be different from, even the opposite of, what another in the circle has said. Speaking your truth is not debating with, or correcting, or interpreting what another has said. Own your truth by speaking for yourself, using “I” statements.

6. Maintain confidentiality

Create a safe space by respecting the confidential nature and content of discussions held in the circle. What is said in the circle stays here; what is learned in the circle leaves here. Everyone gets to tell their own story for themselves.

7. Respect silence

Silence is a rare gift in our busy world. After you or someone else has spoken, take time to reflect, without immediately filling the space with words. Look inward and listen to yourself in the silence.

8. When things get difficult, turn to wonder

If you find yourself disagreeing with another, becoming judgmental, shutting down in defense, try turning to wonder: “I wonder what brought her to this place?” “I wonder what my reaction teaches me?” “I wonder what he’s feeling right now?”

9. Trust the circle

In the circle, all voices are valued equally. All gifts are welcomed and respected. Within each circle is the genesis of renewal and community well-being. The circle can be the instrument for creating a new community narrative for the sake of our children and grandchildren.

This practice, developed in part by the Center for Courage & Renewal, appeared in the June 2016 issue of Mindful magazine. Read the full feature article, “Healing Racial Fault Lines.”