What is 'Right-Communication'?
There is a great irony in discussing the meaning of "right-communication," primarily because the definition has nothing to do with being right, at least not in the way we usually think about it. In fact, the overwhelming need to be right often raises a barrier to right-communication. So if we're not to take the words "right communication" literally, what does the phrase mean, and why might it be meaningful to you as you move through the daily events of your life?
The beauty of right-communication is that, as a practice, it takes us "up close and personal" with our narrow-mindedness, our undisciplined mind-and-mouth chatter, and all of the many ways we close both mind and heart to others each day.
"What's beautiful about this?" you might ask. Surely, it sounds self-punishing to willingly take a close look at our own narrow-mindedness, among other foibles. Who wants to wallow in one's own short-comings, after all? The problem is that we're actually doing greater harm to ourselves, and others, by staying stuck in our stubborn, unskillful ways. How? We spend too much time thinking negatively or being judgmental, so we disconnect, offend and alienate others. We speak (or act) before we think, and are then surprised and disappointed that things don't go as smoothly as we might have hoped. The beauty of practicing right-communication is that we learn a different, less harmful, more rewarding way of being. And, as is the case when transforming any habit, it takes practice.
Many faith and wisdom traditions provide meaningful advice about how to interact with others. Right-communication really means being aware — or mindful — of how you're thinking and what that looks, sounds and feels like to the people on the receiving end of your communication. Right-communication is inseparable from "getting your mind and heart straight," because how you speak is actually a reflection of your state-of-mind and heart. Unfortunately, because we "put it out there," our uglier states of mind and heart too often have the power to influence others for the worse.
Right-Communication in Action
If we borrow from the richness of the Buddhist tradition, for example, right-communication means avoiding unmindful speech such as lying, exaggerating, gossiping, saying one thing to one person and something else to another, or using abusive language. Right-communication, then, would be to practice being thoughtful, truthful and kind in your communication. It would mean becoming more aware of the language you use — not by being "politically correct" — but by choosing to avoid words, body-language and voice-tone that are put forth in a way that is hateful, cruel, belittling or divisive. Wisdom-teacher Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us that we can choose more mindful speech to "speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy and hope."
The rules of right-communication within the workplace are no different from how the tenets might be practiced individually, since organizations are but a coming-together of individuals. As leaders or followers within an organization, we might go to work and continue our practice of speaking truthfully, remembering that "Compassion without honesty is sentimentality, but honesty without compassion is brutality." We can refrain from being agents of ill-will (or fueling the rumor mill), and choose words that inspire confidence, joy and hope instead of language that deflates or abuses. And, distinguishing ourselves from the individual who "speaks with a forked tongue," we choose not to say one thing to the general public via our public relations "spin" while speaking something else within our organization via our words and actions to employees and customers.
Right-communication may well have its own very simple Golden Rules: Speak unto others as you would have them speak unto you, and ensure that your actions are in sync with your words.
This perspective is provided as food for thought rather than counsel specifically designed to meet the needs of your organization. Please receive and apply it mindfully. The most effective inspired-leadership or conscious-organizational communication approach is one that has been tailored to your unique needs, so don't hesitate to get assistance from a trusted advisor to explore how to adapt these concepts to your needs.
Jamie S. Walters is founder and chief vision & strategy officer at Ivy Sea, Inc., and publisher and editor-in-chief for Ivy Sea Online, recognized by Inc.com, Harvard Business School, The CEO Refresher and other business portals as one of the best sites on the internet for entrepreneurs, small-business owners and organizational leaders. Jamie is also the author of the new handbook for conscious, human-scale enterprise: Big Vision, Small Business: 4 Keys to Success Without Growing Big (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco). E-mail Jamie directly at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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