Recently I have had a number of students ask me how we apply our martial art outside the dojo to everyday life. Well, that is a huge question that could be answered by way of a book. This is, in fact, a life art. The training, given time and proper guidance, will work its way in to every aspect of a students’ life. The training changes people. That is the goal of the training. In a nutshell, we want students to become more personally powerful; more in control of how they influence and create their own personal reality, or life experience. One of the major pieces of that is skillful communication.
If you have been following my writing you will recognize this as the first paragraph of my first article on applying the elemental model to communication skills. I feel it is worth repeating.
We are now looking at the wind element influence as applies to skillful or strategic communication. The essential nature of the wind element is circular, flowing, evasive, and yet connected. We can consider the broad spectrum from a gentle summer breeze to an F5 tornado, and everything in the middle. Let’s consider both ends of that spectrum as a starting point.
First we’ll look at being subtle and gentle, connect and guide. Suppose you are arguing with a loved one. Frequently when things escalate we lose sight of the big picture. It is so easy to go off on tangents that we can even forget what started the whole thing. So let’s say this thing is escalating to a very uncomfortable level, leading to a bad place. Remind the other party that the value and health of your relationship is more important than anything you may be caught up in. Ask the questions ‘how does this issue fit to our big picture, our shared goals? Is it serving our mutual goals? How important is it on a 1-10 scale?’ These simple questions can help determine if this thing matters or if it’s just a pointless, distracting derail.
If it is important you may agree to bail on the discussion until you are both in a better place to address it. Set a time. Establish rules, such as, stay on topic and avoid bringing up other issues. Often just letting a little time pass leads to clearer and more reasonable perspectives. You may even find it was really not that important after all.
The other end of the spectrum is to overwhelm with logic, reason, and data. Keep in mind that this in no way needs to be hostile, just overwhelmingly convincing. In fact, this is almost always most powerful when emotions are left out. Of course, just like our martial art, nothing is paint by numbers. Every situation is unique, and thus we must practice understanding and applying the principles.
To develop skillful communication we must always:
- Be mindful of tone of voice
- Be mindful of body language
- Consider our choice of words carefully – semantics matter
And my favorite rule of thumb – always be practicing; code for “do your best to remain mindful”.