Sunday, September 8, 2013 ~ Yellow Light Communication
In her book on The Five Keys to Mindful Communication, Susan Gillis Chapman writes about communication that is closed (red light), open (green light), or somewhere-in-between (yellow light). Initially, Chapman suggest, it’s useful to cultivate an awareness of the more obvious states: green/open & red/closed. The yellow light is a more nuanced state, often imperceptible (unless mindful), however it may also hold greater potential for increasing our communicative efficacy.
Yellow Light Communication
The yellow light describes the period in between the green and red light, the gap of groundlessness that occurs just before communication shuts down. We’ve been caught off guard and we feel embarrassed, irritated, or disappointed by an unexpected event. Below the surface of these reactions, deeper fears and self-doubts are exposed. If we can meet these fears with gentle insight, using mindfulness practice, we can intercept our red-light triggers.
Working with the yellow light is an advanced skill in the practice of mindful communication. Normally we begin by simply noticing the red and green lights—how we open up when we feel emotionally safe, and how we shut down when we feel afraid. Paying attention to these patterns without judging them increases our self-awareness and gives us greater control of our conversations. After we’ve spent some time observing our patterns of opening up and closing down, we can zero in on this most important area, the stage in between. Mindfulness teaches us how to hold steady when we feel hurt or disappointed.
It gives us the power to refrain from making matters worse during those episodes when negative reactions rise up because things aren’t going as we planned… (continues)
As Chapman puts it (in the video clip above): “when the light is red, stop, recognize when the communication is disconnected, and as painful as it is, learn how to hold steady and abide with that disconnection.”
iGiraffe‘s pause button:
One way that we can do this — i.e. ‘recognize and abide with disconnection‘ — is to pause, breathe and identify at least some of the underlying values/needs in play as we notice our (shenpa-like) itch, while refraining from scratching (or lashing out), at least until/unless — and for the purpose of this blog/tele-practice group, especially — we’ve grasped an array of options [i.e. screaming-in-giraffe/OFNR?] and can proceed by design rather than impulse.
“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”
– Winston Churchill
“Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move with him like flies on a summer day.”
~ Bertrand Russell
“Conflict is the gadfly of thought. It stirs us to observation and memory. It instigates to invention. It shocks us out of sheeplike passivity, and sets us at noting and contriving.”
– John Dewey
[Disclaimer: Please note, as detailed in Tab-IV for example (and its cache of video clips referencing Nixon/Kissinger), that I’m personally not a purist by any means, seeing NVC as but one tool in a toolbox chock full of potentially relevant modalities. Not to mention that I’m not above scratching that metaphoric (shenpa) itch, on occasion, especially when it’s in alignment with broader forest-from-the-trees intentions.
My aspiration is to become more and more conscious and at choice (rather than merely reactive, especially in the heat of the moment(ary) conversation). I yearn to be liberated from any internalized dictate, whether it be that I ‘should’ respond in any prescribed manner (such as either ‘jackal’ or ‘giraffe’), and instead be free to respond authentically — think Bill Maher, sans any jackal (a horror to behold!). For those who study NVC for its pragmatic applicability, dwelling in the yellow zone (or merely pausing prior to reacting), is similar to holding an intention to play chess instead of checkers.]
Miki Kashtan: “For a long time now I have been troubled by the way Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is often presented and perceived. In our culture, and in several other industrialized, modernized countries I have been to, it is typically seen as a path to personal growth, such as an alternative to therapy, or a way to resolve relationship issues. For me, this focus has been limited. Instead, more and more I think of NVC as a path to personal liberation, and of the two paths as distinct from each other…” (continues)
From a speech delivered on April 23, 1910 by Theodore Roosevelt:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Additional videos: Green Zone Communication (videos)
Delineating Chapman’s five essential elements of mindful communication:
• Mindful Presence (awake body, tender heart, open mind)
• Mindful Listening (encouragement)
• Mindful Speech (gentleness)
• Mindful Relationships (unconditional friendliness)
• Mindful Responses (playfulness)
Three green-light faculties as the basis for mindfulness practice:
• Awake body, the ability to pay attention
• Tender heart, the ability to empathize with others
• Open mind, the ability to be honest, curious, and insightful.