Handling Unmindful Speech
In the last blog post, How to Live Peacefully with Others, we discussed cultivating loving speech and practicing deep listening. In the course of our busy days, we aren’t always going to have the time to sit down and have a heart to heart, with any given person with whom we have experienced conflict, in order to practice deep listening. Cultivating and using loving speech is a great way to relationship build and develop trust for when we can sit down and have that heart to heart. Throughout our personal interactions, we should think about the words and tone we use. When we are not in the throes of conflict, this is not so difficult. However, when someone speaks to us in an unkind way, it can take some discipline to not respond in kind. Buddhism teaches us to practice loving speech vs. unmindful speech.
How do we develop this discipline?
Always keep in mind why loving speech is desirable. If we don’t like to be talked to in unmindful ways, we can be pretty sure that responding in kind isn’t going to be received very well. Since it won’t be happily received, it will not further our goal of living compassionately.
Plan ahead as to how to handle unmindful speech from others. When people cut you with their speech, you do not want to respond out of the anger and upset you feel. At the same time, you don’t want to hold onto the anger for it to boil over at another time. This is where acknowledging your anger and taking some time to breathe is helpful. In Buddhist Ethics for Everyday Life, Thich Nhat Hanh tells us: The best immediate practice is to breathe in and out in order to calm your anger, to calm the pain. “Breathing in, I know that I am angry. Breathing out, I calm my feeling of anger.” Practice this technique by recalling situations where you have reacted out of anger and hurt, and envision yourself reacting differently. Imagine the upset, and practice breathing to calm your emotions. Having a method for dealing with hurt and anger and practicing it will make it much easier to use loving speech when you find yourself confronted with unmindful speech.