Mindfulness and Character Strengths: Training #4 (Loving Speech and Deep Listening)
July 5, 2012 by Dr. Ryan Niemiec ·
Consider a world in which people, groups and organizations bring careful intentionality to what they are doing. They listen to one another with strong compassion, and reflect deeply on the impact their words have on others.
Thich Nhat Hanh’s “five mindfulness trainings” are a recipe for mindful living as well as a striking vision for a global ethic. The potential impact of the trainings on society is significant. But they start with ourselves and our relationships.
Keep in mind:
- These are mindfulness trainings not mindfulness commandments. The idea is to move toward the training and to practice the training as an ongoing process, not something to be perfectly achieved.
- The practice of the mindfulness trainings is for everyone to enjoy.
- For a full description of the Five Mindfulness Trainings, click here.
This blog entry focuses on the fourth mindfulness training, called Loving Speech and Deep Listening. It begins:
- Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and compassionate listening in order to relieve suffering and to promote reconciliation and peace (Nhat Hanh & Cheung, 2010, p. 211).
- This training invites us to deliberately practice mindful speech and mindful listening in order to foster more positive relationships. Compassion/kindness is a core strength used in these practices. We will also need to call upon curiosity which is a strength of character found to lead to strong, intimate relationships.
How might you use character strengths to practice this training?
- Learn active-constructive responses when someone shares good news to you. This involves a mix of the strengths of love (providing warmth and genuineness in the response), social intelligence (detecting the person is sharing something that’s important to them), and humility and self-regulation (to not have to share your good news too but to help the person who is sharing to savor in the moment).
- Learn to empathize when someone shares bad news to you. Listen with eyes and ears of compassion: What might they be feeling? As you take notice in what the other person is feeling, can you feel their emotions as well? If they are expressing hurt or shame, can you feel it? If so, tell them that.Explain that you are with them in their suffering. Compassion is to suffer with and to be with the person; it is a type of kindness strength that we can offer to those we love. While you listen to the person, ask yourself, “Where is the person coming from? What are they saying or trying to say? What is the essence or core message that they are expressing? For example, a woman yelling at her husband for being late for dinner might be feeling – at her core – disrespected and unloved.
- Practice forgiveness when someone close to you harms you. This does not mean to forget their action, nor to condone what they have done. But to let go of your own suffering. Research reveals that writing about the personal benefits that have resulted from someone’s harmful actions toward you leads to greater forgiveness than writing about the trauma of the harmful act. To use the strength of forgiveness is to listen deeply to one’s suffering and one’s core.
- For the full text of Ryan’s article called “Mindful Living” published in the International Journal of Well-Being, click here
- To learn more about mindfulness and Thich Nhat Hanh, click here
- For images of Thich Nhat Hanh from Touching Peace Photography, taken by mindfulness practitioner, Paul Davis, click here
- Nhat Hanh, T. (1993). For a future to be possible: Commentaries on the five mindfulness trainings. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.
- Nhat Hanh, T. (2009). Happiness. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.
- Nhat Hanh, T., & Cheung, L. (2010). Savor: Mindful eating, mindful life. New York: HarperCollins.
- Niemiec, R. (2012). Mindful living: Character strengths interventions as pathways for the five mindfulness trainings. International Journal of Wellbeing, 2(1), 22–33.
- Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: Oxford University Press and Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.