In many interactions, especially in the social media universe where our potentially anonymous state secures distance and our faces are usually restricted to a tiny thumbnail, people seem constantly tempted to voice their opinion at all costs. Yes, freedom of speech is a pillar of democracy and must be encouraged and protected. However, I am not talking about the what, but the how. The delivery.
Why is it important to make your words louder and stronger than someone else’s feelings? Why don’t we express our truth in a more mindful way?
Mindful listening is one of the topics I bring up in my Mindful Photography course. Because I believe mindfulness is a lifestyle where all activities intertwine and converge to the same outcome: a state of awareness and gratitude, with large spoonfuls of empathy. When you listen (or read) mindfully, you truly wait for the person to finish their thoughts. You look at the big picture and let go of the habitual need to jump the gun and judge, or elaborate a quick rebuttal. Many times, doing so while the speaker is still talking. We listen and prepare the answer at the same time, as if we were in a time constrained political debate on TV. And even worse, the reply many times is far from kind.
When we voice an opinion at all costs, we forget empathy. Compassion. The ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, or their entire outfit. By quickly judging a situation, we dismiss the possibility that we are all different. We are all unique and have different walks of life, experiences and what one person considers easy, another may see as challenging.
I also talk about the fragility of labels in the course. For example, a photo of a “beautiful” lily may convey joy to someone who remembers the time when they got a bouquet for their birthday. On the other hand, better yet, in the other person, the sight of the same lily can trigger sad feelings by reminding them of a loved one’s funeral. We are multi-faceted, dimensional, complex. Interestingly diverse.
Therefore, why not work on not making our communication flat, dull, stagnant or rough? Give your opinion, express your views, different as they may be. But if it needs to be delivered with ruthlessness, maybe it isn’t such a strong point after all. An opinion given without empathy is, indeed, just judgement. And judgment tends to create gaps between people who could otherwise be meeting in the middle of a bridge to enjoy the beautiful scenery.