I grew up in a loud, south-side Chicago Irish family. We didn’t use much of a filter.
We spoke when and what we thought and let it roll off our backs like water. Our custom was more, “Hey! Here it is! Pick it up or leave it on the ground!”
We didn’t hide our feelings.
Not until my brother got married did I realize that not everyone grew up in a loud “Ma where’s the cereal!” household like we did.
One night at a family dinner, my family was being, for lack of a better word, us. We were telling it to each other like it was, being the smart-ass teasers we are, joking, laughing and yelling over meatloaf.
I remember looking over at my new sister-in-law who appeared to be shell-shocked and frozen in time. She was slack-jawed and staring from person to person. “New kid,” I thought.
The night went on with us laughing, shouting and ribbing each other. A great time had by all. Well, almost all.
Later, I heard that she asked my brother why we were so mean to each other. My brother had no idea what she was talking about. Her response: “You all interrupt each other so much, yell at each other and cut each other down.”
What appeared to be complete disrespect and chaos to my sister-in-law was merely another night in the Conway family.
Contrary to the loud Irish upbringing I had, my new sister-in-law came from a quiet Dutch family. They are highly mannered and extremely polite. This type of chaos was pure culture shock to her.
As a yoga teacher, business owner and mom to teenagers, I have begun to see how much weight my words carry.
Now that I am a bit older (and wiser, I hope) I take the responsibility of my words more seriously. No longer does each and every thought I have come flying out of my mouth.
There are times when I intentionally try to hold it in. I count to 10or take a peace breath. I wait it out.
But like yoga, this restraint is a practice.
For example, when my organically gorgeous assistant manager comes to work with tears streaming down her face because her boyfriend cannot see the beauty that radiates inside her, which in turn makes her not see it, I want to jump up on the counter, grab a megaphone and start the lecture!
My teacher Shakti Redding introduced me to the Four Gates of Communication . You take one gate at a time and move through the process to determine what, if, when and how a communication should take place.
Gate Number One: Is it Truthful?
Answering this question determines whether the thought you want to convey is perception or fact. Most people would not intentionally decide to blurt out a lie so we get past this gate quickly.
Gate Number Two: Is it Necessary?
There is an old yogic wisdom that says, “If your words aren’t benefiting the universe don’t say them.”
The idea is to prohibit your ego from doing the speaking. The next step in deciding whether to communicate a thought is to determine if it is something that needs to be said.
For example, your neighbor Mrs. Kruse is extremely obese and really does need to lose weight. Although this thought is truthful (Gate Number One), it is probably not necessary that you ring her doorbell tomorrow morning and tell her this.
Therefore, you do not make it through Gate Two. No need to communicate this thought.
Gate Number Three: Is this Appropriate at this Time?
This gate is the mother of all gates—determining whether the time is right to communicate this truthful and necessary thought.
For example, is Christmas Eve really the time you should bring up the fact that you believe your Uncle Joe should go to rehab? Yes, the thought may be truthful and yes it may be necessary, but no, this is not the appropriate time to tell him.
You don’t get to go through Gate Number Three. No need to communicate that thought right now.
Gate Number Four: Can this be said with Kindness and Compassion?
Once you have made your way through the first three gates, the next step is determining how to say what is truthful, what is necessary and what is appropriate for the time from a place of kindness and compassion.
For example, if your husband’s singing wakes you early one morning, you could say, “Stop singing at the top of your lungs! It’s 6 a.m. you knucklehead!”
Or you could say, “Hey Babe, can you please tone it down a bit? I am still trying to get some sleep.”
So now when my 16
-year-old daughter approaches me and begins the conversation, “Mom, I probably shouldn’t tell you this but. . .” before the next word comes out of her mouth I am calling in the Gate Keeper.
Colleen Rose is the founder and Director of Yoga 360, Inc, creator of the Conway Rose Skin Care Line, Yogalife Visionary, and most recently the founder of Granola Gear. A third generation yoga teacher, she approaches her professional endeavors with the same yogic principles she emphasizes with her students and in her own life: love, compassion and nurturance of self and others, reverence and responsibility for the planet, and an acknowledgement that we are all connected. With love and laughter, she works toward finding a comfortable balance in her classes, challenging her students to move toward positive change in all aspects of their lives.
Editor: Lara Chassin
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