I grew up in a loud, south side Chicago Irish family. We spoke when and what we thought. Not much filter, just ”Hey! Here it is! Pick it up or leave it on the ground!” We didn’t hide our feelings, we spoke what we thought and let it roll off our backs like water. It wasn’t until my brother got married that I realized not all families grew up in a loud “Ma Where's The Cereal!" household like we did.
One family dinner we were being, well us.Telling each other like it was, being the smart-ass teasers we were, joking, laughing, yelling over meatloaf. I remember looking over at my new sister-in-law who appeared to be shell-shocked, frozen in time. She was staring with jaw opened from person to person. “New kid.” I thought.
The night went on 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 taking about. “You all interrupt each other so much. Yell at each other, 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 were and still are highly mannered and extremely polite. This type of chaos was pure culture shock to her.
Being a yoga teacher, business owner, and mom to teenagers I have begun to see how much weight my words carry. Being a bit older now (and wiser I hope) I now take the responsibility of my words a bit more seriously. Not every word comes flying out of my mouth any more. There are times when I intentionally try to hold it in. I count to ten. Take a “peace breath.” Wait it out. But like yoga, it is a practice.
For example, when my organically gorgeous Assistant Manager comes to work tears streaming down her face because her boyfriend can not 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!
Our words have power. 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 this communication should take place.
Gate Number One: Is It Truthful?
Use this to determine if this is perception or fact. Most people would not intentionally decide to blurt out a lie so we get past this gate pretty quick. Move to Gate Number Two.
Gate Number Two: Is it Necessary?
There is an old yogic wisdom that goes something like, “If your words aren’t benefiting the universe don’t say them.” The idea is don’t allow your Ego to do the speaking. Determine if this is in fact something that needs to be said. For example, your neighbor Mrs. Kruse is extremely obese and really does need to lose weight. Although this 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 for the Time?
This is the Mother of all Gates. Determining if this is the appropriate time for this Truthful and Necessary Communication to occur. For example, is Christmas Eve really the time you feel you should bring up the fact that you believe your Uncle Joe should go to rehab? Yes, it 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, how can what is Truthful, what is Necessary and what is Appropriate for the Time be said from a place of Kindness and Compassion? For example being woken up by your husband singing in the early morning, you could say, “Stop singing at the top of your lungs its 6am 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 sixteen-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.