Are You Making These 4 Simple Communication Mistakes?

The Yoga Whisperer
Language is something we take for granted. Often we get out wires crossed between our mind and our mouth. It’s important to pay attentio to what we say. Otherwise we give confusing instructions or say things we don’t mean.

Adorable cat makes phone call, MindFitMove, Mindful Fitness

This week at yoga school, my partner and I had to teach each other a warm up sequence. For the most part, it went really well. But on a few occasions, our words missed the mark.

Luckily, I was paying attention and I was able to make the following list:

Four Ways That Communication Fails
(and four ways to clarify what you mean.)

1. We Lack a Shared Vocabulary –
Before meeting my partner, I was practicing warm-ups with some friends. Both people were smart, but not into yoga. Still, I was surprised when they didn’t understand the instruction, “flex your foot.”

We sometimes assume everyone know what we know. If they don’t we grow impatient. Often we ignore their confusion or we just give up.

How to Fix It:
When you notice confusion arise stop, take a deep breath, and try again. Doing this creates the space for meaningful communication.

In this case, I took a deep breath. Then I said, “Move your toes up towards your shin.” They got it instantly and we were able to keep going.

2. We Take Our Words for Granted –
This week my yoga partner asked me to repeat a certain movement. I wanted to do it, but I couldn’t.

She was asking me to bounce in a stretch. (Bouncing in a stretch is a big no-no) But I wasn’t sure what to say.

We sometimes fail to reflect on the words we use. Words can mean so many different things to different people. We have to mindful of what we say.

How to Fix It:
Awareness of how words are being received is the way to prevent this.

In this case, She saw I was conflicted. She stopped and clarified what she meant.

Once we had talked about it, she understood my concerns. And I understood what she was trying to do.

3. We Go Too Fast –
While teaching my partner, I noticed myself rushing. Sometimes my partner got my cues, but sometimes she didn’t. I became unsure of how to proceed.

We all love to be efficient, but it’s easy to set a quick pace. When we speak to others fast rarely equals clear.

How to Fix It:
When you communicate, take your time. Nothing takes longer than confusion. It’s better to slow down the first time through.

I realized I needed to slow down with my partner. I got down and did little demos. I explained each part of the movement. The process helped me understand what to explain and see where I was losing her.

Too Much Information, MindFitMove, Mindful Fitness, Mindfulness

4. We Give Too Much Information –
I was trying to show my partner a hip routine I do with my clients. I thought it would be a great warm up for yoga class. But I forgot how complex it was.

As we were going through it, I noticed my partner stop moving. She was listening, but wasn’t sure what to do.

It’s easy to get caught up in our own agenda. We often think we have so much to say. But if the person can’t take it in, it doesn’t matter what we say.

How to Fix It:
When we communicate, often less is more. It shows respect for our listener and gives greater weight to what we say.

I realized I was saying too many things. When I realized this, I stopped. Then I repeated myself and focusing just on the basics.

As soon as I simplified it, she started doing what I asked with ease.

MindFitMove Practice
– Think about an interaction where miscommunication happened.
– Write down what went wrong and what you think caused the miscommunication
(Hint: Take responsibility for your part in this)
– Write down a strategy you could use next time to express yourself more clearly.

Photo Credits


Talking Your Way Through A Mindfield

Man walking through mudSpeaking In A Minefield
Speaking is like walking through a minefield blindfolded. We are so focused on ourselves we often fail to see that our words have blown up. Our meaning has been scattered to the winds but we are none the wiser.

Here are three communication mines we face, as teachers, students, managers, and employees.

1. Confidence
The correct amount of confidence is tricky. Have too much confidence and you lose connection. Have too little confidence and no one listens.

You have to be honest about what you don’t know. At the same time, you have to feel ok about your limitations.

When I work with my teaching partner in Yoga school, I notice that I’m most effective when I’m calm, but not cocky. Whenever I think I know exactly what to do, I lose her.

Confidence has to do with our ability to be aware and present. When I’m attentive and focused, I give clear directions.

Life is more than just knowing it all. Experience is great but only when it gives us more space to be present.

2. Projection
We usually project what we want to see. We miss all the things that make others unique. Without this data, we can never connect with them.

Nevertheless, I’ve found some projection is necessary for effective communication.

When directing someone into a Yoga pose you have to project your own understanding of the movements onto your student. At the same time, you have to hold an awareness of how your words are affecting their body.

This balancing act is present in all communication. If we notice our words losing impact it’s great to check in on how we are projecting and whether or not it’s working.

3. Frustration/confusion
As a teacher, my students don’t owe me anything. As a friend, employee, or even manager the same is true.

Having authority can lead us to believe we are entitled to be listened to. However, this attitude is rarely helpful.

Instead, we must try to make our communication accessible.

When I was working with my Yoga partner I noticed frustration arising when I gave a direction and she didn’t do anything.

She may have been following the instruction already. She may have not understood. She may have thought my directions were wrong.

Why she didn’t move doesn’t matter. My job as her teacher is to make my directions work for her. This asks me to I invite rather than command her to act.

In every situation, we should always work towards invitation. This has more to do with the attitude we bring than the words we use.

The key is remembering that we are indebted to our listener. They have given us their attention. We must repay this gift with the calm attention and clarity.

MindFitMove Practice
– Think of something you’d like to communicate to someone: A partner, friend, co-worker, student, or boss.
– Take a few minutes and write out exactly what you want to say.
– Then put this aside for a couple hours or a couple of days.
– When you come back too it read it out loud to yourself.
– Try reading it with confidence and then with uncertainty.
– Try reading it imagining their face in a scowl and then in a smile.
– Try reading it as a demand and then as an invitation.
– Then reflect of these tests and rewrite the phrase.
– Finally try expressing this idea to them keeping in mind the 3 mines you learned about in this post.