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Mindful D.I.A.L.O.G.U.E. – Emotional Self-Management

This lesson is a part of an audio course The Nature of Effective Communication by Dr. Dalton Kehoe

To avoid the worst aspects of Control talk, we need to calm our Adaptive Unconscious. It's the part of our mind that's automatically reading the other's talk or behavior as threatening and is trying to protect us by arousing our fear and anger and compelling us to use Control talk.

If we can calm ourselves, we have a chance to speak more effectively in difficult situations. We can speak to handle the 3 D's effectively by using the third and most powerful talk that we have…I call it Mindful D.I.A.L.O.G.U.E.

Most of our daily lives are run by our Adaptive Unconscious mind. It reads the situations we're in and pushes our conscious minds to speak appropriately. You might not want to hear this, but you rarely consciously think before you talk. As I said earlier, if you did, your talk would sound awkward, stilted, and unnatural. Instead, your words are stored in the long-term memory circuits of your Adaptive Unconscious and instantly delivered to your conscious mind to speak.

Think about meeting someone for the first time. The "Hi, how are ya's," slight smile and other indications of interest on your face appear instantly. You don't think about them; they just appear, and the words simply come out. You don't consciously choose to perform them; they just happen. And if they didn't, people would think of you as odd. They are all buried in your adaptive unconscious, which delivers them instantly to your conscious mind to be performed on cue.

As I said in the segment on Control talk, the adaptive unconscious is always reading the people we're with and the situation we're in, and if things are about to go badly, it's there to give your conscious mind what you need to say to defend yourself.

The only problem with this is it can rapidly undermine any connection we hoped to achieve or maintain. So, it's our adaptive unconscious mind that needs to be consciously managed for a moment.

The only way to do that is to momentarily wake up the conscious mind and put it in charge. We need to figure out how to rouse the conscious mind into action in crucial moments. When facing control from others, we need to wake up and slow down.

That's why I call this last, very powerful form of problem-solving talk Mindful D.I.A.L.O.G.U.E. And I'm going to begin by focusing on the last letter of the word D.I.A.L.O.G.U.E. "E" stands for Emotional self-management.

To do this, we need to reach back into a very long history of relaxation techniques and learn how to consciously breathe. This is the only way to wake up the conscious mind and put it in charge.

In difficult moments that can lead you into the dark world of competitive CONTROL talk, you need to do the one thing that you never ordinarily do – consciously choose your next thoughts and words rather than let them simply appear from your adaptive unconscious mind.

Before we discuss the speaking elements of Mindful D.I.A.L.O.G.U.E, we need to get you into the right mental state to do it. It's time to learn to breathe so you can become momentarily conscious – that is, Mindful – about what's going on.

Conscious Calming Breath

To practice this type of breath effectively, you need to be sitting down. Relax your back into your chair and have your feet flat on the ground. Hold your hands straight out in front of you and interlace your fingers, just at the tips. Note the little finger at the bottom…wiggle it slightly…and then lower your hands toward your waistline. Use that little finger to find your belly button. Put it into your belly button and then relax your hands over your belly just above it.

I suggest doing this at first so you'll know where your hands should be every time you practice taking a conscious calming breath. Why? Because I also want you to notice when you do this, it's the opposite of taking a normal breath. When we breathe normally, we breathe from the chest – and if upset – we raise our shoulders and breathe faster. To calm ourselves, we need to find our physical center – our belly – and breathe into it instead. When you breathe in, I want you to push your belly out and feel that pressure against your hands. When you breathe out, I want you to gently press on your belly and push it in. Do it several times until you feel calmer.

Once you've practiced and acquired this skill, you can take the Conscious Calming Breath any time (without using your hands), including in a moment of hesitation in a face-to-face conversation. One breath will be enough to calm your unconscious emotional reactions and bring your conscious mind into the moment so that you can think Mindfully.

Next, keep the conscious mind engaged by asking the question: "I wonder what's really going on here?" With this question, you're carrying out the U. in D.I.A.L.O.G.U.E. – trying to understand. – Notice the present emphasis in "going on here" and the trick built into the "I wonder … really" form. The conscious mind seems compelled to answer that type of question. It may say, "I don't know, but they look mad." Whatever it describes, this simple internal dialogue keeps your conscious mind involved. It prevents us from blurting out the first worst judgment about the other that the adaptive unconscious throws up – some version of "They are idiots" or worse.

Controlling our adaptive unconscious not only helps when we're being critical, but it can also help us when we're dealing with someone's else's criticism face-to-face. When some else starts in on us, we need to:

  1. Pause; take a conscious, calming breath.

  2. Ask ourselves a quick question "What's really going on here?" "How much of this is about me or about them?"

  3. Respond to solve the problem hidden behind their uncivil response rather than attack them to just "be right."

What you are doing are the last two steps in D.I.A.L.O.G.U.E – the E. emotional self-management and the U – seeking Understanding first…if you don't do these, you can't do the rest.

Remember, others may have the dumbest ideas in the world, but they will cling to them at all costs if we make them feel dumb – that is, if we use Control talk in our disagreement with them.

Everyone is driven to defend themselves as valuable, competent, and influential. They simply won't listen to us when they're busy defending their sense of self at the moment. So let's figure out how to talk to prevent that from happening in the next segment.

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Written by

Dr. Dalton Kehoe

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