“Is there a nearby café with wi-fi?” he asks the clerk at Woolworths
I have grown accustom to this type of exchange in a foreign country. I’ve muddled through getting my clothes tailored in Czech, talking geospatial engineering in Arabic, and finding vegan food in Spanish.
It’s even more humbling when I’m in a country that supposedly speaks the same tongue as me- English.
As a former English teacher to speakers of other languages (TESOL), I often encouraged my students to speak as much as possible. “That’s the only way to get better! You are going to make mistakes,” I’d say. Children have no problem with this because until they hit the tween years, embarrassment hardly exists. For adults it’s different. In any new endeavor, we have our pride. We have our ego. A highly competent, educated professional becomes self-conscious struggling to order a sandwich from a high school kid impatiently managing the register. When someone questions you and seems confused by what you are saying, things only get worse. This is known as the affective filter. Your nerves and stress make it more difficult to recall what you need to say, and you either shut down completely or change your message entirely into something that is easier for everyone.
The majority of the time, people will encourage you, help you with the vocabulary, and smile to reassure you. In my experience, people are generally kind. There are a few jerks. The hard part is not letting the jerks ruin your experience.
Being able to express yourself is a fundamental part of human development, healthy relationships, and mental health.
Expression and Communication
In yoga, the 5thChakra called Vishudda is associated with expression and communication. The “throat Chakra” as you might hear in class. You are encouraged to awaken this center in Halasana (plow), Salamba Sarvangasana (shoulderstand), Matsyasana (fish) or Ustrasana (camel). Humming or chanting is another way to open the 5th Chakra. This is a very literal interpretation, as obviously, speaking with our voice is a common method of communicating. But what do you do if the receiver does not understand what you are saying? As previously discussed, sometimes you think you are speaking the same language, but clearly, something is amiss. There are more ways to communicate than with just our voices. Your body language, energy, and intent all deliver messages more apparent than your words.
While you do your yoga practice, focusing on this Chakra, think beyond your voice. How can you be a better communicator?
-Listen more carefully. Is the message being lost because you actually weren’t listening? As a yoga teacher I notice we could all practice this skill. Sometimes I will instruct “down dog”, but everyone is doing chaturanga! They assumed we were going to a do a flow and shut off their ears.
– Know your audience and select appropriate vocabulary. In Australia, a cookie is not a cookie, it’s a biscuit! This does not mean you have to over simplify your speech, but take a breath before you speak and select the most effective way to communicate your message. In this highly charged political time in our history, this is especially important if you do not want the receiver to shut you out completely.
-Don’t wait! Waiting to speak your truth will cultivate resentment and frustration. Then, when you finally have the chance to say it, your logic will be overshadowed by emotion. If you cannot speak it when you need to, write it down.
-Choose to have a thick skin. Not everyone will like what you have to say. That’s ok. You do not have to be liked all the time.
So much of this is easier said than done. (Pun intended!) Working with this Chakra in isolation is not possible. You need to be receptive to the other pillars of groundedness, meeting new people, and an open heart. Stay tuned for follow-on posts about these topics.