The Bendy Blog

Questions for Your Words


By Karen Martin


Bendy Blog category: Living Your Yoga, Teaching Techniques

Another Saturday of cleaning found me working to remove paper that somehow became stuck to the kitchen countertop. Actually more like glued. Irritating. I could scrub it off with lots of elbow grease, energy and sweat. Using lots of rigorous and repetitious effort. Or I could spray cleanser on the area and let it soak for a bit. Returning later, it would easily wipe clean. Less energy but still get the job done.

How our words are used can be thought of in a similar way. In wanting to get my point across, I sometimes use the first approach (lots of elbow grease) for discussing a sticky situation. Constantly repeating my same words, like relentlessly scouring a spot over and over. The conversation becomes less give and take and more my unbending position being expressed. I (foolishly) think it is effective (at the time) but eventually find that it falls on deaf ears and just totally wears me out.

The second method where stuff just “sits” for a bit? I compare it to a brief chat with thoughtful listening. Then allow time for meaning and relevance to sink in. Expectation for an immediate response and subsequent action can wait (the spot is annoying but not harming my countertop)! We have time to evaluate our discussion points. When the source of irritation is revisited we can probably come up with a workable solution.

We talk with our teens at many points during a YogaKids class. It is not only our choice of words that matter but how we choose to verbalize our instruction, directions, and feedback. A guideline that has been helpful is Satya (truth), choosing words that will do the least harm and the most good. I have had many occasions to hear “teen drama” accounts of what happened in school, at sports, etc. that the kids arrive all abuzz about. It is a great opportunity to use Satya. Three questions can be considered when discussing any criticism, reaction, or response:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it kind?
  3. Is it necessary?

Challenge teens to explore each of these questions on any topic that begins to trend in your class! It can be a wonderful springboard promoting compassion, empathy, and understanding. Establish boundaries that include parameters of acceptable conditions to speak freely but without harshness to others. Practice active listening. Acknowledge feelings. Be present. Observe. No judgment. No hasty solutions. Just listen.

Isn’t it amazing how the most mundane tasks can reveal a different way of thinking? It can enhance our approach with how we interact with teens. And maybe we can be more effective without all that scrubbing.

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