Monday, September 10, 2012

On Yoga and Apologizing

One of the first lessons I learned in my entry to 'big girl job' was that I knew absolutely nothing about communicating diplomatically. I'm a naturally straight forward, honest and pretty darn naive. I just figure everyone is as practical as I am and would appreciate my input, I mean that's why I was hired right? (reading that sentence, I'm flabbergasted at the ego and shear innocence of that thought).

Those first two years included lesson after lesson of learning how to navigate professional team communication, family based intervention and assessment and learning how to apologize without losing professional integrity. After spending two (or three) years in a master's program being told over and over again just how frackin' awesome, smart and important you are, it was like a bucket of cold water water (or perhaps the full body hives I got from the stress of moving over 6000km).

Due to my lovely inherent personality quirks, these skills will be a lifelong learning journey, as interacting in a team will never come easily for me.

From what I have observed over the past years working and yoga-ing, I would say this learning journey should also be applied to many other health professionals and yoga instructors.

Learning how to a) recognize when you've been unprofessional, inappropriate, rude, condescending, bossy and then b) actually following through with a sincere apology while taking the steps to prevent this event from happening again is rough.

It makes sense, if you think about it, that yoga instructors would also be inflicted with this difficulty. When the majority of your training is spent 'sharing authentically' in safe spaces only with other yoga students or teachers, there is really no space for professional missteps or misinterpretation. Everything is rosy, padded with cotton fluff and accepting tears. Even the difficult emotional conversations are typically self-directed, as in the reason it's difficult is because YOU are working out your own issues, so it's not confrontational nor is it your fault.

Further, in a professional where historically yoga has been kept on the sidelines of our western health system, yoga instructors have had no reason to interact in a team based setting with other professionals. When situations arise in the work setting, what kinds of frameworks are set up to help build team work in a contract, temporary and unclear managerial environment?

(a fabulous sculpture in Moncton, NB)
On Empathy:
The first step is to recognize that perhaps the person you are communicating with has previous experiences, biases or expectations regarding your input. Do not assume that because you know you are sincere and mean well, that the other person knows that too. We did not pop into existence the second our conversations start and all experiences shape who we've become and how we will react.

This realization can especially help if you're in an uncomfortable situation- a cautious reaction is always a good one. Since you are not a mindreader you have no idea how the other person is feeling, what has happened in their day or lives up to this moment. Don't assume.

If you sense things are really going badly, stop talking and Listen. It might have nothing to do with you. Or maybe it has everything to do with you. Take a deep breath and accept that perhaps your mode of communication isn't meshing with how they receive. Just that acceptance might slightly alter your dialogue enough to make a difference.

On Diplomacy:
Avoid unbalanced vocabulary such as 'need', 'help' or 'want' which implies that the other person is somehow lesser than you and isn't able to be successful on their own (which can project 'failure' even if that's not at all what you meant). Instead try phrases like: "Give me a call if you'd like to chat about it further".

If someone says something completely ridiculous, instead of immediately disagreeing (or even just disagreeing) try "That's interesting. Tell me more about that", or "Interesting, I never thought about it that way, usually I think of it_____this way".

Asking what the other person thinks of your alternative or counterpoint is always a good thing. Just make sure you use active listening: no interruptions, eye contact, nodding and pertinent questions.

On Apologizing:
Recognize when you may have stepped on toes. After the fact, find the person in a safe space, privately, and apologize. No really. Saying you're sorry for what you said, and WHY you are sorry is so powerful. Even if you think you were right. Being 'right' doesn't allow you to portray that information in hurtful or condescending ways. It could sound like: "I'm really sorry for the way I said _____ to you earlier. It wasn't fair to you and I should have framed it better."

If you have no opportunity to apologize (like today when I accidentally cut off a pedestrian while driving), take a deep breath and send out the apology. As energy, or spirit. However you can be comfortable. Because holding that stuff inside just isn't healthy. Yo.

And now that is Yoga.

article copyright of EcoYogini at

1 comment:

  1. In my experience there are a lot of large egos in the workplace. Outside of the workplace as well. I bookmarked this post as I think it's a great message on being humble. I especially liked the part about apologies.

    I found/heard/read this somewhere in regards to apologies. 1- Say you're sorry. No "I'm sorry but" or "I'm sorry, however". Just say you're sorry and what you're sorry for. 2- Ask for forgiveness. Asking for forgiveness lets the other person know that they don't have to forgive you. Sometimes saying sorry is like offloading the pressure to the other person. Asking for forgiveness can prevent this. And 3- Drop it. Whether or not the person forgives you, you should drop it. Continuing to bring it up is like picking at a scab, it will never heal fully unless you leave it alone.


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