Based on the title of this column, “Mindfulness, Patience and Reality,” you may think I’m losing it. Well, in some ways, you may be right!
I am losing my patience with complaining, misunderstanding and mean-spiritedness. It’s exhausting to be a leader at times! Heck, it’s exhausting to be a person at times! I bet you can relate.
Often, a leader’s hardest task is to be a good communicator. We live in a world that demands instant attention and answers, and has little patience for mindfulness and a deep understanding of issues. It seems almost everyone is a critic and feels the need to share their opinions and reactions, even if they don’t have all the information. Intent is often presumed and it’s rarely presumed with kindness or patience. Some folks almost live to misunderstand a person’s comments, intentions or actions.
Being a good communicator is a constantly evolving process. The training is never complete. It requires us to continually improve our emotional intelligence, to have superior listening skills and to develop a thicker skin. The same words, depending upon how they are perceived, can evoke many different emotions and responses. What we used to laugh at as a slip of the tongue or a misspoken comment becomes a major issue that has political and personal ramifications. Even our sense of humor is at risk. What you may see as satire or humor, another sees as an insult and a call to arms.
As I have watched the news around the United States in the last few days, I see this all around us. On my Facebook page, I see folks arguing, accusing, offending and sharing information that may or may not be true. I see folks unfriending others and at times making horrific comments to each other. Somehow we’ve lost track of the concept that we are all entitled to our own opinions and have the freedom to agree to disagree. For me, this freedom is a part of what makes democracy what it is! So if you celebrated the inauguration or participated in the Women’s March, that is your right in our country.
There are CASBO members who have varied political opinions, philosophies and concerns. I understand that, and I truly work to respect the differences. In our political work, our Legislative Committee, member leaders and staff work hard to craft a platform that is in the best interest of students and the profession. We agree to disagree agreeably at times. It’s the right thing to do — and the professional thing to do.
Personally, I think it’s time we become more mindful in our communications. Think more before we speak. Assess not only what we say, but how it will be received by the listener. We need to work harder to be more clear and understanding in our communications. We need to remind ourselves of our priorities and focus on what’s really important. We need to have more patience with each other and not always assume motive or intent. We need to stop looking for hidden messages or ulterior motives. We need to recognize that we can damage relationships and careers, and cause irreparable harm, with certain remarks. We need to stop assuming what a person is by their political affiliation, race, age or religion. We must start looking to create harmony and effective partnerships.
I recognize the uncertainty in our world right now, and I understand the political divide that’s occurring. It’s a curious and, for some a frightening, time to be alive. We all express how this feels in different ways. My goal is to be a light. I cannot control the world, but I can work on myself! I can practice mindfulness, patience and understanding. I can be a voice of reason at a time of crisis. I know that you can, too.