One breath. One deep, powerful breath.
Steve adopted this practice to keep his conversations authentic.
We met Steve last spring at an Association of American Medical Colleges conference, where we presented a workshop on Authentic Conversations. He is a physician who works as a financial development officer for a major west coast medical university. Most people call him a fundraiser. He defines himself as a donor advocate.
After introducing himself, he told us how something we advocate in our work — clarifying intentions — makes a big difference in the way he approaches his career.
Before each meeting with a potential donor, Steve pauses for a few moments to do a short meditation. It serves to remind him that, even unconsciously, he does not want to veer into using manipulation “to get people to do what I want them to do.” He sets an intention to help people discover ways of contributing that are meaningful to them.
It is a wonderful practice for supporting authentic conversations.
Steve’s story also was perfect for our next book, to be published in the spring of 2013 (tentative title: Yoga Wisdom at Work.) It is about how living the principles of yoga on the job can help people become more successful and sane. We asked if he’d be up for an interview, and he agreed.
That’s when we discovered another useful practice for authentic conversations. I noticed right away that after a question, he takes a deep breath — inhale . . . . exhale. And then he responds. In yoga, this focus on breath is called pranayama. Steve consciously practices this during his conversations.
Mindful breathing, Steve tells us, gives him space to roll his thoughts around, and helps him stay present. It also decelerates the conversation — his conversation partners slow down as well. The interaction becomes more rich and meaningful.
In our hurry-up, do-it-now, I-can’t-wait world, imagine what would change if everyone took a breath before they spoke?
Inhale… Exhale. . . . . See the person to whom you are talking.
Inhale… Exhale. . . . . Think carefully about your response.
When stakes are high and conversation heats up — inhale… exhale. . . . . Create space to calm down, and consider what is best for the good of the whole.