Cynthia Kane

In this episode of Deep Dive, Chris talks with mindfulness instructor, Cynthia Kane, about how to process your feelings and find the right language to clearly express them. Easer said than done of course, but the stories and techniques Cynthia shares will help.

Deep Dive: Listening, Learning and Mindfulness
Deep Dive: Listening, Learning and Mindfulness

Deep Dive: Listening, Learning and Mindfulness

Ep
93
Aug
03
With
Cynthia Kane
Or Listen On:

Listen, learn and be mindful.

In this episode of Deep Dive, Chris talks with mindfulness instructor, Cynthia Kane, about how to process your feelings and find the right language to clearly express them. Cynthia is a certified meditation and mindfulness instructor, and is also the founder of Kane International Communication Institute.

Of course, the practice of sharing how you feel seems easer said than done, but the stories and techniques Cynthia shares makes it way more approachable.

If you’re in your head too much and struggle with how to make sense of your thoughts and feelings, this discussion might help. Cynthia and Chris explore why communicating like a Buddhist can not only help yourself, but also help others around you.

What does it mean to speak like a Buddhist? For starters, it means to be intentional with your words. Speak in a kind, honest, and helpful way. As much as possible—and this may take a little more practice for some—try not to gossip, don’t exaggerate, and tell the truth.

It’s natural to fear that our words can be taken out of context. It’s also natural to feel hesitant to share things when you’re unsure of how someone else may react. This makes sharing, in general, rather uncomfortable for people.

But one lesson Cynthia shares in this episode is that we’re not responsible for how others react to what we share. What we are responsible for is what we bring to the conversation—the intent. If you feel uneasy going into it, try to ask yourself, “what’s the worst case scenario?”

At the end of the day, the people who are meant to hear you will do just that. In times where you feel like you can’t open up, or that what you’re feeling isn’t “important,” there’s someone out there who is ready and willing to listen. And when someone reaches out to you, share a similar intent that they’d share with you.

This episode is sponsored by Framer - framer.com/thefutur

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Episode Transcript

Greg:
Hey. It's Greg. And welcome back to another Deep Dive episode of The Futur Podcast. This one is all about listening and learning. Chris talks with mindfulness instructor Cynthia Kane about how to process your feelings and then find the right language to clearly express them, which I think we all know is easier said than done. But the stories and the techniques Cynthia shares make it a little easier to figure out. So if you're in your head too much and struggle with how to make sense of your thoughts and feelings, this discussion might help. Please enjoy our conversation with Cynthia Kane.

Chris:
Hello Do nation. Today we're going to be talking to Cynthia Kane. She's an expert at communication and thinking like a Buddhist. And we all need a little help I think right now about not only how to communicate, but how to listen more importantly. So thankfully Cynthia has agreed to come on our show and talk about some of the key ideas that she believes in. And I want to explore that in a deeper way. So here we go. Intentional communication. What does that mean? And I think we're talking about how to speak in a kind, honest and helpful way. And these are principles that align with the Buddhists. Tell the truth, don't exaggerate, don't gossip... something I suffer from, use helpful language. And the aim, the goal, the purpose of all of this is to help you and others to suffer less. Cynthia is a certified meditation and mindfulness instructor. She's also the founder of Kane International Communication Institute.
She got her BA from Bard College and her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. She's written for many publications, including Self Magazine, The Washington Post, Woman's Day, BBC Travel, Elephant Journal, and many more. And she's written these wonderful books. Talk to Yourself Like a Buddhist, How to Meditate Like a Buddhist and more importantly for today's discussion, How to Communicate Like a Buddhist. Cynthia Kane, welcome to the show.

Cynthia:
Thank you. I am... Yes.

Chris:
Woo.

Cynthia:
Yay.

Chris:
Okay.

Cynthia:
Thanks.

Chris:
So tell me a little bit about why like a Buddhist? How did you come into Buddhism? I want to hear more about your story.

Cynthia:
Okay. Well, I didn't really know much about Buddhism growing up. It wasn't something that I was really taught or familiar with. It happened because my... So my first love and I had been together for about seven and a half years, and we had decided to go our separate ways really believing that we would be able to come back together again at the right time. And we were able to come back together and so much of what we ended up talking about that wasn't wonderful about our relationship was communication. And we were really deciding to be in each other's lives again. And three months after this, he passed away unexpectedly. He-

Chris:
Oh no.

Cynthia:
Yeah. It was really the lowest moment of my life. And he was from Costa Rica and he was a river guide and he got caught in a swirl. And I really in that moment was just empty and blank and was really looking for a way out of the suffering and the anxiety and the sadness and all of the emotion. And I realized that I wasn't able to rely on others to do it. It was the first time for me that I had this moment where I noticed that if I was going to change the way that I was living in the world, I was really going to have to do something on my own to make that happen.
And though everybody was so loving and kind and wanting to be helpful, and people were, it just wasn't what was moving me in the direction of feeling better in the world. And so I started taking courses and going on retreats and seminars and really trying all different types of things really. And all of them came back to communication. Everything really was pointing to if I wanted to change the way I was interacting with the world, I was going to have to change the way I communicated with myself and others. But it was really a workshop that I went to at the Shambhala Institute that a friend had recommended that really changed everything for me.
So I went that weekend and that's where I learned about Buddhism... Began. Right? And that's where I first learned to meditate and learn the elements of right speech, which you referred to earlier. Right? Which is tell the truth, don't exaggerate, don't gossip and use helpful language. And once I heard those four elements, I thought, "Wow. There it is." Right? There is what I have really been looking for as a guide. I needed some type of guideline to start moving off of. And so that became my lifestyle experiment. How can I speak in this way that is really honest and balanced and objective and nonjudgmental. And so that's where my interest in Buddhism really came from and how I was introduced to it.

Chris:
So those four concepts that you talked about, did that start to help you with the healing process and the conversation you were having with yourself?

Cynthia:
It really did. Because what I noticed... It was really the next day I said to myself, "Okay. I'm just going to start to pay attention here. I'm just going to start to notice how I'm talking to myself." Am I exaggerating? Right? Am I being honest with myself? Am I talking about other people? Am I using language that is causing me to feel more sadness or more anxiety? And when I started to listen to myself, it really was... I mean, it was really difficult to do because I started to see how much I was speaking to myself in a way that was just promoting more and more fear and overwhelm and really language that was keeping me stuck where I was.

Chris:
The principles that you're talking about, to tell the truth, to not exaggerate, use helpful language and not to gossip, it seems like most people would say, "Yeah. That's how we should live our lives." Could you give us an example, going back to that moment in time of one of these principles where you were not being honest with yourself or you were exaggerating something or not using helpful language so we can make it more concrete?

Cynthia:
Yeah. So in terms of not being honest with myself, I think during that time, it was very easy for me when people would ask me how I was doing for me to be able to say that I'm fine. When people would ask, "Do you need help with anything?" It was very easy for me to say, "No. I'm okay," when I really was not okay in that moment. Because sometimes we don't tell the truth because we don't want to, let's say burden other people. And in that moment that was no longer an option for me. I really didn't want to lie anymore. And so when people were asking how I was, I was very clear in saying that I was miserable and that I was empty and that I was hurting and that I was really experiencing so much sadness.
And to be able to admit that was so liberating for me, because it felt like I was finally able to just allow myself to be myself in the world instead of covering up what was truly going on for me. So that's one example. Another would be just exaggeration in terms of making this the worst possible thing in the world. In the beginning, that was what I was doing. And although it is a horrible thing that happened, the more I started to process it, the more I realized that I didn't have to take it to the extreme. Right? It didn't have to be the end of everything. Right? It didn't have to be the beginning of everything either. It just could simply be what it is. Right? I didn't have to fight with it anymore.
And that also was really a way to relax around it, to soften to it. Right? And so those are... And then in terms of the language that I would use with myself, I mean, what I started really noticing there was more just the judgment I had. Right? I would judge myself for feeling like I should be feeling worse than I was feeling at certain times, or that I should be feeling guilty about certain things and I wasn't, or that I was enjoying things and I shouldn't be enjoying things. Right? So there was a lot of witnessing that type of language that was keeping me almost like boxed up, so that I wasn't allowing myself room to grow or room to change.

Chris:
Is there a technique that you use to help you to find language that describes how you feel? I talk to a lot of creative people and I think they're mostly visual so words are not their best friends sometimes. And we ask people, "How do you feel about this thing," and what they say isn't what they have in their heart. So if it's to be able to speak the truth, how do you start to identify? You said that you felt miserable, you felt empty and you were experiencing levels of sadness that were profound. That takes a pretty self-aware person to be able to identify what that is. Because it could have been anger, it could have been many other emotions. And I think this is especially relevant with what's going on right now.

Cynthia:
Yeah. So I think it's really important to just understand emotion in general or feeling in the body in general. Right? And so when you think of doing something, how do you know that it feels good? Right? Let's say dancing is enjoyable for you. How do you know that that is something that you enjoy? Right? There's a feeling there. There's an emotion there. And so identifying what is a good feeling for you, then identifying what is a bad feeling for you. Not necessarily knowing what the feeling is, but the sensation of the feeling. Right? "Oh. This is a good sensation, oh, this is a not so good sensation."
And then we also have neutral, a neutral state, which a lot of people aren't comfortable with. And so when they are in a neutral state, there's this sense that something is wrong or there's something off because they don't feel to the extreme, the exaggerated pieces. Right? So to start there, to just start to notice what is a good sensation, what isn't, what is neutral, is really helpful because then you can start to say, "Okay. This is a strong sensation. This is maybe something that when I think of how I would react, I'm angry." Right? And then there's a layer underneath. There's this super... I like to say there's a superficial emotion that we feel and we're able to name. Right? Like anxiety, fear, anger. I'm not saying that they're not important emotions or valuable, but there's often an emotion underneath that emotion.
So when you start getting into speaking, something that's really important is to become really specific. So you don't want to give others any chance to misunderstand you. And it's the same when you're starting to identify how things feel for you. Because that is such a big part of communicating. Right? So I would say to just begin by focusing on the sensation and then seeing if you can label. And if you're starting to see that labeling an emotion it feels pretty vague or it feels very general, that means it's not specific enough to you. So then it actually requires that you kind of look back a little bit and dig a little deeper.

Chris:
The outer layer, the superficial emotion that you're talking about, and then there's the inner layer when you go deeper, do you have a label or a term that you use to describe that? Is-

Cynthia:
The inner-

Chris:
... that the true emotion? Inner?

Cynthia:
Yeah. So I mean, I really believe it's the... I like to say to my students that it's like we're a cappuccino and a lot of us are just in the foam. Right? But we have to get into the actual coffee. And so that's where it really resides. Right? It's inside. It's in your core. It's like your essence really.

Chris:
And if I'm feeling a sense of fear, a superficial emotion, then the inner emotion is what?

Cynthia:
Well, so then it means that you have to start thinking about... Okay. So you start to pick things apart. I was in an interaction, this is what happened. Right? I felt fear. Okay. I was fearful. What was I afraid of? Right? What was it that I thought was going to happen? Let's say that it's I was nervous that the way that I was expressing something was going to be taken in a way that I wasn't prepared for. Right? Okay. Well, if that's the case, then what's that emotion. Well, maybe I'm scared that I'm going to say something wrong. Okay. So if you're scared, you're going to say something wrong, does that mean that you sometimes might feel stupid in those moments? Right? That you're going to say the wrong thing? And then it's like, "Oh, well maybe that might be what it is. Maybe I feel stupid." Right? Or maybe I feel invisible or maybe I feel misunderstood or maybe I feel unheard, unseen. So it's this process of questioning to start getting into more and more of the layers to get you deeper.

Chris:
I see what you're doing there.

Cynthia:
Do you?

Chris:
It's very nice. Yes. I do I think. You are excavating.

Cynthia:
Yes.

Chris:
You're teaching people how to have a conversation with themselves, because we feel something raw, and we don't take the time to think about where it comes from to better understand ourselves, so we go through our life kind of totally unaware. We have these bursts of both positive, negative and neutral feelings, and we can't trace it back. I think what you said was super powerful, especially with what's happening right now. So if I may, can I share something and get-

Cynthia:
Oh.

Chris:
... your insight into it?

Cynthia:
Please. Please, please.

Chris:
Okay. I'm afraid. And I don't think I'm alone. I'm afraid of saying something in regards to what's happening in the country right now, it's more specifically with George Floyd, Black lives matter, the systemic racism that we're seeing. And not being a Black person, but being a person of color, I'm afraid that I'm going to say something that's going to be taken out of context. That I'm going to say something wrong, that I don't have enough information to speak in an intelligent way. I don't think I'm stupid, but I think I might feel stupid if it blows up.
So now that I know that, and I think a lot of people that want to be aligned with what's going on right now to be on the right side of this, they also fear this. And so they're saying out there, the signs say, "Silence equals violence," or something like that. That you're complicit, that it's not okay not to be not racist, but you have to be anti-racist. So we put out statements and we try our best to show unity and then the blow back it's there. So how do we deal with this?

Cynthia:
So it's important to remember what we're responsible for within our conversations or within the way that we are using language when we're with others. Right? In the sense that we're really responsible for our words, our actions, our facial expressions, our body language, how we're using silence. Others are responsible for their reactions, their language, their facial expressions, their body language, how they're using silence. Right? And what we all have in common is the health of the conversation itself. Right? So when we are engaging in conversation and it's starting to take a turn that is going in a hurtful direction, our practice in that moment, our responsibility is to keep the integrity of the conversation intact. Right? And so what we begin to see is we are not responsible for the reaction of others. And we understand that our intention... Right?
If we're coming with the intention to be helpful, then we know that we have done the best for ourselves in that moment and for others in that moment that we can do. Right? And so I think that it's very natural right now to have that fear that we're going to say the wrong thing or whatever it is that we say can be taken out of context. And it's true. It can be. Right? And so the question to ask yourself is what's the worst case scenario?
And let's just say, we're living that worst case scenario. What then will you do? And odds are that the action that you take is going to be similar. Right? You're going to potentially make sure that what you're sharing is helpful, what you're sharing is of service. Right? And when you also think of how you express it, the people who are meant to hear it will hear it. Does that answer the question?

Chris:
It does. I'm staying silent because I'm just letting the words absorb. And I think so many of the things that you said are going to be helpful to so many other people, especially with what's going on right now. And you talk about this on your site about responding versus reacting. So can you help me understand? Because we've been talking a lot about responding and you're not responsible for how other people react. That if your intention was good, was to be helpful, to lessen the suffering of others, to be of service and not self-serving, because we see that too... And then you got to just step back.

Cynthia:
You have to step back and allow people to have the reactions that they need to have. Right? And that's the difficult piece about I mean, having conversation, having dialogue, having discussion, having hard conversations. That's how hard conversations happen. Is by allowing people to have reaction, by allowing people to be angry and sad and upset and uncomfortable and holding the space for that to happen. Right? So for us to be able to share what we feel, what is true. Right? What is true for us? And it is okay if others can't hold that. Right? Because we hold that for them. We can hold the discomfort for them.

Chris:
So when somebody responds, who takes it in a context that you didn't intend and they're angry is your best reaction just to process that and not necessarily respond to it?

Cynthia:
So the best action is to acknowledge it, to match them. So I tell students, it's not about empathizing, it's about acknowledging. Right? Because the moment we empathize is the moment we absorb and we take on somebody else's fear, joy, sadness. Anything that they're feeling, we take that on. That's not ours. Right? That is theirs. So it's important in those moments that you acknowledge what is happening, you acknowledge the person's reaction. And to do that, it's simply as saying... I mean, in every context and everyone's language, it'll be different, but it really looks like, "Wow. I see that what I said really... that really upset you." And that's it. Right? That's all you actually have to say. Is just acknowledge that your words affected someone in the way that they did.
And often what you start to learn is that less... I mean it's that adage, I don't know where it comes from, but the less is more. Right? And it's the same when we're in communication, because the less you speak, the more effective you are because you're choosing your words very wisely. Right? And obviously there are moments where you are going to be in heated interactions that don't give you the opportunity to choose, or that's what we believe. Right?
But in those moments you can opt for staying open. Feeling the emotion welling up inside the body that wants to lash out or get passive aggressive or defend, or just get quiet, and be able to see it and be able to say, "Oh. Okay. I feel you coming up, welling up in my body. I'm just going to take a deep breath into you. I'm going to exhale. I'm going to kind of move this emotion to the side so I can come back into the present moment to see the person in front of me as somebody who is human, who I respect, who I support, who I may not agree with, but I still I'm here for." Right? "How can I be helpful then to them in this moment?" So it kind of shifts.

Chris:
I really like that. I think you're the most calming guest we've ever had on our show ever. So I'm going to do my best to stay in the pocket with you and match and mirror here. So oftentimes I will say things that can be polarizing about design, about whatever it is that I'm thinking. I have a strong opinion. And I'm okay to take the heat from people that I'm not for. I think in moments like this and with me too, and other things, you try to say something in support or out of curiosity to learn, to inform yourself, and then when the blowback happens, it's a tough one to process. I have to admit. It is really tough because then it's like, "I was trying to help. I want to be part of this, but I know that my level of experience with what we're talking about is small." And yeah.
Especially with issues that women are going through with me too. Obviously I'm not a woman, so I can only experience it from where I'm at. And when the blowback comes, it's like, "Whoa. I'm going to just tip toe back out of this one." And I think some celebrities have said this. That it's threading this needle, that if you don't get it just right and stick the landing, that you're going to be crucified. And then that's why a lot of men don't speak up on these issues. And now I think why some Asians, some White people, some Latinos are not speaking up because they have an experience that's different than what the Black experience is.
And then to say so means you're going to put yourself out there in the crosshairs. And it's like the preferred pain is to be accused of being silent or being accused of being ignorant or racist yourself, then you choose the path of least resistance there. Do you have any advice on this?

Cynthia:
So I believe that there's such a thing as compassionate action. Right? And I think it will look different for everyone. And so for some it may be to speak out, for some it may be to educate themselves, for others it may be to protest. Right? For others it may be to start having more conversations with their families. And when it comes to this idea of the threading of the needle that you were mentioning, it's important to remember that you have a choice, you have a choice to either share, express and give. Right? Or you have the choice to support. Support in a way that is the opposite of sharing and expressing and giving. Right? There's other ways to support. So it becomes... It's almost you start to have to pay... starting to pay attention to what you feel like you should be doing instead of what you could be doing. Right?
When you start to understand what you feel you should be doing, starting to move into thinking what could I be doing? And again, it's coming back into that deeper place to be able to really get quite and ask ourselves, "What is important for me in this moment? If I look back in 10 years at this time, what will I really want to make sure that I have maybe said or done."

Greg:
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Chris:
I want to take it back a little bit about this idea of fear and processing and excavating, because our channel, a lot of times we talk about business issues and so I know I'm not alone. But I'm going to try to voice this for the audience that's going to be tuning in, which is, I have a healthy fear of my client or prospective client, I should say, because they haven't hired me yet.
And I'm afraid that I'm going to bid too high, I'm going to say the wrong thing, I'm not going to appear confident or have enough experience. So there's a lot of fear there. So can we do the same thing? And can you help us dig deeper into what this might be coming from? Because I think a lot of people enter into the conversation with a prospective client already defeated, self-sabotaged, and perhaps you can shed some new light on this.

Cynthia:
So it's important to start paying attention to how... I mean how you're talking to yourself about the client themselves and about you bringing in new business. And when I say that it means, what your belief is around bringing on new clients and new business. So does that look like that it's a struggle right now with the way the economy is? Are people looking to let go of more people or are they looking to bring on more people? Am I telling myself that there's someone out there who can do this job better than I can do it? Am I telling myself that the time that I have won't be enough for this client? Right? So it's starting to pay attention to the way that you're speaking to yourself that is making it easy for you to believe in your fear. Does that make sense?

Chris:
Yes.

Cynthia:
Okay. So it's starting to pay attention to that language and starting to see if that's true. Right? Is it true that your bid is too high. Right? Or is that just a belief that you have. Do you just believe that you've valued your work to a point where this client won't see the value or does not see your value? Right? And really it comes down to value here. How you value yourself, how you value your work, how you believe in what it is that you are doing and knowing that you are actually the prize. Right? Let's just say. In that, it's almost like we believe that they're choosing us, but really you're choosing them.

Chris:
I believe this. I'm so glad you're saying it. It's very interesting how we bring on different authority figures on from a variety of fields, and it's kind of interesting the overlap here. So I want to jump off of something that you just said about this belief. So we're having this internal dialogue about our value, that we need them so much, but maybe they need you just as much or maybe a little bit more. And that the prize isn't their money, the prize is the gift that you have to share. And we're basing some of the decisions that we are going to make on our previous experiences. So, "The last time I didn't get a job." We tell ourselves a different story. We tell ourselves that, oh, who are we to ask for that much money?
And we should be grateful that they're even talking to us. And so we're telling ourselves all these kinds of stories. So I think maybe part of the Buddhist philosophy is to have an honest conversation with yourself and to be clear about what's going on. And when you say it, it seems so clear. Obviously it's not so clear for most people because we're not sitting around thinking about the things that we think and feel. Can you help us? You said before to kind of be aware of the tones, your emotional state. Is there another device or tool or technique that you have in your bag of tools to share with us so that we can begin this journey?

Cynthia:
So you want to drop the story. Just drop the story and focus on the feeling. Right? So the story being all of what we were just talking about. Those beliefs that I need them, of this happened to me in the past where I put something out there and it wasn't well received, and so I'm feeling this again. Right? That's the story. So when you start to notice that you are telling yourself these stories, you just want to say, "Ope. There's the story. The story is trying to pull me away from that which I really want." Right? "The feeling that I want to be in." So you drop the story, focus on the feeling. What's the feeling? I'm feeling lack. Right? I'm feeling not enough. I'm feeling that there is something about me that is not good enough. Right?
Okay. So you can start there and then you can say, "Well, what do I want to feel instead right now?" Right? "Well, I want to feel confident. Well, I want to feel capable. I want to feel of value of service." Okay? So how can you feel that way specifically? What can you do in this moment that will make you feel that way? And then that's where you start to go in the sense that every decision you make, every time you notice your beliefs or your stories around this issue, you're going to say, "Okay. Is this moving me in the direction of feeling confident, feeling capable, feeling of service?" No. This is not. So I'm going to say, "I see you. Thank you so much for sharing, because at some point you've really helped me and I needed you." Right? "So I'm just going to give you a big hug and then I'm going to say goodbye, and then I'm going to go this direction of feeling confident and capable."

Chris:
Okay. In case you are joining us, I'm talking to Cynthia Kane. You can find out more information about her if you're as delighted as I am right now, you're definitely going to want to check her out. She's @cynthiakane.com and on social media cykane1. And she's the author of the series of books Like a Buddhist, Talk to Yourself Like a Buddhist, How to Meditate Like a Buddhist and How to Communicate Like a Buddhist. I'm going to assume that these are available on Amazon and are people able to buy these directly from your site too?

Cynthia:
They're not able to buy directly from my site, but they can buy directly from the publisher site if they'd like to.

Chris:
Okay. Excellent. There are people who are joining us, people who are a part of our sustaining members and our pro-group here. And I'm going to prompt you right now to prepare any questions that you might have and drop them in the chat. I will do my best to look through them, while I'm focused on what we're talking about here. I'm not always good at that. And if you feel like, "I have to jump in here, Chris. Please let me say something," go ahead and raise your hand to Julie. You guys will have to figure out how to do that. And if you feel like that, and I'll do my best to find a pocket for you to say something and talk to Cynthia directly.
I want to get back to some of the communications stuff that we were talking about. So on the site, there's a lot about listening, how to be part of a conversation, when to speak, when to stay quiet, how to stay engaged when listening, can you expand on this please?

Cynthia:
So it's important to know that there are times where it makes sense to speak to something and times where it doesn't. Right? And often we'll say to ourselves, "Well, I've let this go." Right? Or, "I've let that go." But it's still something that you're talking about a year later, two years later. Right? When you start to notice that you are thinking about something a lot or that you are changing the way that you're interacting with a person or a group of people based off of something that happened, if it's affecting your interactions in that you're becoming resentful or judgmental or angry, that's when you know that you need to have a conversation. It can be years later. Right? You can go back to something that happened two years ago. Because if you don't, you are going to hold on to it and your relationship will likely stay where it is.
So it's important to be able to pay attention to if it's time for you to say something or not. To know when to say something or not. And other times it's really easy to truly let something go. And when I say that, it means that it's not something you're thinking about anymore, it's not something you're talking to somebody else about. It truly is just letting oatmeal be oatmeal or the wind be the wind just is. Right? And in terms of listening, I think that the difference here is that it's about being present. It's about noticing our distraction. It's about being in conversation with someone, seeing that we're thinking about what we want to say, seeing that we're thinking about what the other person might be thinking or what the other person may be wanting to say that they're not saying. Right?
And instead we begin to notice that and say, "Okay. I'm distracted right now. I'm caught up right now. Thanks so much. I see you. Going to move you to the side, I'm going to come back here. What are my feet doing? What are my hands doing? What's my body doing? And I'm going to look at the person and I'm going to ask myself, how can I be helpful to them?" Right? So listening looks a bit different in this context because it's not a passive action. It really is active in that you're working with your own thoughts to kind of move what's happening inside of you around so that you can actually allow the other person, like we were talking about before, to speak.

Chris:
I want to share an example of something that happened to me a couple of years ago. And when you were describing all of this, I felt like, "Oh." That's one time I think it worked out for me. I was meeting up with some of my friends who are extremely extroverted and a little ADHD themselves. And I'm a shy, quiet, introverted person. And so I'm hanging out with them at this bar after an event, and they're just talking. They'll ask a question and I'm not even halfway finishing answering, and they're asking another question. And after a while, I feel totally exhausted. And I could feel myself retreating. Feeling like this is not comfortable for me, and I feel just this is not for me.
And so I did something that was pretty atypical for me at that time, which was to say to them, "Guys, I think you both are super interesting and I could see that your brains are moving much faster than mine, but I can also feel myself retreating and feeling super exhausted. And I don't want to change the conversations you're having. I think it's wonderful. But I'm feeling I'm going to excuse myself pretty soon." And the most surprising thing happened, they just stopped. They wanted to invite me back into the conversation. So they're like, "We get it." And I even explained to them, "Because everything you say matters to me and my brain is filling up because you're on the 17th question, and I think we were talking about question three." And it was just too much for me to keep track of.
And I learned in that day, and this was many years ago, I learned that, man, the thing that I fear of people judging me, or just responding and reacting to whatever, if I just am in tune with what I'm feeling and I'm among good people, and if I say that they'll make room for you.

Cynthia:
Yeah. That's wonderful.

Chris:
Or they won't. But that's a lot... So that's kind of exactly what you're talking about. Right?

Cynthia:
Exactly. I mean, that's wonderful. Because it is this, being able to kind of declare in the moment what it is that you're feeling. Right? To be able to say, even if it's I'm frustrated or I'm overwhelmed, it's so helpful for those around you to understand what you're going through. And that way you also don't then default into what you were mentioning, the feeling of wanting to hide. And the truth is that it re-starts a conversation or it grounds the conversation again, because people want to help other people. That is our nature. Right? We want to care for, and we want to support and we want to fix. Right? In a way.
So that's why when you come to conversations, it's wonderful to show the feeling because that's what people can connect with. Right? I tell my students that the rest is a distraction because the rest then gets people into their own heads. But if you go and you say, "I'm feeling really sad right now," I don't think many people would not want to support that. Right? Or not want to put their attention to that or help you feel better in some way. And so it's important to share. And I call it handling or declaring. You either handle it in the moment or you handle it later, but you declare in the moment. Right? You declare in the moment, this is the feeling, and this is what I... I really want to listen to you right now, but I am not in a place where I'm going to be fully present. Can you give me two minutes? Right? It's putting language to what is truly happening within.

Chris:
Can I ask you a question?

Cynthia:
Yeah.

Chris:
How are you feeling? How are you processing what's going on?

Cynthia:
So I'm very emotional around what is happening. I feel that it is... And I've invited my students to really start to pay attention to how we speak to ourselves in this moment. How we speak to ourselves about race, how we speak to ourselves about privilege, how we speak to ourselves about prejudice, so that we can start to become more aware of where maybe before we weren't. And I think that for me personally, I am reading a lot, I'm educating myself a lot and I've also been going back to some of the Buddhist texts for guidance to see in this way kind of direction.
And it comes down to compassionate action, like I mentioned before, for me. And just knowing that my responsibility is to help other suffer less. And the way to do that is to be able to know what is just and what is something that needs to be talked to. And working, for me, on the practice of communication so that I can be in moments that are very uncomfortable and have hard conversations. That I can speak up to in places where there are people in positions of power. That I can feel grounded enough to accept what's true that I don't want to accept. So for me right now, the practice of communication is more important than it ever has been because it is what I feel helps us be in this moment in a way that isn't... it doesn't have to be as tense. Right? So that's where I am right now.

Chris:
Thank you. Circling back on something, and Fen has helped to remind me of something and he says, "Can we talk a little bit about the intention? Like if you have the intention to help to lessen the suffering of others, but the impact of what you say or do doesn't align with the intention?" What do we do there? Because I've always been a big believer that in the communication, there's a sender and a receiver. And if the signal that you send out isn't received the way that you intended that's... It should be a loop. It should go back to you and say, "Okay. Well, my intention was to show you that I support you, that I love you, that I believe in you, but the response that I'm getting is anything but." Should I not use that as feedback for me to say, how did I miscommunicate that idea, that intention.

Cynthia:
So it's likely then that your intention isn't true. Right?

Chris:
Ooh.

Cynthia:
Yeah.

Chris:
Uh-oh.

Cynthia:
And that's when this all gets really... Because then you really have to start asking yourself the questions again. Is this really true for me? Right? Am I really coming to this conversation without bias? Am I coming without evaluation? Am I coming without a better than, or less than mentality? Right? Am I really coming from the intention that I believe I'm coming from? Because if someone is hearing something different, they're hearing what is in you. Right? They're hearing the inside of you, which is not aligning with the outside of you. And so the inside, what we've been talking about, is then where you need to go to be able to say, "Okay. What's really going on here? Yeah. I'm still really upset from something that happened that I haven't addressed. I need to address that. And then I can have this conversation." And then it will come through very clearly.

Chris:
That hurt a little bit, I have to say.

Cynthia:
Yeah.

Chris:
So you're saying my intention isn't true if that's the case. So I'd love to give you an example. And I've shared this on a couple of occasions before, but now that you've said that it made me recall this moment. So my wife had asked me, "Can you fix my computer?" She's not a computers savant. So I'm default by husband IT person at this point. She's like, "I'm going to go to the market. Can you just take care of it for me before I get back?" So I'm like, "Yeah. I could do that."
So I get into the computer, I figure out the problem, it's done, it's resolved. And while I'm there, I'm like, "God, her desktop is just bananas. Files everywhere. There's a thousand images on the desktop. Let me just try and help her categorize things with the way that I think works." Like home office, personal, those kinds of things, and put them all away. And I'm thinking, "This is going to be awesome. I'm such a supporting, loving husband that I would be willing to clean up her workstation." She gets home. She doesn't even remember that her computer wasn't working. And she's like, "What did you do?" I'm thinking, "Here comes my brownie points."
And instead she reacts with, "You just... Why did you... You put everything... I don't want you to do this. Undo everything." I'm like, "Honey, let me explain this to you." I was feeling angry at that point. I'm like, "God, just..." The road to hell is paved with good intentions." I had good intentions to defense point. I had good intentions. What happened? And I was really hurting and I was angry too. Luckily my therapist helped me work this out. But I'm curious as to how you interpret this.

Cynthia:
Well, so the question to ask yourself is, is this helpful for her in that moment? The intention is also, I mean... So to ask-

Chris:
You can give it to me straight.

Cynthia:
Okay.

Chris:
You can say it. You can say, "You idiot." Whatever you want to say, it's fine. I accept it.

Cynthia:
So it's more that in that moment, you're really thinking about yourself, because you're thinking through your lens. Right? Through your lens of, "Wow, her desktop is really messy." That's a hundred percent you. That's not her. Right? So if her desktop is a hundred percent messy, there's a reason for it because potentially that's how she sees. That's her perspective. If she hasn't cleaned it up, that might mean that she doesn't need it to be cleaned up. Right? And so you're really looking at it through your lens. And in that moment where you think, "God, that would be great if I just come in and I just clean all these things up," that's for you to be able to notice and be able to say, "Okay. Wait a second. Is this helpful to her or is this helpful to me?" And then likely with that answer you'll be able to see, "Wait, maybe I'm trying to fix something here that doesn't need to be fixed. Maybe I'm trying to do something that I think is kind, but it could actually not be something that she finds along those same lines." Right?

Chris:
Yeah.

Cynthia:
And so I think there's... You can have good intentions, the key is to make sure though that those intentions are true, first off. Right? And then that they're really helpful to the other and not to necessarily just you. Right?

Chris:
Yeah. Maybe we're going to save some marriages and relationships today. My therapist said something very similar. And she's helped me out. And her way of framing this was, "Why did you do any of this?" And I said, "Well, I'm trying to be a good husband." "And what does that mean to you?" "Well, I'm trying to be helpful." So before you do anything, just make sure that the other person that you plan to help sees what you're doing as being helpful. And that was a big moment for me. And to go a little deeper down that hole, she said that the next time somebody asks you to do something, whether it's your wife or your parents or your kids or anybody that you care about, they ask you to do something, and you're unclear about what you're being asked to do, you have to pause and you have to say this thing... And she gave me this script.
And it's, "Where do you..." I did the exact same script with my wife and she's like, "You've been seeing the therapist haven't you? This does not sound like you." And that was just a growing process. And the thing I ask now is, "I'd like to help. I'm unclear as to what you're asking for, and I just want to make sure that what I'm doing is being perceived as helpful to you. So can we have more dialogue about this?" And then immediately the person's like, "Never mind." So one of two things happen. Either I don't have to do anything or I can do it and the intended effect is accomplished. And that's really all I care about. Right?

Cynthia:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris:
Yeah.

Cynthia:
And also, I think to add to that is that if someone asks you to do something, simply just do that, don't add to it.

Chris:
Oh. Yeah.

Cynthia:
Right? Don't think you have to do more. Right?

Chris:
Yeah. Duh. Right? Totally right. Okay. So let's this into a client context then. Because the reason why I did this was because sometimes when my cleaners or the janitorial staff, they go through and they just straighten up my papers just a little bit, because it was a messy pile, they didn't throw anything away, I feel loved. I feel appreciated. I feel cared for. But you're right, that was through my lens. And my wife will do this too. Or whoever's in my life and relationship, they'll see like, "Oh. You have so many books. Let me just stack them neatly for you." And those acts of generosity and kindness that were unprompted for me at least means so much more than, "Hey, can you clean up my books? Can you stack this thing a certain way?" Because it took a little extra effort to do that. And I appreciate that.
But then I think you're right. I put this lens on and I looked at it that way and somebody else was like, "Dude, are you telling me I'm messy? Are you telling me I don't know how to organize? Are you saying that I'm incompetent?" Whatever the message is. And so I get it. Lesson learned. I'm much wiser today. I'm not saying I'm wise, but wiser than the way I was many, many years ago. Okay. There's another thing in here. And I'm just trying to be mindful of time here. And also you guys keep feeding me the questions if you want, and I'll jump into them. I think everybody's super silent and listening just like me, so not a thousand questions coming in.
You talk about this, nipping the problem before they become meltdowns. And so many of us are afraid to bring up an issue with our partner, with our client that, "Oh. The budget, it's going to have to be higher," or there's too many changes, and I'm feeling really frustrated, feeling unappreciated, but I'm also more fearful of the client's reaction to me bringing this up, so I suppress it and I suppress it until it just becomes a complete meltdown. Can you talk about this please?

Cynthia:
It's these small interactions that you want to have so that you prevent the bigger discussions. Right? Or the meltdowns. And so when the budget conversation comes up or you feel inside of you, you have a mental note of. "Ope. I should probably say something." Right? That's the voice you want to start listening to, not the voice that rationalizes your way out of things. And so a good practice here is to start paying attention to that voice on a day-to-day basis and start trusting that voice more. So it's that voice where you're walking down the street and it tells you, "Why don't you stop into this store." Right? And instead you say, "Well, I got to get home. I need to be here," and so you keep walking. It's that voice that you want to start listening to and start being like, "Okay. I'm going to go into the store. Okay. I'm going to go left here." Right?
Because then when you come into these little moments where something's popping up and you feel it and you know, "Okay. This isn't good. This is something that I need to address," you're going to notice, "Ope. There I am trying to talk myself out of it, but instead I'm going to come back and I'm going to listen to my voice that's saying, 'This is something to talk to now,' and then go from there." Right? And so, I forget who said this, but it reminds me of laundry. Right? It's like you can let your laundry just pile up and pile up and pile up and pile up and pile up, and then you're just going to have to do tons of laundry. Right? At some point you're just going to have lots of loads and loads of laundry, and you're not going to have any clothes.
It's the same idea here. Right? You can just let it continue to pile up and pile up and pile up, and then it just gets heavier and heavier and heavier, and you're holding onto all this weight and baggage that by the time you're ready to have the conversation, there's likely something that blew up. Right? And you're going to have to address a fire that you have to put out or a client that's unhappy and yelling at you on the phone for going over budget, when you could have just easily, back when you had one pair of socks there said.

Chris:
Yeah. I think the mindset, and this happens a lot, of not bringing these issues up as, "I don't want to be petty about this." That we tell ourselves just this one time, and then 274 changes later, the laundry room is about to explode. And so how do we get over that mindset that we're being nitpicky, we're being petty and small-minded, and just let them have it this one time.

Cynthia:
So it's understanding that the judgment isn't helpful, the evaluation isn't helpful. Right? In the moments where you notice yourself talking yourself out of saying something, that's your cue. Right? That's your cue to do something different. And it's moving your attention. Right? So moving your attention away from the worst possible scenario, or if you bring this up, how small it seems and how it might be a waste of time for the client right now, or all of kind of where your mind goes. Right? Into the negative land of why saying something wouldn't be the best thing. And put your attention on why saying something would be the best possibility. Why would saying something right now be helpful for you? How can it be helpful for the client?
And that's where your attention can shift to so that it makes it easier for you to come to the conversation, to be able to say, "I wanted to let you know, before this gets out of hand that we're already over by this much. So if you could let me know, are you fine with that? Can we keep going or do we need to scale back?"

Chris:
Yes. And it's interesting because I've had to learn this over the years that say, for example, I have an employee and they consistently came into work late, and it started to create this pattern of behavior where I was starting to get irritated about it, but I didn't say anything. And of course, these feelings, they don't stay bottled up, they're unresolved, and so they will release themselves in one way or the other. Or something totally innocent happens and I explode on that person. So over the years, I've learned that especially when managing people and clients, that you have to bring these things up so that it doesn't get to that point, and so that the other person has some power to alter their behavior or the way they communicate with you, whatever it is, so that you can stay in a healthy relationship.
So now I try to make that a practice where I say, "Look. Here's the thing. This is when work starts, and I guess you could decide whenever you want to show up, but this is when work starts. And if you can't do that, I'm just letting you know you're not going to be able to be here. And I don't want to have this conversation with you like 10 times." And then they know, and they show up or they don't. And then they've made their own decision at that point that, "Yeah. I heard you, but I'm not really listening to you."

Cynthia:
Yeah. And it's a trust... I mean, there's a trust there. Right? Which is important.

Chris:
Yeah. Okay. I have one more question for you. And this is a big one. This is from your site. And then if we have anything else from our group, and then I think that'll be the show.

Cynthia:
Okay.

Chris:
Be comfortable in silence. Okay. So when we're talking to a client, I think we feel really compelled to give into our advice monster and start telling them, "Look. Here's the problem. You need X, Y, and Z, and a new website will solve this, or here's what you're doing wrong." And we can't help ourselves. And I was talking to Michael Bungay Stanier about this, and he said, "We live in a culture where there are points given to people for having the right answer." And we've learned this throughout school, all the way through until now.
It's like, "Who's got... Oh. You have the answer. Okay. And you're smart and you're valuable and you're contributing." And now when it comes to working with clients and trying to be a good partner, a strategic partner, we have to learn how to be comfortable in the silence. And it's actually more powerful than speaking. I'd love to hear your take on this.

Cynthia:
Silence is more powerful, I believe, than speaking. And it really is a way to create more intimacy in conversation. Right now a lot of people will use silence more as a power over or as a way to punish. Right? Or to blame. But there's a way to use silence where you can use it to really ground yourself into the moment that you're in, so that you can begin to think about how you want to interact. And it changes the dynamic of a conversation because you're allowing there to be space. Right? You're giving there a chance to be pauses and breath. And that gives way to more creativity, that gives way to more an openness that you create. And it also gives us this ability to start to notice when we want to interrupt, when we want to fix, when we want to solve, when we want to just continue to speak. When most of the time people don't need that. Right?
In a lot of interactions, most people need to be listened to first. And then from there, we can ask if people would like our suggestions. But to automatically just dive right in, it's hard for us to fix or give advice if we're not really truly aware of what the other person needs. And we don't know that unless we are quiet. Right? Unless we give them space. And in the moment it can be extremely uncomfortable. Silence is very uncomfortable once you start to practice it. And in the moment that you're feeling the discomfort... so much of this practice is really becoming comfortable with discomfort, is reminding yourself, "Okay. Stay open. Stay open." Right? "Allow this person to speak. Allow this person to finish."
I can take my time. Right? I don't have to answer right away. I can give silence. I can bring up even just the response of the Canadian Prime Minister. Right? With his question that the news organization asked about Trump. And he gave a 21 second pause. Right? That silence, it's so powerful. And that was really to be able to ground into the moment, to be able to think about the best way forward to open the conversation. So I think that it's extremely powerful.

Chris:
What's your take on why people feel so compelled to respond? Did this stark contrast between what you just said and others where before the question's even finished, people are already answering?

Cynthia:
I think people get excited. I think people think, "I want to say something right away because it might leave." Right? "This thought that I have, it might go away. And I just got to get it out or I'm really excited to share it." And also we're trained this way. We're really trained to just have reactions. The art of conversation is not something that we learn. We don't learn to have a discussion, we really learn to react to what someone is saying. So we automatically go into ourselves right away. Right? We take what somebody is saying and then we relate it to ourselves right away, and then whatever comes in just comes right out.
But if we were to pause and really practice pausing, we get the opportunity to see if we need to come from that. The I, me, my lens. And a really interesting practice is to try not to answer within conversations by starting with I, or me or my and just see what happens. It's kind of a fun little experiment.

Chris:
Wow. That's really interesting. Don't start the conversation with I, me or my. Are there other words we should be using?

Cynthia:
Mm-mm (negative).

Chris:
Okay.

Cynthia:
Not necessarily. It's more just starting to pay attention to how often you're interacting from one perspective, just your perspective. Right? Your lens.

Chris:
That makes sense. I was going to say, "I get it." Okay. All right. Very good then. I think it's time to thank our guest. Cynthia, thank you very much for coming on the show, for your generosity, for your energy, your aura. I feel like you've been able to deliver something in a way that a lot of people can connect to and relate to. There is something very special and magical about you. Everybody, if you want to check out more about Cynthia, go to cynthiakane.com. She's @cykane1 on social media. And she's written these three wonderful books, her Like a Buddhist series, Talk to Yourself Like a Buddhist, How to Meditate Like a Buddhist, and How to Communicate Like a Buddhist. And if people want to find out more about you and the programs that you have, where should they go?

Cynthia:
You can go to cynthiakane.com and you can find out more there. And yeah. And if you have questions, feel free to be in touch. I'm always interested in having conversation. So please-

Chris:
And what-

Cynthia:
... reach out.

Chris:
What's the best place to be in touch with you? Is it through the website or is it through social media?

Cynthia:
It's through my newsletter really. So if you go to my website, you can sign up for my newsletter and that's really where I'm in touch with people most often.

Chris:
Okay. Thank you very much. We're going to let you go.

Cynthia:
Bye. Thank you.

Greg:
Thanks so much for joining us in this episode. If you're new to The Futur and you want to know more about our educational mission, visit thefutur.com. You'll find more podcast episodes, hundreds of YouTube videos and a growing collection of online courses and products covering design and business. Oh. And we spell The Futur with no E. The Futur Podcast is hosted by Chris Do and produced by me, Greg Gunn. This episode was mixed and edited by Anthony Barro with intro music by Adam Sanborne. If you enjoyed this episode, then do us a favor and rate and review us on iTunes. It's a tremendous help in getting our message out there and lets us know what you like. Thanks again for listening, and we will see you next time.

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