How's Your Tongue Fu?

功夫 - gōng fu - skill; art; merit. In its original meaning, gong fu can refer to any skill achieved through hard work and practice, not necessarily martial arts.(Wikipedia)

How is your gōng fu... of communication? What is the state of your practice? When the chips are down and someone is upset, when there is either explicit or subtle conflict, when there's a "block" in connection or you are just not getting what you want, are you happy with the ways you typically respond?

Many otherwise high functioning people would admit that we are not. Of course this is so! We inherited our communication patterns from our family of origin!

Some of us have spent considerable energy rewiring those patterns and still fall short. Most of us have not spent much at all.

Mastery (hell, even proficiency) at anything takes practice. Especially when it comes to such hard-wired response systems as this.

How are you practicing (i.e. cultivating) your communication skills?

Just because you can talk doesn't mean you can communicate.

Communication is one of the most life-serving arts humans can develop. It is essential to the health every relationship we cherish. I find No Bullsh!t Commuication (no B.S.) to be an incredible Tongue Fu in this regard.

Like the gōng fu of martial arts, no B.S. is a system of practice aimed at developing a complex fluidity of internal awareness and external responsiveness in interpersonal exchanges that often contradicts habitual patterns.

This is often accomplished in the martial arts through choreographed "forms," or complex series of movements memorized and practiced ad infinitum by the artist. Many good arts also include "situational training," in which the Sifu teaches a particular set of responses to most elegantly deal with, say, a choke hold from the rear.

Good gōng fu also involves "sensitivity training," transmitted through partner exercises that support the development of: 1) tactile awareness of the vectors of force involved in physical exchanges, and 2) reflexive responsiveness to such vectors that adhere to principles of flow, economy of energy, and the body's integrity. This is achieved through various games from "push hands," to "sticky hands" to basic sparring.

As a gōng fu of communication, no B.S. includes all these types of training as well.

We teach a form which highlights awareness and practice of basic principles. "When I see (Observation), I feel (Emotion) because I need/value (universal human Need). Would you be willing to (doable Request)?" We set up "role plays" in which to apply the practice personal life situations. And we strongly encourage "empathy partner" relationships as an ongoing "sensitivity training" where deep listening can be practiced in a non-threatening environment.

Everybody needs some form of Tongue Fu.

If just reading an inspiring quote or article were enough to create lasting change in our communication habits, we could credit Facebook with enlightening us all.

For better or for worse, we actually need to cultivate access to these resources when it matters most: during that ragged emotional conflict with a lover, or one of the countless exchanges with our children that are imprinting life-long patterns into them, or that critical conversation with the CEO, or even in the face of an unexpected assailant or angry police officer whose humanity can almost ALWAYS be leveraged to reduce harm in an escalating situation given the proper Tongue Fu.

This kind of No Bullsh!t Communication can be learned and mastered. With practice. 

It requires the willingness and courage to "break the rules" of common communication and defy the scripts of casual interaction. Every conversation is a new opportunity to "spar" with the aim of true connection and mutual understanding.

If they are lucky, a martial artist will never stumble into a conflict that requires their training. But Tongue Fu is something we bring, in one form or another, as artists, into every interaction we have.

And let there be no equivocation here: The world needs your empathy, your understanding, and your superlative capacity to convey and attend to your needs in inclusive ways.

So what would it look like to take your Tongue Fu to the next level?

Joshua HathawayComment