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Mindful : June 2016
exhaling expels carbon dioxide, which can be more purifying and relaxing. To feel more ener- getic, you might breathe in more deeply; to feel more relaxed, you might breathe out more deeply. Grounded curiosity breathing can come in handy in conversation. For example, during a low-stakes conversation, after checking in with your breathing, you may notice your energy dragging because you have already heard what is being said many times before. In that moment, you might gently shift into an alert-yet-relaxed posture and then quietly begin to breathe in more deeply for a few rounds of breath. As you listen to the other person, strengthen the effects of these physical micro-adjustments by reminding your- self of your intention to be curious about the pos- sibilities that are unfolding. Perhaps you’ll resist the urge to interrupt with a question and find that given some space, the other person volunteers the answer or moves into a new direction without your having to ask. As a result, you’ve managed yourself, and the other person feels heard. In a high-stakes conversation, energy levels can run higher. Some moderate energy in a high- stakes conversation is not all bad since it can boost performance. But sometimes the quality of your breathing—perhaps too fast or holding your breath—may tell you that you that your energy is getting too high and approaching a point of diminishing returns. In this case, you may gently shift into your alert-yet-relaxed posture, and quietly begin to breathe out more slowly or deeply for a few rounds of breath. To accentuate this micro-move, remind yourself to “feel your feet” as a way to get out of your head and back into your body, while reminding yourself that you can feel grounded and stable in your alert- yet-relaxed posture. As a result, you free up your inner resources to make better in-the-moment choices about how you respond. Learning to detect and modify your own energetic level during conversation not only benefits you, but may subtly influence the person you are talking with. As you model the ability to self-reg ulate, you implicitly invite the other per- son to do the same. This mirroring or matching effect can be especially strong if others already see you as a leader and are taking their cues from you. Your ability to be simultaneously curi- ous and grounded is more likely to communicate that you are mature and self-possessed, and that you are willing to listen and act with goodwill toward your audience, all of which contribute to your credibility and a constructive conversation. While these micro-moves can sound like a lot to think about and do during a conversation, the 1 Observe your breathing for clues that help you detect information about your inner state. Gradually begin to shift your attention from simply observing your breath into investing your breathing with intentions that will help you perform at your best. 2 As you breathe in, envision being curious not only about your own experience, but the experience of the person you are speaking with and the possibilities that may arise as your conversation unfolds. 3 As you breathe out, give attention to the stability of your feet and core body and, if seated, your connection with the chair. Imagine that while the currents of the con- versations may shift, you can stay grounded and stable. 4 Continue to breathe: breathing in feeling curi- ous; breathing out feeling grounded. Breathe your way to better communication beauty of practicing them is that they become easier and more natural over time. Just like learning to ride a bicycle means learning to bal- ance on the bike as you peddle forward, learning to balance your energy as a conversation unfolds begins to get easier the more you do it and learn to trust yourself and your ability to ride conver- sational ups and downs. Connect to the Generous Interpretation An alert-yet-relaxed posture and grounded curiosity breathing practices will help you poise for the uncertainty of having a conversation. → PRACTICE June 2016 mindful 75