Growing up, I was a firecracker. I reacted quickly to situations and never hesitated to express my “passionate” opinions. This often led to hurt feelings. I remember once, after a heated discussion with my brother, he asked my parents to put a coffee filter over my mouth to “keep the yucky stuff inside.”
My dad later took me aside and said, “Renee, you need to think before you speak. You’re going to hurt people with that sharp tongue. This is something I really want you to work on.”
“I’m sorry, Daddy,” I replied. “I feel things, and then I just say them. Why don’t you understand? Why doesn’t anyone understand?” Then I yelled, “I JUST CAN’T HELP IT!”
Whoops. I did it again.
My dad seemed upset, but he didn’t speak. It was so quiet that I could hear him breathing. Finally, he said, “Did you see what I just did? I was breathing. Next time you’re upset, take a minute to just breathe. Just breathe in and out. Then speak.”
What my dad suggested is a form of mindfulness, a particular way of paying attention to a present experience—in this case, a sensory experience. In many situations since, this mindful minute has helped me filter my reactions to others. It has helped me cultivate better relationships.