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Issue #4: On Communicating Like a Fox
Deepening your relationships, a tool for mindful communication + one of my favorite Edward Hopper paintings.
Aaron and I stayed at the inn for our one-year anniversary a couple of weeks ago where we got married. It was blissful: We enjoyed a couples' massage, imbibed on cocktails at the bar while chatting with the convivial bartender, walked the lush grounds, and ultimately dined on a meal in our room that mimicked our wedding night menu. It all sounds incredible—and it was—but make no mistake, I was asleep by 9:30 due to the accompanying wine tasting (I have to tell you these were generous glasses!!) that lulled me to sleep immediately after dessert.
All of that to say, Aaron and I did not get up to the newly married crazy anniversary sex that we had been planning. Instead, we both sat on our balcony at 3 am, where we listened in awe to echoing fox cries in the nearby woods.
While we sat there peacefully, Aaron told me a beautiful fact: Foxes scream like that to let their community know they’ve found food and to come for mealtime. I was so moved that as soon as I got to my phone in the morning I wrote this note:
Aaron was close, but upon fact-checking, I must divulge he was a bit off: Foxes often scream to warn their community of danger.
Still, I feel compelled to express my thoughts.
How beautiful is it that foxes care in this way for their social groups?
Why don't we do a better job of caring for our communities like this? Why do we not all scream like animals in the night to alert the masses of a passage in a book that tore our hearts open? Why don't we invite our loved ones to dinner on a whim when we know there’ll be pasta aplenty? How come we don’t alert everybody to the magic that is a hilarious video, or hold hands during a tearful exchange, or pass on a story, reminding someone that it will all be okay when it feels anything but?
I know the answers to these questions are incredibly varied (individual values, capitalism, the rise of loneliness, etc.) but what if starting today, we all took a vow that every week going forward we’d scream like a fox at least once?
At least once this week we might:
Send a friend a motivational story we read + loved with some advice they'd asked about a few weeks back.
Invite a family member or colleague over to dinner.
Spread the news that tickets to a local gallery opening are free and ask an acquaintance if they’d like to attend with you.
Contributing to the nourishment of our communities should be a pleasure—a distinct privilege. It makes me wonder, “What would life be like if we communicated more like foxes?”
Howling, howling, howling!! At you. For us.
Roeselien Raimond Red Foxes in Moment of Affection (it’s also worth the article read) // Irina Vitalievna Karkabi Art // Edward Hopper's “Nighthawks” // Steve McCurry's "Embroiderers"
One of my top values in interpersonal relationships is intimacy. This means I want to feel deeply heard, cared for, and safe within not only my romantic relationship but with my close friends + family as well. A piece of that, of course, is in the art of communicating.
The guidelines for communicating effectively often vary from person to person and relationship to relationship, but I’ve found one technique to be incredibly important across the board:
🌀 Listen to Hear, Not to Respond 🌀
I once read that you should listen to hear not respond + it shoved me so hard (in a good way) that I come back to it again and again when I find myself listening to someone whilst thinking of what I’m going to say next. We listen to respond for a variety of reasons. For me, I used to often create running lists of points I wanted to make or experiences I wanted to share in my head that came up while a person was talking in order to deepen the conversation. In reality, this meant I wasn’t in the moment hearing what they had to say, I was in my own head reminding myself of these points to keep them top of mind. I also feel more comfortable writing than I do speaking, so professionally this gave me a sense of control and poise.
I feel I was able to fully embody this mindful communication tool better when I learned that taking a pause is okay. In fact, it’s powerful and shows your conversation partner how much you value what they had to say. I have a wonderful mentor who often pauses and takes a few deep breaths before going into a new topic or replying to a student + simply by her doing those things she has given me the gift of knowing how to do the same. Maybe you can be that catalyst for someone too?
Write It Out
Who are the people in my life I feel safe + want to deepen my connection with?
What actions can I take to deepen those relationships?
In what ways might I be holding back from being my authentic self in those relationships?
What can I do to feel safer in those containers?
When can I next spend quality time with these people / this person?
Create a list of habits that hinder quality time with people. Having a phone on loud nearby, listening to respond, or daydreaming in a meeting?
How can I make it more difficult for those habits to arise?