The Noble Eightfold Path and Functional Interpersonal Meta Linguistics (FIML): Part 5

Right Speech: Once couples, partners, or close friends learn how to successfully do FIML practice, they will have enormous freedom of speech.

They will be able to speak to each other without fear of being misunderstood or wrongly judged. This is so because each person will know that if they say something that causes a jangle in the other, it will be brought up and resolved quickly. Who wants to be married to someone with whom we are afraid to speak our mind? Who wants to have to monitor their speech when they are at home with their partner? With successful FIML practice couples can enjoy a free-flowing, creative style of speaking whenever they are together.

Right Action: In Buddhism Right Action indicates harmless conduct or ethically sound conduct.

Just as our speech can be misunderstood and just as we may misunderstand words spoken to us, so our actions may be misinterpreted by our friends and loved ones. Misunderstandings based on actions can and should be addressed in FIML practice in a way that is similar to, but not exactly the same, as the ways we deal with speech misunderstandings.

Some of what we do is unconscious. Much of what is in our unconscious mind has been conditioned by the culture or subculture within which we were raised. It is not likely that any two people in this complex, modern world will have the same cultural responses to everything. Even two people raised in the same town will have some cultural differences. These might include family traditions (the family is a subculture), religious training, the kinds of friends they had or have, and so on. Some of these cultural influences are easily changed or adapted, but some are more stubborn. Cultural influences condition our actions.

Here is an example of a stubborn cultural difference I share with my SO. I come from a subculture that requires “multiple-offering”. This subculture uses multiple offering as a way of communicating feelings or negotiating what to do next, among other things. My SO was formed in a subculture that does “single-offerings.” In her subculture, if she wants to communicate her feelings or negotiate what to do next, she can just say it.

Put very simply, multiple-offering means when you invite someone or offer them food or something else, you usually have to do it several times. And if food or something else is being offered to you, you can’t just say, yes, give me some. You have to be a little demure or even refuse until it is offered a time or two more. Supposedly, in Kyoto, Japan, you must refuse an offer three times before accepting it. In my subculture, there is not such a specific requirement, but you do have to wobble a little and be reoffered at least once or twice in many/most cases. If you don’t, it seems cold or even rude.

In the single offering subculture within which my SO was raised, there is nothing as confusing as this. If someone offers you some food, you take it and say thanks if you want it. If you don’t want it, you say no thanks. It’s a great system, but one in which someone like me will go hungry.

Anyway, what we have noticed about these cultural differences is they are really deeply entrenched in us. I do multiple-offering quite subconsciously with great regularity in a wide variety of situations. I do it so often, my SO can even become mildly irritated with me, or at least she used to; now she understands how it looks from my point of view. On the flip side, she almost never does multiple-offering with me. You get one chance to jump at something and if you pass it up, you won’t get any. I used to feel that her system was pretty cold, but now I understand that it is very rational and direct, two qualities I admire. In her subculture, people negotiate feelings differently and probably more efficiently and effectively than in mine.

These ingrained cultural sensibilities that affect speech and behavior are actions. To be Right about these Actions, we don’t have to change them since neither system is harmful or unethical. All we have to do is understand that we each feel differently about them. Once we understand that, these culturally ingrained actions can play themselves out while we can find them amusing, even fascinating sometimes.

Some of our actions we can change, but some we cannot change easily. With FIML practice we should be able to figure out when cultural differences are causing misunderstandings and how to deal with them. What we have noticed about ours is some of them can and should change to be more ethically sound or more based on wisdom, but others of them can be left alone to be enjoyed as harmless artifacts of the conditioning (karma) we received in the past.

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