We are in communication with people all the time. We have conversations with colleagues at work, with our mechanic, with our spouses and kids, and we convey messages both verbally and non-verbally. But how often are we really being present while communicating? Because relationships can be stressful, it’s important to bring mindful awareness to the domain of communication.
Mindfulness helps us cultivate an assertive communication style rather than an aggressive or passive one. Tuning in to mind-body experiences while communicating helps us understand how someone’s words are landing for us; by acknowledging hurt or worry or fear, we create a space that helps us respond wisely rather than rashly.
Practicing empathetic listening is also a great way of establishing clarity and trust in dialog. When we let go of our agendas, we can open to what people are saying and really understand them. When someone feels deeply heard and understood, conflicts lessen and collaborations are more effective.
Here are some suggestions for maintaining mindful awareness during conversation.
-Stay in touch with your body to connect with your own authenticity. When we speak words from a place of body awareness, it’s easier to know when we might be going astray or uttering thoughts or ideas that are not in alignment with our values
-Speak truthfully. Dishonest speech leads to problems down the line that may be hard to fix. When people know they can rely on us to be truthful, it goes a long way to establishing a sense of trust.
-Speak beneficially. If what we speak is without benefit to the person we are communicating with, why do we need to say it?
-Speak with kindness. Not only is speaking with kindness more relaxing and peaceful, but people tend to respond to kind words rather than harsh ones. Keep in mind, speaking with kindness does not mean that you neglect constructive criticism when it’s appropriate. We can criticize, set boundaries, confront, and be kind while doing it.
-Speak at the right time. If you give feedback to someone who is visibly upset, it may not be the right time to do so. Being sensitive to the when of speaking supports effective communication.
-Stay in touch with your body to notice how the words land for you. If someone says something unfair, it’s better to feel how those words land in your body first – it gives you the appropriate pause and a chance to release any negative emotions that might have been triggered by the words. When you do speak, you’ll do it with more presence and non-reactivity.
-Practice empathetic listening by understanding that everyone wants to be fully heard. While advice may be useful, it’s helpful to realize that much of the time when people are struggling they really don’t need advice – they need to be heard.
-Have an open mind towards the speaker even if you know the person well.
-Return your attention to the speaker when your mind wanders.