Have you ever been in the middle of telling a story, only to realize that the person to whom you’re talking is not listening? Or, have you had an opinion you wanted to add to a group conversation, but were not sure how to share your thoughts without being perceived as judgmental? There’s a lot happening when we communicate, and the more you understand about the process, the more likely that you will connect with others in a meaningful way that gets your message across.
Mindfulness of communication gives us a powerful tool to notice and learn about these patterns, and to shift them when necessary.
The essence of communicating mindfully boils down to three things: presence, intention, and attention.
1. Lead with Presence. The foundation of any successful conversation is showing up and being there as fully as possible. Being present is not possible when you allow distractions, such as your phone, television, or even other thoughts, to creep into your conversations. Presence lays the ground for connection and gives you access to valuable information about what’s happening for yourself and for someone else. You can strengthen presence in your conversations by keeping some awareness in your body, pausing, or slowing your speech down just a little. Being present in your conversations will allow you read body language and social cues, and to absorb and process more information that is being communicated to you.
2. Intention: Perhaps the single, most powerful and transformative ingredient in conversation is your intention. Intention determines the direction of the conversation. When you are upset, do you ever feel like you need to defend your actions so the other person will understand you? Have you ever looked at a situation and jumped to conclusions about what you think happened before having all of the information? When you are coming from fear, blame, defensiveness, or judgment, it affects the whole tone and feel of a conversation. Instead, you could lead with curiosity, care and the simple, yet powerful intention to understand the other person’s point of view. These commitments create a space of good will. Before you judge or explain, see if you can get curious and ask some questions to help see things from another’s perspective.
3. Attention: A big part of mindfulness is learning how to place your attention on an object, and keep it there, and communication is no different. Many people have a habit of focusing on areas that aren’t conducive to mutual understanding: who’s right or wrong; stories of blame; or even the details of a situation. One key to creating more connection and a better conversation is to listen for what’s most important to the other person. Can you get down to what matters most, and identify what the other person is feeling and needing?
The experience of being alive is fundamentally one of being in relationship, and relationships are built on communication and connection. Even when you’re alone, you’re in relationship with your environment, the physical space around you, and with your thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. With mindful communication, you have the possibility of bringing presence and a quality of warm, caring interest to your conversations. As you move through your days this week, why not see if you can bring curiosity and care into your conversations with others, and notice how connected you feel.
About the Author: Jennifer L. BASHANT, Ph.D., LMSW, MA, Monthly Mentor and Parent Mentor, owner of Building Better Futures, LLC, is a Parent Empowerment Coach with the mission to strengthen families by improving challenging behavior, reducing stress and providing optimism and hope that things can and will get better. She is extremely passionate about her work because she has raised a child with challenging behavior, and she knows, first hand, what it feels like to feel isolated, blamed and worried about the future. As a licensed social worker with experience in a variety of clinical settings, Jennifer shares her knowledge and expertise with parents in a way that is compassionate, authentic and relevant. Read More…