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Many of you have heard the saying, “what you put out into the world is what you get back”.
Or how about, “What goes around comes around”.
Neither saying discriminates. They apply to both the good and bad things we do.
And the same law applies to the communication you have with others. How you communicate with others is how others communicate and share with you.
Communication is arguably the most crucial skill you will ever need to master. So, today, we are going to discuss the importance of mindful communication and outline the 11 steps necessary to put it to work in your personal and professional life.
What Is Mindful Communication?
Mindful communication is the act of being present and aware of what you are saying to others without judgment. It means taking a moment before speaking to consider how your words will affect those around you. It means being thoughtful about what you are saying and how it impacts the person at the other end of your comments.
Mindfulness, on its own, is the practice of being aware and present in our daily lives.
Communicating mindfully can improve relationships by helping people to understand one another, express themselves more clearly, and feel understood during conversations.
Conscious interaction is not about being perfect or trying to control an outcome… it's a commitment by people involved in the conversation to understand one another and take each other's needs into account.
Communicating mindfully starts with being present and aware of one's thoughts, feelings, actions and intentions while listening to another person talk. Reactionary and superficially processed communication can be considered mindless. To communicate mindfully means to be effortful and steadfast.
11 Steps to Develop a Mindful Communication Practice
We slow down and react more deliberately through communicating mindfully. Doing so allows us to speak with less judgment, more compassion and greater self-control.
1. Clear Your Mind, Ground Yourself and Be Patient
Try to empty your mind of any rushing thoughts before starting a discussion. Let go of whatever previous ideas you may have about the speaker. Knowing who someone is or what they will say before listening disadvantages you since their words might get lost in translation.
It is important to be physically present, sitting up straight with your feet on the floor and aware of where you are in space. This will help keep you grounded and aware of your surroundings during a discussion.
Patience is key for any type of communication… especially when listening to someone else speak or share their thoughts and feelings.
2. Create a Protective Space for Your Conversation
It is never simple to get someone to open up and express their views. Paying careful attention to what the other person says sends the message that it is safe for them to be themselves around you.
Create a space that is comfortable and safe for conversation. This could be as simple as creating an area of silence or going somewhere private if you are having a conversation about something personal.
3. Think About Your Word Choices
Don't start a discussion straight away if you're asked a question. Think about the question and your answer for at least 10 to 20 seconds… or more.
I recently connected with someone who took a long time to reply to questions I asked them. I wasn't used to that. It made me wonder if my question was dumb or too tough to answer… but, I soon realized that this person chose to take time responding to give the thought, consideration and respect my questions deserved.
I've learned to admire that conversational trait of theirs. And being so moved, I've started handling questions I receive from others in the same way. Since taking time to think about my words carefully, I've noticed that others appreciate it too.
4. Use “I” Statements
When speaking with someone, you should always use “I” statements.
For example, if someone offends you, don't react with “You made me feel horrible.”. Instead, say something like, “I feel hurt that you said that.”. The key to using “I” statements is to acknowledge your own feelings and experiences without becoming accusatory or disconnected.
5. Maintain Eye Contact with Others
Look at the person you are talking with… rather than your feet, the ceiling or anything else around you. Pay attention to what the speaker is saying by gazing at them in the eyes. It shows your thoughtfulness. Wouldn't you want someone else to do the same?
6. Place Yourself in the Shoes of the Other Person
The worldview of people influences their responses and perceptions of events. Take a step back and try to put yourself in the shoes of the person you're speaking with.
I once worked as a volunteer with a group of people who had an ardent, narrow political perspective on a particular issue. I wasn't too optimistic about how well we would work together because our views were polarized.
When I looked further into their advocacy, I found that these were good people who thought that their political ideals would provide them security and benefit their cause.
At the end of the day, I found that it didn't both me. Even if I was of the other viewpoint, I could appreciate and respect why they felt the way they did.
In hindsight, I see that working with them was a tremendous experience that I wouldn't trade for anything in the world.
7. Choose Your Words Wisely
Something that may be logical to you may not make sense to someone else.
For instance, I have a pal with a peculiar sense of humor. It seems like he's making fun of you the bulk of the time, when he's really not. In fact, I doubt he realizes what he's doing and he’s shocked when people are upset with him or hurt by what he says.
It just goes to show that words may do more harm than good, which is why you want to use them with care. The vast majority of people are reluctant to give someone a second chance.
A carelessly uttered word may jeopardize someone's job or relationship.
8. Do What You Say and Mean What You Say
If you tell someone that you'll provide them a paper on a specific date when you talk with them, keep your word. People will respect you more if you fulfill your promises.
Never say you'll call someone you don't want to talk with again. Keeping your word is essential in all types of interactions—whether for business, dating or simply hanging out with friends.
I'm paraphrasing here, but a Buddhist monk once said, “Speech, thinking, and action must be one.” It's a terrible idea to say you'll do something but then not do it.
9. Never Make Assumptions
Don't make assumptions. Instead, respectfully ask the person speaking for clarification if they say something you don't understand or are unsure about.
Most of the time, people believe the other person means one thing, while they really might mean something entirely different. There is nothing wrong with having questions as long as you ask them with kindness.
10. Discuss What's Really on Your Mind
When we talk to someone, we often wish to project a particular image onto them. We're all doing what we can to appear our best. We need the approval of the other person to be loved and respected.
Consequently, many people try to be someone they're not in conversation… which almost always results in them coming off as disingenuous.
Being loyal to yourself is the most important thing you can do for yourself. That entails being truthful to yourself. You are not obligated to be a jerk as a result of this. You can express yourself while being friendly and compassionate.
For example, I once met someone who was highly dismissive of vegetarians and vegans. The funny thing was that they had no idea I was a practicing vegan for four years. At that point, there were only two choices open to me: I could go along with the date as planned, or I could be honest. I felt compelled to speak the truth, so I did.
I stayed calm and told them that I well understood their point of view. I proceeded to convey my thoughts on the topic. We had a decent conversation that didn't involve raising our voices. The takeaway here is this: don't mislead anybody about your true identity.
11. If You Start Having Intense Emotions, Return Your Attention to Your Breathing
As a consequence of ignoring our emotional state during a conversation, we may become more worried or enraged. Remember that these emotions are just temporary.
Even if you feel unwanted anger or sadness during a conversation, you are not required to judge your feelings. That's one of the tenets of mindfulness. To regain our bearings, we must return our attention to our breathing.
Final Thoughts on Mindful Communication
Communication is most successful when it starts with self-awareness of one's own emotions and thoughts. This helps us interact with others in a more understanding way.
Everybody wants to be heard and understood. Sometimes, for someone to listen and understand us, we must first hear and comprehend them. People will only respect you if you respect them, and effective communication through mindfulness is one of the most significant ways to gain that regard.
We must not lose sight of the importance of empathy, knowledge, and rationality in communication. We require compassion to see things from other people's points of view. We can't form genuine relationships with others if we cling to our preconceived notions. Then we'll be able to reach an agreement, cooperate more efficiently and communicate more mindfully.
Communicating mindfully includes a nonjudgmental attitude toward our relationships, being actively present in the moment, and the capacity to swiftly adapt to change in an interaction. Active listening and thoughtful speaking are essential components of successful communication. Be sure to check out this article that discusses in detail the five levels of communication, with real-life examples.
Finally, if you want a simple way to reduce your stress and anxiety, then try writing these 35 mindfulness journaling prompts to live more in the present moment.