How often has this happened to you: You get into a discussion with someone, then walk away and five minutes later, you can hardly recall anything the two of you actually talked about. Or you’re cooking dinner—or taking care of the kids…or feeding the dog…or sending just one more work email after-hours—while your partner is trying to talk to you, only to look up and realize that you haven’t truly heard a word that he or she has said. Or how about this one: You’re in a heated discussion with someone and say something you’re not so proud of, only to wish you could take it back the second it’s out of your mouth.
Unfortunately, these are pretty common occurrences for me, and probably all of you, too. That’s because—as mindful as we make an effort to be when it comes to eating and exercising and meditating—we all too often forget that we should be mindful in our communication, too. After all, communication is at the core of almost every relationship, whether it’s the one with your partner, your children, your friends, your boss, and even yourself. Fortunately, mindful communication is something that can easily be learned and mastered with just a few simple tricks and a little practice. Here are four of my favorite things to keep in mind for communicating more mindfully:
- Actively listen. It's not uncommon to be so caught up in your own thoughts and feelings, that it's hard to pay attention to what others are saying. That’s why listening—truly listening—is the first step to mindful communication. When having a discussion with someone else, make it a point not to interrupt them, and don’t let their words just come in one ear and out the other. Instead, give the other person time to speak and complete their thoughts. Keep your focus on the speaker—rather than letting your mind wonder or mentally preparing your response—then take a moment to really internalize what they’re saying before you respond. Not only will this make the other person feel respected and heard, but chances are you’ll walk away from the conversation with a true understanding and memory of what was discussed.
- Be all in. In an always-on world, it is so easy to get distracted during conversation, whether it’s by notifications popping up on your phone or a funny commercial airing on TV. However, being fully present during a conversation isn’t just a way to show empathy and respect, but it’s also an easy way to live in the moment. The next time you sit down to have a conversation with your partner, friend, co-worker, or just a passing stranger, eliminate distractions by turning off your technology, stopping everything else you’re doing and devoting your full attention to the person at hand.
- Think before you speak. Who knew mom’s words of wisdom were also the key to mindful communication? But it truly is important to thing about the content and consequences of what you say before you actually say them. This is especially important when the words you say can have a hurtful impact on the other person or persons involved in the conversation. Remember, nothing you say can be taken back, and it’s easy to say things you regret. Avoid this by taking a deep breath and devoting time to crafting what you’d like to say, checking in with yourself to make sure that the response is one you mean and can be proud of, and that it won’t cause any harm to the person it’s intended for.
- Don’t judge. Just as thoughts + feelings should come and go without judgement during mindful meditation, learning not to judge others’ words and communications during a conversation is key to walking away with a greater understanding of the other party—even if it’s someone you don’t exactly agree with. Rather than judging someone based on their opinion, acknowledge that there are always multiple perspectives to every topic or story, and each person's opinion deserves to be respected. Remember that in most cases, no one person is right or wrong; rather, they just see particular topic in a different light than you do.
What are your go-to tricks for being more mindful in your communication with others? Share them with us in the comments section below. And a special thank you for following along on our Mindful May journey this month! We hope it’s given you a greater understanding of how and what it means to be more mindful.