You may be aware of the power of mindfulness to help you act with intention instead of reacting thoughtlessly.
Being present in the moment brings clarity to understand your situation and take meaningful action.
Mindfulness, however, is not limited to your inner world.
You can apply the same concept to communication.
By communicating mindfully, you increase understanding between both parties.
Greater comprehension yields positive results in your interactions and relationships.
What Is Mindful Communication?
Communication is a transactional activity with a speaker who gives information and a receiver who listens to the information and then responds.
In the absence of mindfulness, this transaction becomes two people yakking at each other but not genuinely understanding each other.
On the other hand, a mindful conversation has a speaker who consciously considers what to say and how the words might impact the listener.
The listener then gives thought to the words from the speaker and attempts to understand them without prejudging the speaker or being distracted by other personal thoughts.
Does Mindfulness Help With Communication?
When you ask yourself, “What does it mean to communicate mindfully?” you should realize that it produces significant benefits. You’ll have a greater chance of understanding the other person’s needs and having your information heard as well.
A real-world example of the benefits of mindful communication comes from research about interactions between physicians and patients. Busy physicians are notorious for making nearly instantaneous assumptions about what patients are experiencing.
Researchers found that physicians usually interrupt patients after the patients have been speaking for only 23 seconds.
A group of physicians was trained in mindful communication to remedy this problem. Their lessons improved their ability to listen to patients and achieve better medical outcomes. Patients within the study experienced greater well-being and fewer hospitalizations.
In general, being mindful during conversations produces many benefits, including:
- People feel safe talking to you.
- You avoid making assumptions.
- You learn more because you’re actually listening.
- Both parties in the conversation feel valued.
- Misunderstandings become infrequent.
- Problems are solved.
- Your communication stays focused on the topic.
- You stop unintentionally offending people.
13 Ways To Improve Mindful Communication
Instead of engaging in mindless listening while waiting for your turn to speak, you can reap the rewards of productive conversations.
You’ll probably have to break some lifelong habits, but the effort will be worthwhile.
Remember that if you speak with purpose and listen with intention, you’ll achieve your goals.
1. Stop yourself from making premature judgments.
Have you ever jumped to a conclusion before someone finishes speaking? Your early judgment blocks you from processing the information correctly.
You tune out additional information because you believe that you have already reached the correct conclusion. To stop doing this, watch out that your mind doesn’t switch off. Keep listening instead and gather complete information.
2. Wait before comparing your thoughts and experiences to what you’re hearing.
Mindfulness benefits you because it holds you in the moment. By staying present, you improve your ability to delay comparisons. Everyone tends to do this.
You hear something and immediately start comparing it to your own experiences. This is counterproductive because the point of the conversation is to learn what someone else has experienced.
3. Know the purpose of why you are speaking.
Are you just talking because you feel like you have to say something? Are you actually responding to the content of what was said or just saying things that pop into your head?
Ideally, you’ll choose your words that acknowledge what the other person said and contribute to the topic at hand. Intention is the foundation of mindfulness, and you should know what you intend to accomplish with your words.
4. Be kind with your words.
Even during difficult conversations, you don’t have to say mean things. Yes, the truth can hurt, but if it needs to be said, speak with compassion and explain why the truth matters.
Aside from difficult conversations, strive to notice whether your words might be rude or inappropriate. Everyone makes mistakes in this regard sometimes, but monitoring your speech definitely cuts down on unkind speech.
5. Ask yourself if what you’re saying is necessary.
If everyone followed this bit of advice, mansplaining would disappear from the world. No one likes to have what they already know explained to them like they don’t know it.
Such speech is simply unnecessary and creates friction between people. To avoid unnecessary speech, think about how you could contribute something valuable to a conversation.
Ask yourself if your statement is just an attempt to make yourself look good.
6. Stop believing that you can read minds.
When you’re not being mindful during a conversation, you might be trying to predict what the person will say.
People sometimes do this because they want to anticipate what will be said to plan a response. The trouble is that this planning distracts you from paying attention.
You will spend your mental energy more productively by staying present and focusing on the words without judgment.
7. Ask yourself if what you’re saying is helpful.
Mindfulness requires that you choose your words thoughtfully instead of saying something to fill the silence.
Mindful communication calls upon you to take in what was said and respond with sympathy or propose possible solutions.
When you filter your responses through their potential helpfulness, you avoid accidentally dismissing someone’s feelings or uttering empty statements.
8. Work on processing the speaker’s experience on a deep level.
Empathy is the word that sums up this communication tactic. As someone tells you about something, try to put yourself in that person’s shoes.
Even if you don’t personally relate to the subject, you can imagine what it must be like for that person. Empathetic engagement with the speaker grants you insights that might not happen if you only think from your own perspective.
9. Hold off on planning what you’ll say next.
If you’re like most people, you probably plan what you’re going to say when you’re supposed to be listening.
This habit feels natural but robs you of the opportunity to catch important details because you’re only listening for the pause that is your signal to speak.
You might worry about a conversation fizzling if you don’t plan a response right away. The truth is that you’ll realize better results if you choose a more effective response after hearing the complete message.
10. Restrain yourself from becoming defensive.
Defensiveness closes you off from connecting with someone. When something triggers you into a defensive emotional state, mindfulness can help you set aside your emotional reaction.
You’ll notice the emotion but prevent it from sabotaging what could be an informative conversation. By promoting a more neutral state of mind, you might be able to explain why a statement bothers you calmly.
11. Allow yourself to take the time that you need.
Many people feel compelled to say something back as soon as the other person pauses. They worry that silence makes them look unprepared or uninteresting.
A pause of three seconds won’t actually seem that long to the other person. The time will allow you to evaluate your feelings and consider your goals. A pause grants you an opportunity to censor unkind or unhelpful comments.
12. Remind yourself to pay attention to body language.
People are not always honest about their feelings for various reasons. If someone tells you that “things are OK,” but their body language projects tension or sadness, then you’ll know to adjust your communication.
You shouldn’t assume that statements are true when contradicted by body language. If pressing for details would be inappropriate, you can still practice mindful communication by saying something like, “If you need help with something, just ask me.”
13. Participate fully in the conversation.
To succeed with mindful communication, you must commit your full attention to the conversation. You need to set aside the concerns circulating in your mind.
The other person in the conversation will notice that you pay attention and appreciate your courtesy. By being present during a conversation, you can achieve more authentic and helpful communication.
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5 Mindful Communication Exercises
Becoming a skilled communicator does not happen overnight. You need to practice. Fortunately, communication coaches have developed mindfulness exercises to help you answer the question, “How can I be mindful in a conversation?”
Reflect on a conversation that you had today. Try to remember if you listened mindfully or let your mind wander.
Take note of what distracted you from listening. As for your responses, were they helpful and kind? You may find writing about the conversation in a journal will help you process your observations.
Begin applying mindful communication tips during low-stakes conversations.
A chat with a friend places little pressure on you, making it easier to focus on being present. Work on hearing what is said instead of making judgments or comparisons.
Find a mindfulness partner and practice having a conversation together. One person says something, and then you repeat the details to show that you actively listened. Take turns and work together to sharpen those listening skills.
Pay attention to your body. Emotions often accompany conversations, especially adversarial discussions. Those emotions can show up in your body as tension. Tune into your areas of tension and recognize how your emotions affect your body language.
When you start a conversation, decide what your intention is. Although your purpose might be self-centered, open yourself to the reality that the other person has needs as well. Keep yourself grounded in your intention while explicitly seeking to understand what the other person is expressing.
Mindful Communication Can Be Revelatory
As soon as you increase your mindfulness around communication, you may realize how little you spoke with intention or listened before.
Mindful communication will help you know your purpose instead of spewing words without thinking about what they will achieve.
You could find that you understand your loved ones and colleagues more than ever through better listening. These results can have a transformative effect on your life by reducing conflict and increasing your capacity to solve problems.