Mindfulness isn’t just something to reserve for your meditation practice or when you are walking in the woods. Being mindful when you are interacting and communicating with others is one of the best demonstrations of mindfulness mastery, because what people say and do can often trigger us into showing up not in our best self.
Being mindful while communicating with others means tracking both yourself (through your own self-awareness) and the other (through focused attention).
Self-awareness in communication is extremely important if you are to express genuine interest and empathy towards those you are speaking to. This can (and should) be applied to almost every conversation you have, whether it’s a business meeting, lunch with friends, or a discussion with your significant other. When you are self-aware, you are capable of noticing when you are overreacting. It also means you have some sense of what it will take for you to shift yourself into a more open and skilled response. Self-awareness also means you are quickly able to notice when you slip into judgement of the person or people you are with and stop listening in order to formulate your response. Finally, self-awareness will help you notice when you are disengaged and apathetic, so that you can either end the conversation of shift yourself into curiosity so you can stay present.
If you’re feeling emotionally comfortable, you are more likely to share your thoughts with others. The opposite can be said for when you are feeling afraid. Noticing these patterns and understanding that your human reaction is not necessarily a negative thing is the first step towards mindful communication.
Giving focused attention to the conversation at hand shows a true understanding of mindfulness. It is crucial to develop the skill of reading the room and knowing whether to share your opinion or simply remain silent. If you are using mindfulness to focus your attention, you’ll have a better sense of when it is the right time to speak up. As you share your thoughts and feelings, notice how they are being received. Do you see or feel signs that the person or people you are speaking to are engaged and staying with you? Have you lost them by saying too much or too little? Mastering the skill of paying attention is like developing a super-power that lets you see the invisible energetic dynamics that are happening underneath every conversation – which is just a form of energy exchange.
Everyone is born with receptors that allow our bodies, hearts, and minds to feel the natural flow of life’s energy around us. When an individual shuts down and harbors a more defensive attitude, they are starving themselves of an emotional connection from others and from the world around them. Embracing mindfulness helps us become more aware of these moments.
One of the best goals you can have when communicating is striving to be responsive rather than reactive. If someone around you makes a comment that sparks anger, do your best to avoid reacting emotionally. Stop, think, and let yourself calm down before responding. You’ll learn that anger-inducing comments can actually be met with kindness, which is a strategy that typically results in mutual respect. As you develop your self-awareness and capacity to pay attention this gets easier.
To continuously train our minds, as Susan Gillis Chapman puts it, is to “boost our emotional immune system so that we are less affected by the ups and downs in our relationships.” Like all things in life, practice makes perfect. After spending time studying your emotional reactions to certain things that set you off, you can begin to focus on how to shift that energy so you aren’t held captive by it. Being mindful in these moments allows you to use the practices that help you stay grounded when we are hurt by a comment. We are then able to stop ourselves from escalating the situation and making matters worse simply because of an emotional reaction.
The key to embracing mindful communication is finding the sweet spot between hearing a comment and responding to it, focusing on that initial feeling, and knowing how to control it. Take into consideration other people’s points of view and accept the idea that “being right” is not always the end goal of a conversation or argument. By combining self-awareness and paying attention you are exponentially increasing your mindfulness, allowing you to open up to other people and opportunities for connection.
To learn more about Tj Bartel and how he helps men and couples create more harmonious, deeply intimate relationships, visit his coaching website.