How many times have you blurted out something—to a family member, co-worker or even your boss—and then instantly regretted it? Do you often berate yourself for saying too little or too much, or for saying the wrong thing altogether? When a conversation doesn’t go well, do you spend hours rehashing what you should have said instead?|
Whether you’re meeting a new colleague, asking your boss for a raise or just sharing stories or opinions with friends, mindful communication is key.
"In mindful interactions, we are fully present with the other person, participating completely in the interaction, listening to what they're saying without getting lost in our own thoughts and future responses, and observing their nonverbal communication so we know how best to connect with them [and to] be aware of and make progress toward our communication goals," explains Amanda Stemen, M.S., L.C.S.W., founder of Fundamental Growth.
By incorporating some strategies for communicating more mindfully, you can cultivate healthier relationships, a more open exchange of ideas and greater productivity. Ready to eliminate post-conversation anxiety?
Practice mindful listening.
When most people think about conversations, they think of talking. Mindfulness coach Miriam Amselem says mindful communicating actually starts with mindful listening.
"In most conversations or communications, the majority of us have a ready response in our head before the other person has finished speaking," she says. "This isn’t effective when communicating in everyday life conversations, [though,] because we end up interrupting, making assumptions, jumping to conclusions or becoming defensive."
The crux of mindful listening, Amselem explains, is to stay completely focused on what the other person is saying without preparing a response. This allows you to be "totally there" with full awareness of what the other person is communicating.
A big part of active listening is remaining present. That means maintaining frequent eye contact, putting your phone to the side and refraining from multitasking during the conversation.
Once your conversation partner has finished talking, Amselem says, it’s time to think about your response without judgment, and then carefully choose the proper words.
"Start by communicating your understanding by reiterating a summary of what the other person said. This is an important first step because it validates the other person," she says. "Then continue communicating from a place of respect, understanding and empathy."
This type of mindful communication helps with conflict resolution, better decision-making and increased engagement and collaboration—particularly in the workplace.
Promote (or request) an open-door policy.
When all parties know they are welcome to initiate a conversation at any time, they will feel more comfortable knowing their concerns or comments will be heard, notes Nina LaRosa from Moxie Media, a workplace safety, health and human resources online training company. "This takes away some of the pressure of an employee speaking with their employer, allowing the employee to focus more on staying mindful of the topic at hand and how they are communicating," she says.
This applies to non-work communication, too: Let friends and family know that the proverbial door is always open for them to share.
Validate the other person’s contribution.
Even if you don't agree with what a person has said, it’s important to acknowledge what they have communicated, says Stemen. "That doesn't mean you’re confirming they are right or wrong—it’s simply acknowledging their experience, thoughts and feelings, which makes people feel heard and understood, and often allows them to be more present."
Pay attention to the "three Cs."
Theresa De Armond, a licensed counselor with Believe Counseling Services, recommends focusing on the "three Cs" to ensure mindful communication:
Remember details about the person.
Details can make all the difference in the effectiveness of a conversation. Deborah Sweeney, CEO at MyCorporation, suggests coming prepared with small, thoughtful talking points about each person. These might be gleaned from previous conversations, mutual contacts or even social media sites. For example, if you noticed on Instagram that one of your co-workers recently adopted a pet dog, congratulate them and ask how the furry new pal is doing.
"This is a great conversation starter in the workplace to help you get to know your co-workers, and [it's] much more fun than awkwardly rehashing the day's weather," Sweeney says.
Be open to other perspectives.
Remember, just because you see something a certain way doesn’t mean that is necessarily the "right" way. "Everybody sees the same event differently—it’s the human condition," says Linda F. Williams, DSW, founder of Whose Apple Dynamic Coaching and Consulting Services. "The key to effective [in] communication is recognizing that you might need to see the event from another perspective instead of becoming adversarially entrenched in your own." Opening your mind and being willing to hear all angles of a story will lead to mutual respect and effective communication.