How to Be a More Mindful Communicator
For decades we’ve known about the importance of effective communication in the workplace. Research demonstrates that it can lead to a range of positive outcomes, from better collaboration to greater employee engagement. However, many individuals continue to struggle with developing their communication skills.
At its core, communication is about responding to people in a thoughtful manner. When people sense you are not present during a conversation they may assume you do not agree with them, do not value what they are saying, or do not value them and their time. This can lead to misunderstanding, strained relationships, and a further breakdown in communication – but by engaging in mindful communication you can demonstrate your presence in a discussion and help to break down these barriers.
What is Mindful Communication?
Mindful communication involves applying principles of mindfulness to the way we correspond with others. These principles include setting an intention, being fully present, remaining open and non-judgmental, and relating to others with compassion. In essence, mindful communication is about bringing a greater level of awareness to the two major components of communication: listening and speaking. Next, we explore these areas in greater detail, outlining how to approach each with a mindful attitude.
It may be rather obvious to say, but the goal of mindful listening is to understand what the speaker is trying to convey. It involves taking an interest in what others say and giving them our full attention. Unfortunately, as is well reflected in the following quote by author, professor, and management-expert Stephen Covey, few people manage to listen effectively.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” – Stephen Covey
There are four common roadblocks to mindful listening that can draw our attention away from what is being said and take us out of the present moment, interfering with our ability to truly understand what others are saying. These are,
- Comparing your thoughts and experiences to others
- Mind Reading and trying to predict what the speaker will say next
- Rehearsing what you plan to say
- Judging what the speaker is saying before they have finished
To become a more mindful listener, try to avoid focusing on yourself, interrupting others, finishing other’s sentences, planning a response while others are speaking, or making judgments while people are still speaking. Instead, you can demonstrate that you were listening attentively by paraphrasing what the speaker has said and asking for clarification when necessary.
Part of mindful listening also involves learning to become comfortable with silence. For many, this means slowing down and allowing others to finish speaking. It also means giving people the space to collect their thoughts before jumping in. When you approach conversations with the intention to understand, it is important to refrain from leading the conversation. Give others the time and space they need and you are likely to find the resulting discussion more meaningful and informative.
The second major component of effective communication is mindful speaking. The goal here is to stay on topic while also paying attention to how others are responding to what you’re saying. By observing others you can clarify your message as needed.
When we do not pay attention to how we are speaking we are more likely to stray from our main point, devolving into tangents. Mindless speaking is also more likely to involve disclaimers, rationalizations, hurtful comments, and repetitions, which can interfere with the message you are trying to send.
To become a more mindful speaker pay careful attention to what you are saying. Make an effort to be concise, direct, and specific, providing examples to illustrate your point where appropriate. This also shows that you are respectful of others’ time and attention by focusing on what is most important to share. Being truthful and authentic is also essential for mindful speaking. This will help to build trust and encourage others to do the same.
How SIGMA Can Help
At SIGMA, we can help you become a more mindful communicator. Check out our mindfulness offerings, including our webinar, workshops, and one-on-one coaching services. Contact us for more information on how mindfulness can help you.