8 Ways To Improve Mindful Communication
Mindfulness is a quality that manifests itself in the way we interact with others. When we are mindful, we become more empathetic, compassionate and honest. By being mindful, or maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and surrounding environments, we bring awareness to the way we communicate with others.
A mindful approach is a key element to effective communication. Being mindful of the present moment allows us to be more aware of how we interact with others. We can recognize when communication has shut down and consider our words instead of responding out of emotion. It's easier to notice if we're overreacting so we can take a time-out.
Jamyang Khyentse once said, “We think that we have successful communication with others. In fact, we only have successful miscommunication without being aware of it.” Mindful communication is a state of being. If you want to become better at it, here are some ways to increase your mindfulness.
What Is Mindful Communication?
Now that we're clear on the context of mindfulness and communication, let's discuss what it means to be a mindful communicator. Mindful communication is a distinct approach to communication that emphasizes being in the present moment. It is the practice of being fully aware of ourselves and our surroundings, and in turn, how we communicate with other people. As someone who aspires to communicate mindfully, I try to listen twice as much as I talk. I strive to be a mindful listener when I'm engaged in a conversation as well.
Does Mindfulness Help With Communication?
Communication is one of the most important tools we have in life, and mindfulness can make it even more powerful. Instead of talking at someone, when you have the ability to be mindful, you talk with them. Both sides of a conversation get more out of the exchange when they’re equally engaged in the communication. Even if you’re the only one practicing mindful communication, you’ll still experience better results.
8 Ways To Improve Mindful Communication
As beneficial as mindful communication sounds, you have to practice it if you want to get better. To improve your mindfulness in communication, follow these 8 tips:
- Shelve your judgment
When you're too busy judging another person's words or actions, your own filter keeps you from hearing what they have to say. When you make a judgment about someone’s character based on something you know about them, it can prevent you from really listening to what they are saying to you and even cause you to make hurtful comments that damage the relationship.
- Understand your motivation
Before you speak, consider the purpose of your words. Are you trying to protect someone from harm? Are you trying to chastise them? Or are you trying to manipulate them? One way to be mindful of what you say is to be aware of your motivation. If your purpose is to be spiteful or criticize, perhaps you should pause or refrain from saying anything at all.
- Be kind
There’s never a reason to be cruel. Even when you’re criticizing someone’s bad behavior, you gain nothing by doing so in a hurtful or insulting manner. It’s best to express disappointment in a kind, direct way. Rather than being accusatory or using incendiary words, phrase things with “I” statements and focus on the solution rather than the problem.
- Practice civil discourse
Civil discourse is a great way to practice mindful communication. It offers you an opportunity to discuss difficult subjects honestly and openly. It also gives you boundaries between when to listen and when to talk so that you can fully understand another person's point of view. Try making civil discourse a regular practice so that you become better at mindful communication.
- Say only what’s necessary
Some of us overestimate the importance of our opinions, and we should refrain from making unnecessary comments in sensitive discussions. Sure, you may have an opinion about what your boss is doing, but is it necessary for you to share that opinion with others? A good rule of thumb is to only give advice when solicited or when talking with someone who works for you. If they’re a friend or a superior, then you should only speak up when it directly involves you.
- Refrain from unhelpful comments
This goes along with making unnecessary comments. When someone asks you for feedback, it’s important to use discretion. Sure, they’re asking for your opinion, but that doesn’t mean that every single thought you have is going to be helpful. Only volunteer information if it benefits the other person. By filtering out unhelpful feedback and constructive criticism you can focus on offering comments that will actually help someone improve.
- Don’t make assumptions
We all make assumptions about what others are thinking, but we can't actually read minds. Our history with others often influences those assumptions. You can’t know what another person is thinking, so don’t operate based on anything other than the information given to you. If you suspect someone is hiding something, ask questions. Assumptions lead to miscommunication and conflict, so sustain conflict avoidance at all costs.
- Practice active listening
Active listening prevents you from making assumptions. The better you get at it, the less misinterpretations you'll make. Make eye contact when people are talking to you. Give them verbal and nonverbal acknowledgements to encourage them to continue their story. While someone is speaking, wait until they have finished to formulate your own response. Ask questions to clarify if needed. These mindful communication exercises will help you become a better listener and communicator.
As you become more conscious of the way you communicate with others, you may realize that you used to communicate much more poorly than you had thought. After learning how to listen and speak with intention, you will become a more successful and empathetic communicator. Ultimately, empathy and rationality are at the heart of all communication. Whenever we speak with others, we must ask ourselves: what is kind, helpful, and necessary? These questions are key to becoming mindful communicators.