We are communicating all the time, with our significant other, our children, our friends and co-workers, but are we doing it in a mindful manner or are we just saying the first thing that comes to mind?
Communication should be easy right?
We hear someone say something, we reply.
Are we mindful about our responses or are we merely reacting to what we hear, without actually thinking about what it is we are saying?
When we communicate, we have a desire to connect with the other person. However, people very rarely feel heard and acknowledged when communicating. This can cause many problems in our relationships.
Life is all about communicating
In my work as a Divorce Coach and Mediator, a lot of the work I do is around helping clients be more mindful about how they communicate, and about how to actively listen and respond, rather than react. It is so important that parties feel listened to and also learn to listen to each other. Unless we hear what is really being said we can’t respond in a mindful manner.
Everything we do in life involves a form of communication and it is an indicator of the type of person we are, how we see our relationships and also extends to every aspect of our decision making. Also, communication is so much more than what we say, it is about the tone of voice that we use and body language. Hence, we need to develop strong mechanisms of communication and dialogue and learn the skills which enable us to do this.
Just think about some of your recent communication.
How did it go?
How did you feel?
Did you feel like you were listened to and appreciated?
How do you think the other person felt?
Most times, we are too busy to even think about what it is we are saying. We don’t really take the time to be present, as we are always rushing to the next task. Our minds are often unruly and carry us off to the past or the future, or to something that has upset us, or to the million things we need to do before the end of the day.
In order to be a good communicator, I firmly believe that we need to be more mindful about what we say and how we say it. This is a skill that we can develop through a daily practice of mindfulness. Being mindful is about being in the present moment, and when we talk about mindful communication, it is about being aware of what we are saying and the choices we make, and giving our responses careful thought.
A daily practice of mindfulness can strengthen you mentally, so you are more focused and aware. When we are mindful we pay full attention, think about what it is we are going to say, choose our words carefully and say it in a respectful, kind manner even when faced with a difficult situation. Mindful communication helps us avoid harsh, divisive speech. We manage the situation better, when things don’t seem to be working well and as a result, we will get a better outcome and prevent things from escalating further.
It’s important to know that being mindful does not mean that you are going to be taken advantage of by the other party. When communicating, most of us have already formed a response in our minds before the other person has even finished speaking. This is a clear indicator that we are not truly present and actively listening to what is being said. The reason that we make assumptions, and sometimes also get defensive, is because we feel threatened. We want to quickly interrupt and be heard, to fix the situation and the other person’s perception of us. In these situations, we have not really heard what the other person is saying, rather, we hear what we think they are saying. Therefore, it is important to be more mindful and listen with curiosity and non-judgement.
I once read that being listened to is so like being loved that most people don’t know the difference.
Thoughtfully choose your response
When we are more mindful about our communication we take the time to think about our responses. Most times when we are asked a question, our responses are automatic and we rarely give any thought to it. We say the first thing that comes to mind. When someone asks us how we are, the classic response is “good”, even if we are not feeling good. The better approach is to take time to ponder the question, look within ourselves and ask ourselves how we are really feeling.
Mindfulness is about being present and accepting the situation we are in or faced with. When we learn to be present with ourselves, without judgement, we can learn to slow down and be present with others too and then respond in a way that truly conveys how we feel or what we think.
7 tips for mindful communication
Here are some tips on how to improve your mindful communication:
- Start a daily mindfulness practice to strengthen your focus and awareness.
- When you are communicating, be present and listen attentively to what the other person is saying. If you practise this regularly, you will find that your relationships will improve.
- Summarise or paraphrase back to the person what you heard them say to clarify that you heard it correctly and understood the meaning behind what was said.
- If you feel threatened or upset by what you are hearing, don’t respond right away. Instead, breathe deeply and maybe ask to be excused so you can walk away and think about how you will respond.
- Never say anything when you are angry. As human beings, when we get angry our reptilian brains take over and we don’t think logically. Our heart rate goes up and we can’t access the reasoning part of our brains. We need to take time to let our emotions settle so we can think rationally.
- Don’t be critical or quick to judge. Instead, ask open ended questions to try and understand what the other person wants. When we feel criticised, we get defensive and if we respond with something nasty it will only escalate the situation.
- Use positive language in your communication as it helps build trust. So, even if you have to convey something unpleasant, communicate it in a positive manner.
Every good conversation starts with good listening.
About Anne-Marie Cade
She is passionate about family and relationships and works with clients to empower them to improve communication, manage conflict and reach a peaceful, amicable separation, so they can successfully co-parent together. Anne-Marie believes that this approach will ensure a positive outcome for the family. She is currently working on her soon to be released book “Peaceful Divorce, Happy Kids.”
Anne-Marie offers 1-1 coaching programs, group coaching, online courses and workshops. If you or someone you know needs assistance with managing communication, managing conflict or is going through a separation or divorce, you can organise a complimentary 15 minute chat here https://calendly.com/annemarie-cade.