With mindful communication, anyone can connect better and make a greater impact on others.
We live in such a busy world. We are distracted by a million things. One minute it is a text message coming in, another it is a call from a family member. Then it is a friend or coworker. Next, is a telemarketer. Then the phone vibrates with a facebook update. And twitter can’t be left out. The phone vibrates every time there is a message. And there is Instagram. And we cannot forget our Gmail that notifies us every time we have an email. And our Calendar reminders that beep to remind us of the activity we have scheduled in the next hour. We can go on and on with the distractions we have. We have become addicted to some of these devices that we cannot resist the temptation to switch on the phone and check when it beeps.
Some of us have gone so far that we’ve developed the habit of completely disconnecting from other humans around us because we are absorbed by our electronic gadgets. All of us have seen the person who sits on the bus with others and wouldn’t say hello to other human beings because he is completely immersed in a computer game on his phone. Or the sisters who text each other when they are only a few feet apart.
Then there is the lie that we can be effective through multitasking. And so we try to juggle many things at once and end up doing none well.
Of course, work or electronic devices are not the problems. It’s how we go about them that is the problem. Below I share a few tips that will help anyone connect better with someone when you are having a conversation with them.
As a physician, this helps me when I see my patients. However, the principles aren’t limited to the patient-doctor relationship but are true for connecting well with any human being.
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Jon Kabat-Zinn
Mindfulness basically means you are fully present and focused on the present moment and – you are not worried about the past or thinking about what you will do in the future. You are fully aware of your present circumstances. You act as if there is no past or future, only the present. All that is is what is in front of you at the present time and you give your full attention to it. If you are in a conversation with someone, you lean forward. You are focused on what she is saying. You are not judging it or her. You are not trying to see if what she is saying makes logical sense. You are not thinking of what you are going to say next. And you are not thinking of how you will help solve her problems. You are just present and your focus is understanding her and seeing things the way she sees them. You want to see what she sees and feel what she feels.
Here are some tips.
1. Prepare. Proper preparation prevents poor performance. There are two types of preparation I have in mind. The first type is training yourself over time to become better at mindful communication. Learning to meditate on an inspiring passage is a good way to learn mindfulness. The second type is the type of preparation you do right before you meet the person you are going to have a conversation with. If you are anxious, take a deep breath and bring your full attention to the present moment and the person you are about to meet. Turn off all possible distractions and be mentally prepared to communicate mindfully with the person.
2. Quiet your racing thoughts. When you are new at mindfulness, your thoughts may be racing. Different things may pop into your mind as the person in front of you is speaking. Something they say may remind you of an activity you had planned to do at home and forgot. What should you do? Simply refocus your mind on the person in front of you. Over time, you will get better.
3. Adopt an open and receptive posture. Sit down. Lean forward. Maintain eye contact and be listening to the person. Nod in agreement when it is appropriate. Let your emotions follow his. If he is saying something sad, act sad, if he is talking about something exciting, be exciting and smile as well. Allow yourself to be led by the person in front of you.
** Have you ever spent time listening to someone who was depressed or anxious and by the time you were done you were feeling depressed or anxious yourself? You probably were doing something right. The more you connect with a person, the more you will pick up their emotions as well. There is no way to connect with someone and have your emotions walled off in a way that they are not impacted.
4. Don’t interrupt. When a person is speaking, be quiet, don’t interrupt. Don’t be thinking about what you are going to say or do next. Resist the urge to interrupt the person talking. Rarely, if you need to redirect the person, do so when they have finished a thought process and be diplomatic about it.
With mindfulness,”You say it best when you say nothing at all“. You speak volumes when you say nothing at all and let the person speak. The appropriate smile or sadness on your face as you listen intently tells them in a thousand words that you care.
5. Don’t multitask. Multitasking doesn’t work. Don’t take notes–yes, don’t take notes. Don’t type, look at your cell phone, look at the computer, shuffle papers or do anything else but focus 100% on that person. Some people get quickly bored listening to someone that they think doodling helps them. It’s not true. You cannot doodle and be a hundred percent mindful at the same time. Doodling may seem to help, but it won’t allow you to be mindful.
6. Engage fully. Give them 100% of your attention.
As you learn to communicate mindfully, you will realize that you will start connecting with people more deeply and your relationships will improve. People will feel respected and understood by you and that will translate into them trusting you more, loving you more, and following your leadership more easily.