Let’s be honest, communicating effectively is hard.
It’s one of the most important skills in life, yet we’re never taught how to do it properly in school. It’s assumed that we simply pick it up ourselves.
The truth is, it’s a skill. And like any skill, it needs to be practiced before we get better at it.
The Buddhists realized this, and through a technique called mindful communication, they’ve been working on their communication skills for centuries.
What is mindful communication?
You’ve probably heard of mindfulness before. Currently there’s incredible hype focused around this ancient Buddhist concept.
Mindfulness simply means focusing on the present moment with a non-judgemental attitude.
So how does this apply to communication?
Mindful communication is the art of bringing attention to our conversations. It means being aware of what we’re saying while we’re saying it and paying attention to others on purpose with a nonjudgmental attitude.
The three pillars on mindful communication
1) Pay attention
We’ve all been in situations where we said something we regret. Not only do we feel bad for what we said but we also hate the fact that we actually hurt someone.
But according to Buddhists, if we start to pay attention to our words and reactions, we can begin to change them. Every moment is an opportunity to choose how we want to express ourselves.
If we’re conscious of what’s actually happening, we can choose to use words that encourage understanding and openness.
We can also pay attention to our thoughts and feelings and resist ourselves from getting locked in a chain full of negative emotions.
Simply taking 10 seconds to recongize what we’re feeling leads to communication based on understanding and compassion, not reactivity and disconnection.
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Our brains naturally judges others. But according to Buddhists, the point of communication is to help others and ourselves suffer less.
Criticizing and judging obviously doesn’t help.
What’s wonderful about mindfulness is that it’s judgment-free. The main goal of mindful communication is to take in everything that someone is saying without evaluating it.
So many of us pre-plan our answers before they stop speaking, but the main goal here is to simply take in all that they are saying.
It leads to more mutual respect, understanding and chances for progress in the conversation.
3. Be in the moment
As humans it can be tough to simply embrace the present moment. We tend to think about past events or worry about what the future holds.
In communication, our mind can drift.
But mindful communication encourages us to refocus. Practising mindfulness enables us to get better at redirecting our thoughts back to what we’re actually engaged in.
Without judging ourselves for getting lost in our thoughts, we simply acknowledge that we lost our attention and direct our focus to the conversation at hand.
It takes discipline but it’s what we need to do if we want to create mutually beneficial conversations.
For all the energy that these strategies might take, mindful communication gives us a guideline for communicating that is kind, honest and helpful.
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