One of the competencies of emotional intelligence is interpersonal communication. Stepping up this skill is about a desire to genuinely connect with another.
If you lack interpersonal skills, the key is to become more mindful. Mindfulness is a skill that can be developed — it’s a daily discipline. It’s about mental awareness and being present in the moment. When it comes to mindful communication, we are aware of the choices we are making and of our thinking and reasoning.
Here are the steps to strengthen mindful communication.
Being Present With The Other Person
When you are talking mindfully, you are conscious of the words you choose. You think before you speak and make a conscious decision to use your best communication in a respectful manner, even if it is a difficult situation. You are also mindful of your intention and aware of expectations that may or may not be met.
When there is a situation that needs to be addressed, being mindful can produce a better outcome and prevent the communication from getting out of control.
Here’s an example. One of my clients was once verbally attacked by another executive. Even though they are equal in rank in the organization, the other executive believed it was his place to reprimand my client. Through our coaching, my client and I worked on setting clear boundaries with the other executive while being mindful of communication.
While it’s difficult for most of us to remain calm in this situation, my client did, and he did not take the attack personally. Instead, he was able to shift the conversation into a productive one, arriving at the real root of the problem between the two of them.
Keep in mind that mindful communication does not mean being taken advantage of by others.
Being Present In Your Silence
Most of us have our response playing in our head before the other person has finished saying what they need to say. Having a response brewing while the other person is talking is not being present or truly listening.
Listening mindfully can be difficult for various reasons:
• You may make assumptions and jump to conclusions.
• You may become defensive.
• You might be someone who interrupts to get your thoughts in.
• You may want to quickly propose a “fix.”
• You might hear what you think the person is saying rather than what they are saying.
Being present with your silence is about listening to another person with curiosity and non-judgment.
On the other hand, I’m sure you know what it’s like when you’re talking and the other person isn’t listening. When this happens, we feel let down.
What’s important here is that they do believe they were listening, the caveat being they were not listening mindfully.
Bringing awareness to the thoughtless actions of others is part of mindful communication. A situation like I just described is also an opportunity to discuss how to improve the interpersonal communication between yourself and that person. It is an opportunity to mentor and coach. When this occurs, I tell the other person to simply give me a call to continue the conversation when they are finished with whatever they are doing.
Being Present With Yourself
The last technique to bring mindfulness in your communication is to take time to think about your response. Many times, when we’re asked a question, our response is immediate, almost automatic. When asked “How are you?” we are all guilty of responding with “fine,” even if we are not fine.
Taking time to ponder and check in with yourself slows everything down, allowing you to do an inner self-check, asking yourself, “How am I really?” Mindfulness is about accepting our inner state without judgment. When we can learn to be present with ourselves without judgment, we can slow down enough to be present with others, aware of their inner state by mindfully listening and enhancing the connection.
What are the interpersonal benefits of applying mindful communication at work? These are just a few:
• There will be more engagement and collaboration because all parties feel heard and respected.
• Resolving conflicts will improve as more thought will be given to what is said rather than speaking impulsively.
• By becoming present in your silence, you will gather and seek information that will enhance decision making.
• Your empathy will increase, which is a key skill for leaders.
• Your emotional intelligence will increase.
Practicing the art of mindful communication is a challenge, as it requires us to slow down, be thoughtful and learn to listen more. As a coach, I encourage all of my clients to adopt some form of mindfulness. Those who do experience the benefits immediately.