Week Three: Mindful Conversations
The topic of this week is mindful conversations. We will touch on how mindfulness can improve your communication with others and on the importance of not expecting others to bring us happiness. We'll also talk about self-awareness, patience and responsibility. This includes learning to refrain from pushing a conversation on somebody and learning to accept silence as a form of conversation.
Please note that mindful conversations are important not only between romantic partners, but between co-workers, parents and children, friends, family, etc. Relationships are based on communication and applying mindfulness to conversations can benefit any type of relationship.
Nowadays, it's easier than ever to stay connected with others through technology. There is a downside to this, however. Face to face meetings and human connection are often replaced by electronic messaging conversations such as texts, Facebook, etc. The problem with that, is that the human connection element is lost. That's a shame because human connection is so important! With electronic messaging conversations, you lose the body language portion of the conversation, which constitutes over 90% of the communication. You also lose the tone of the messages and the indication of whether or not the other person understands what you are trying to communicate. I am not saying that communicating electronically is bad. I am saying that it is beneficial to be mindful of the downsides of having electronic message conversations and that some conversations should be done in person.
Communicating face to face helps you feel compassion for the other person. That's one of the reasons why people can be absolutely nasty to others on the internet: the feeling of compassion for another human is lost.
Relationships and Mindfulness
Your time is the most precious gift of all. When you are fully present for another person, you are giving them time that you cannot get back. On the other hand, when you are distracted and not fully present for another person, you are squandering an opportunity for true human connection. The self assessment questions below can help you reflect on your relationships with others.
Self Assessment Questions
1. Have you even been in a conversation with somebody and noticed that they are not listening to you?
2. How do you feel when somebody you are speaking to is not fully listening to you?
3. Have you ever gotten into an argument because somebody felt misunderstood?
4. When somebody is speaking, are you formulating in your head your response?
5. Do you get irritated when somebody seems to only be interested in themselves, their stories and opinions?
6. Do you find it difficult to express your feelings?
7. Do you find it difficult to give the word "no" as an answer?
8. Do you shy away from difficult conversations to avoid confrontation?
9. Can you be honest with the people you love?
10. Are you able to ask for what you need?
11. Do you prefer texting or emailing over face to face or telephone conversations?
Based on your answers to the questions above, do you feel like you are present and attentive to others most of the time? Do you think that your relationships could benefit from mindful communication? The truth is, every relationship could benefit from mindful communication. Relationships of are complex and good communication is key. Mindfulness improves communication.
Because the principles discussed in the video above are so important, here is a summary of the ways to apply mindfulness in conversation:
5 Ways to Apply Mindfulness in Conversation
- Be aware of the body. Being aware of the body helps to bring you to the present. When you are present and focused, the other person is likely to feel heard and you will have an easier time understanding what they are trying to communicate. Being aware of your body and mood prior to engaging in a conversation also allows you to acknowledge and own how your are feeling so that you do not end up blaming the other person for how you are feeling during or after the conversation takes place.
- Repeat the mantra: I am here for you. Repeating the mantra "I am here for you" before and during a conversation helps you to be fully present for the person that you are communicating with. Being there for the person means that you are focused on them entirely and that you are present for them. Being there for the other person means that you are listening to them without thinking of what you will answer or without waiting for an opportunity to jump in to talk about you.
- Repeat the mantra: I notice that you are here and that makes me so happy. Humans need to interact with others and are social creatures, however; sometimes others can really annoy us. As much as we may love our significant others, children, bosses, etc., there will inevitably come a time where you are irritated by these people. When that happens, repeat the mantra "I notice that you are here and that makes me so happy". This helps to remind you that you are grateful to have the other person in you life and that will decrease your irritation towards them.
- Be curious. It's important to genuinely be curious when engaging in a conversation. Try to ask questions that you want to know the answers to. Avoid simply asking questions for the sake of asking questions. The person that you are communicating with can sense your level of interest in what they are saying that has an impact on how they feel during the conversation.
- Be honest. Being honest is not always easy, but it is so important. Most people will lie to avoid hurting somebody's feelings. For example, you may avoid telling your boss that she has lipstick on her teeth or you may tell your sister that her dress looks good on her when she asks even if you think it looks terrible. These lies seem harmless and you may feel like you are doing the right thing. That may be true in some situations, but most of the time, honesty is the best policy. Lying to your boss or your sister may spare their feelings in the moment, but it might cause them to trust your opinion less. Not to mention, you are doing them a huge disservice by allowing them to walk around with lipstick on their teeth or a dress that looks terrible.
This week, you are encouraged to practice mindfulness in your conversations at home, at work and anywhere you remember to do so. You may commit to practicing mindful conversations when you are meetings this week or when you are asking your spouse how their day was.
This week, your assignment is to commit to practicing mindfulness during a conversation that you have typically once a day. For example, you could commit to having a mindful conversation with your spouse everyday when they come home from work. If you choose to do this, explain to them what you are doing and they may want to try to engage in mindful conversation too. Another example could be to commit to mindful conversations during meetings at work. You can even practice having a mindful conversation with your child before you put them to bed. The possibilities are endless and the choice is yours. The idea is to practice with a conversation that happens almost everyday so that you can begin to form a habit. An added benefit to that is that you may notice how mindfulness impacts your conversation.