Mindful Communication at Work
“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.” - Roy T. Bennett
We are all familiar with communication. Even if we don’t reflect on the concept of communication that often, the fact remains that it is something that every one of us participates in every day. Indeed, it is the very thing that allows us to move through the world; allowing us to do everything from ordering a cup of coffee to creating opportunities and building relationships.
So, that being said, are we all communicating in the most conscious and mindful way possible? If we communicate every day, we should all be amazing at it by now, right? Well, the thing is, when something is almost as second nature to us as breathing (which communication surely is), we tend not to reflect on how efficiently we do it. Focused and careful communication is the foundation of great relationships and productivity, both in and out of the workplace. We can always strive to do a little better, and we can guarantee that if you put aside just a little energy to pay attention to how mindful your communication skills are, you will feel a significant surge in the clarity and overall quality of your interactions with others. Taking just a handful of the following considerations into your everyday communications will make a huge difference.
1. Mindful Listening
I am certainly guilty of this from time to time, and I fancy that most other people are too. Sometimes we hear the other person, but forget to listen. The distinction is that when we don’t listen consciously we do not focus on the other, we do not log the information being given to us, we sometimes drift off and become distracted. Sometimes you can tell when somebody is not listening to you properly… you can see their attention move to something else, or that they are eager to move on to the next thought they have had. Try not to be that person. Be attentive. Focus on the person in front of you and the content of the communication you are engaged in, and let them finish their thought before offering your own.
2. Fully Engage
Full engagement supports you in your plight to listen attentively. Try and be aware of your distractions and what tends to make your mind wander. If it is possible to remove these distractions before a human interaction, then great, do that! However, if you do become sidelined mid-conversation, simply acknowledge the fact and consciously move your attention back to the communication in hand.
3. Respond to Information
We are often eager to move on to our own thoughts when it is our turn to speak. Even if we have managed not to cut the other person off with our next idea or anecdote, we might still be forgetting to actually respond to what we have just been offered. Even if you intend to parry your conversation partners input with an idea of your own, you should always give the other person’s opinions and offers weight and attention. Ensure that you respond to the last thing you were offered.
4. Consider All Sides
Even if you are certain that you are correct, you must put yourself in the shoes of the other people taking part in your conversation or, indeed, debate. This will not only show that you have respect for those other people, but will also encourage you to be more balanced about your own stance on any given issue. This may change your opinion entirely, but what is most important is that responses and solutions are found that will sit well with everybody.
We all judge others, even if we try not to. We must be aware of that tendency to judge and try not to make it the basis of a decision or the credit you give to a debate. As right as you may feel you are in a conversation, it is an opinion you hold because of your unique circumstances. Opposing opinions will also have circumstances backing them up which are equally as valid and complex. We must learn that, in the end, there is no finite right or wrong, only different perspectives. Non-judgement, mediation and compromise are your friends.
6. It’s Not About Getting The Last Word
Workplace interactions are not competitions. There is no real value in coming up with the best idea or having the last word. Even if you are in opposition with someone during an discussion, the consensus should still be that you are working together to find the best solution, not battling for individual validation.
Mindful communication takes practice, and, like with meditation, you may slip out of it from time to time. It is the genuine endeavour towards this way of communicating that is the most important thing. These individual tips provide clear strides towards mindful communication, but in a nutshell, all they are asking you to do is to approach others with respect, kindness and willing.
By Chris Thomson