Mindfulness is not simply a solitary practice. Like it or not, we live in a world filled with other people! We can use mindfulness to help us to communicate with others more effectively – paying more attention both to ourselves and others – including, colleagues, customers, staff and management. When we learn mindful communication, we learn to pause and truly pay attention to our staff and colleagues. This helps others to feel more valued and fosters a more supportive and productive workplace.
In general there are four levels of listening:
1. Distracted listening
Often we are distracted by other things when someone is talking. Maybe we have something on our mind? Or maybe we are trying to respond to an email whilst trying to have a conversation with a colleague. The idea that so-called multi-tasking is more efficient is actually a myth. When we practice distracted listening, we are more likely to mishear, misunderstand and make mistakes. So the first step in mindful communication is to have one conversation at a time!
2. Turn Taking
Sometimes when we are talking, we think that we are listening to the other person but in fact we are planning what we are going to say next. Maybe we don’t want to look foolish or leave a long silence, so we rehearse our next ‘line.’ Again, we don’t really hear what the other person is saying. And we might miss some important information or miss a viewpoint that we hadn’t thought about. By pausing and listening you can benefit from new perspectives that can strengthen your team. And if you pause and take a breath before replying? Well silence can be really powerful! Rather than jumping in straight away, pausing to respond shows strength and confidence and helps the other person to feel heard.
3. Advice-giving/ problem solving
If a colleague or staff member is describing a difficulty, it can be really tempting to try and give advice. Maybe you know the answer and to their query and the most effective solution to the problem is to simply tell them what to do. However, when we jump in too quickly we are not enabling our colleague to come up with solutions for themselves. Mindfulness helps us to learn to trust. This might mean letting go of our own expertise and trusting that our staff can be resourceful and innovative – and might even come up with solutions that you hadn’t thought of. By taking time to communicate mindfully you might come up with a solution together that is far more effective than anything you might have come up with individually. This is teamwork at its best!
4. Active/ Engaged listening – Mindful communication
We might not be able to listen like this all the time. But when we do, it can really transform our relationships, the quality of our communication and our workplace.
Tips for Active Listening
• Look at body language.
• Notice the tone of voice that your colleague is using.
• Ask questions. If you are not sure what your colleague means just ask!
• Take the time. If we are in a rush then we might miss things.
Responding with compassion
Mindfulness can help us to make a positive choice to respond rather than react. This is easier said than done but with practice we can learn to respond to with kindness and compassion. Pause and choose your words carefully. Choose words that are respectful, using a tone that is calm and non-threatening. Always remember that it isn’t always necessary to give your opinion, sometimes silence is better than a verbal response.
Before you respond try to apply the triple filter test;
1. Is it true and honest?
2. Is it kind?
3. Is it necessary or useful?
Or simply ask yourself ‘what is the most compassionate response i can give?’
Mindfulness can help us to develop focus and concentration. It can help us to manage stress, make better decisions and perform more effectively. However perhaps the most significant effect is the increased awareness of self and others. With regular practice of mindfulness and active listening we can transform and strengthen our relationships throughout the organisations that we work in.