In moments of intense emotions, like stress, worry, anger, have you ever felt yourself losing control and raising your voice, or using harsh words? And regretting the deed almost immediately? Don’t beat yourself up. Under duress, an untrained mind can react automatically, and often even rebel against your better judgement, making you use language you’ll repent.
The good news is that you can train your mind to keep it reined in, even in times of crises, with mindful communication. Not just enabling harmonious conversations, mindful communication also facilitates more fulfilling, fruitful interactions—across spheres.
What is mindful communication?
Mindfulness, essentially, is one’s ‘awareness’ of the here and now—you’re fully present in the moment and are conscious of the goings-on of your mind and body. As you are more in-tune with your feelings, thoughts and emotions, you also become more perceptive to others. You understand, and express, yourself better and are able to listen to others imperviously.
This plays a transforming catalyst to how we respond to and experience events. According to a report by the Center for Spirituality and Healing, University of Minnesota, mindfulness is non-judgmental, steady and non-reactive attention, which is, often, “radically different from the way we normally operate”—creating a “more spacious way of being” that is generally happier.
How does mindful communication work?
Zen master Thích Nhất Hạnh—who also founded the monastic community Plum Village Tradition—is popularly known as the ‘father of modern mindfulness’. In his book, The Art of Communicating, the monk lists two main principles of mind communication:
Soft Speech: It costs nothing to be kind. Be empathetic and sensitive—choose your words carefully, and keep your tone friendly.
Deep Listening: Hear the other person out with compassion. Which means, without interrupting or correcting them, and without the intention of necessarily replying—you should not already be thinking of what to say next as they are talking.
Experts add that attributes like humility, acceptance and tolerance are some other cornerstones of this concept.
How does mindful communication help?
Research says it can facilitate impactful interchange, which can further help with:
- Accomplish goals
- Resolve conflict
- Forge new bonds and fortify existing ones
- Heal misunderstandings
- Build trust
Mentally, too, it has several positive effects. As a report concluded, it eases stress and promotes feel-goodness. Some, like this study, also associated it with improvements in well-being and attitudes. It has also been helpful in reducing anxiety, boosting one’s emotional resilience, and uplifting mood, in many cases.
How can you practice mindful communication?
Begin by incorporating the above-mentioned principles. Researchers assert non-verbal communication is just as significant, so be warm in your body language, and attentive in your attitude.
Sometimes, respectful silence is all you need. It is imperative—and perhaps the hardest part of effective communication—to know when to speak, when to pause and when to be quiet. Therapist Susan Gills Chapman gives pointers in her book, The Five Keys to Mindful Communication, which you can use as guidelines towards a mindful exchange:
University Of Minnesota’s report also suggests a technique called ‘STOP’:
- Slow down
- Take a breath
- Observe your body, thoughts, and feelings
- Process your possibilities, then proceed
Additionally, therapists advise opening yourself to hearing the message too, not just the words. And don’t hesitate to show gratitude. Your ability to be patient and apologise or forgive when needed will also stand you in good stead.