Whether written or spoken, verbal or non-verbal, in person or online, to self or others, communication is at the heart of everything we do. However, all too often, communication is mindless. We send off emails while also listening to Zoom meetings, we scroll aimlessly through social media taking in whatever pops up in our newsfeed, we speak reactively in tense moments without choosing our words, and we let thoughts and worries run unchecked in our minds. When we’re not fully aware of what we say or what information we take in, we are at risk for creating misunderstanding and increased stress.
In his book, The Art of Communicating, Zen master and author Thich Nhat Hanh compares words to food and offers the question: how healthy is our communication diet? He says, “When we say something that nourishes ourselves and uplifts the people around us, we are feeding love and compassion. When we speak and act in a way that causes tension and anger, we are nourishing violence and suffering.”
Mindful communication is based in compassion, with the aim of helping others suffer less. It requires deep listening, a willingness to understand, and regular practice to skillfully communicate in ways that uplift ourselves and others. We all have the ability to communicate mindfully and with compassion. When we do, connections with others strengthen, relationships improve, and our ability to collaborate and accomplish goals grows.
Mindful, compassionate communication is a gift we can give to self and others. In these times of great stress and uncertainty, it is needed more than ever. You can get started with mindful communication with a few steps:
- Listen deeply and mindfully to others. Listen for feelings and needs to better understand them.
- Listen deeply and mindfully to yourself. Pause occasionally throughout each day to check in with your own feelings and needs.
- Take one slow, deep breath before each conversation – whether that be by phone, video, email, or in-person. Center yourself with a breath before speaking or listening.
- While listening or speaking, remember compassion – will these words or thoughts create more or less suffering? You can consider this in communication with others and also as you observe your own thinking.
If you’d like to learn more about mindful communication, join Health Coach Amanda for a four-week group health coaching series, Mindful Communication and Connection, starting December 1 at 12:30 p.m. This series will meet twice per week for two weeks on Tuesdays and Thursdays. To register click here.
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