by Jess Piszker
Live in the moment, including the moment of a conversation. In today’s world, our minds are often thinking ahead. Our brains are visualizing our to-do list, keeping a mental note of what’s next. Even when we are doing the next item on the list, we are thinking about the item after. This is why we aren’t fully present in the conversations we are having. We are thinking about other things on our mind, texting someone else, or invested too deeply by something on the phone distracted continuously by ring tones, memos, and reminders that keep popping up on our screen. We have lost the art of being present with the person sitting right across from us.
We need to relearn how to have a mindful conversation. How to sit in one place, be fully invested, and to enjoy the company of someone else. Mindful communication is being fully engaged, absorbing what the other person is saying and forgetting about our other worries.
So how do we have a mindful conversation?
I think the first point that we probably all skim over is about being a mindful listener. Usually, even when you are engaged in a conversation, we are itching to say our thoughts while the other person is speaking. You are thinking about what you want to say next or thinking about something else you want to talk about (which is usually a topic about ourselves). We want to hear our voice, whether we realize it or not, and the outcome is we interrupt someone while they are speaking. Many of us do this without even realizing it, myself included! We try to bring the conversation back to ourselves. Usually, by relating it to a similar experience, subtly minimizing what the other person is going through.
So, the next time someone is sharing good news, an accomplishment, a funny story, etc., challenge yourself just to listen. Acknowledge the urge to say something about yourself in response, but instead mindfully reply something like “that’s great, I’m so happy for you.” The answer lets the other person know you are fully engaged, listening carefully. In some circumstances, it is appropriate to share experiences and compare them. Many of us do not realize we aren’t mindfully listening, so this is a suggestion to understand; you might be doing this in every single conversation you have. It is relaxing to listen and not be ruminating over what you are going to say next. The key to a mindful discussion is consciously listening.
Some tips to stay mindful during a conversation
Go into the conversation to be present. Decide that you are going to give all your attention to whoever you are with at the moment. Turn your phone over or put it on silent while you are hanging out with the other person.
Take a deep breath and relax. You can go back to your busy life when this conversation is over! Also, set aside your mental to-do list. You are not going to accomplish any of the other tasks while you are with them anyway.
If the conversation is resulting in conflict or disagreement, we tend to judge each other. Even when the conversation is perfectly pleasant, we tend to judge because you have different views unconsciously. It is essential to acknowledge your different perspectives and let that be the end of it! A good reminder is to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. This allows us to see if from their perspective.
Acknowledge the other person’s thoughts or feelings.
In our busy lives, we probably don’t even realize we aren’t fully engaged. Thinking about mindful listening and communication is a reminder to slow down. You will likely improve your relationships if you start practicing these tactics. It is a simple way to connect, understand, and learn on a deeper level. You, in return, will probably get more out of the conversation you are having and enjoy future discussions more!
Jess Piszker writes for her health and wellness blog called Jessie Girl.