Mindful Speech: Six Ways to Practice Mindfulness for Better Communication
A fight with one’s spouse, malicious gossip in the office, misunderstanding between friends, a frustrating phone call with the cable company representative: these are just some examples of our everyday stressful communications. We often have some form of difficult communication in the course of each day, and we each have our own habitual ways of potentially reacting in a way that can lead to further problems. If we are not paying attention to our reactions, we may suffer more internally and act out of distress, potentially harming our relationships and our own well-being. Mindfulness practice can be extremely effective in allowing us to handle difficult communication in a more wise and skillful manner, leading to better results for all parties involved.
Mindfulness is a way of intentionally paying attention to the present moment with non-judgmental awareness. Here are just six ways to bring mindfulness to difficult communication:
- Become aware of your habitual tendencies when difficult communication arises – Are you likely to become passive and avoid what you want, think or feel? Or are you likely to be aggressive and say what you want, think, and feel but at the expense of others? Often these tendencies have been developed early on in our lives. By becoming aware of any unskillful patterns, it is an opportunity to find new ways of responding. This could involve finding ways to be more assertive – saying what you want, think and feel – in clear and compassionate way.
- The moment you feel difficulty, tune into your breathing. The breath can be extremely effective in anchoring you to the present moment and will make it easier to notice what is happening within you. The breath can allow you to keep your center and slow down. Start with just one intentional full and deep inhalation and exhalation, and then just feel the sensation of a few more natural breaths without forcing anything. Notice the quality of the breath without judging it, such as slow or fast, shallow or deep.
- When the difficult feeling of anger, frustration, hurt, etc. arises, become aware of your internal reactions and allow the emotions and thoughts to be there without reacting out of them. For instance, if anger arises, notice the tense body sensations that might be arising, such a hot flash or heart pounding. Notice the highly charged thoughts and become aware of what you perceive as threatening. The challenging feelings and thoughts may not go away immediately, but by opening up to your own reactions with acceptance and kindness, there is greater likelihood of reaching some level of recovery and balance. Breathe with the sensations that are present within you. By slowing down and noticing what is happening within you, it could lead to a wise and skillful response instead of a mindless reaction.
- Become aware of any assumptions that might be arising. A powerful aspect of mindfulness is that it teaches us that our own thoughts are not necessarily true. We can completely misinterpret someone’s behavior to mean they are disappointed in us when it is really just the story we are telling ourselves. Mindfulness can involve asking yourself, “What am I believing right now?” Your beliefs could be inaccurate, especially when impacted by highly charged emotions.
- Become aware of the other person’s feelings and perspective instead of just being absorbed in your own. One strategy to do this is by looking at the person’s eyes and notice the visual features of the eyes, including the color. This can be a tool or a reminder to really see the person as another human being who has similar hopes, fears, and hurts as you do.
- Before you speak, first become aware of your intention to say something before you say it. By becoming aware of the intention, you can then decide if it will be beneficial for you and the other person for the words to be said. Intentions are at the root of everything we do and say. It can be a powerful practice to examine our intentions more carefully and choose the ones that lead to greater kindness and connection.
Mindfulness is a lifelong practice. It is important to be kind to yourself without being judgmental or self-critical toward how you handled communication difficulty in the past. Every moment is a new moment to begin again, and to use as a new opportunity to cultivate increased awareness and compassion, leading to greater connection and harmony with those around us.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction: An Eight Week Course
The Center for Integrative Medicine at Good Samaritan Medical Center is offering an Eight Week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course starting March 31st, 2015 on Tuesdays 4:30 -6:15 pm. The group is facilitated by Ben Gaibel, LCSW. The fee for the class is 225 dollars which includes guided mindfulness audio CD’s for at home practice along with a workbook. SCL Health Associates receive a 40 dollar discount. To register or for more information, please contact Ben Gaibel at 303-673-1620.