Communication is ubiquitous and essential: in all aspects of our personal and professional lives, it’s impossible to be successful without effective communication.
Despite the importance of communication, it’s often not a focus area, especially in the workplace. A lack of communication at work has been shown to impact stress levels and employee performance. More studies are showing that communication can impact company profits as well. In Debra Hamilton’s article “[The] Top Ten Email Blunders that Cost Companies Money,” she found that miscommunication costs small businesses an average of $420,000 per year.
One way to boost workplace performance (and your company’s bottom line) is the practice of mindful communication. Mindful communication means applying the practice of mindfulness – paying attention to the present moment with engagement and curiosity – to the way you interact with others.
Try out these mindfulness-inspired communication tips to enhance workplace effectiveness and support some of your most important relationships:
- Practice Active Listening – Listening is one of the most important aspects of mindful communication. Listening actively means that you stay engaged in the conversation but keep the focus on the speaker. While the speaker is talking, you can give encouraging nonverbal cues like leaning forward, eye contact, and nodding. Once the person has finished talking, you can ask relevant follow-up questions or simply say, “Tell me more.”
- Be Aware of Your Body Language – Since at least 80% of communication is nonverbal, your body language matters. During conversation, try techniques like fully facing the person, uncrossing your arms and legs, and maintaining appropriate eye contact to demonstrate interest and openness.
- Lead with Curiosity Rather Than Judgment – A major part of the practice of mindfulness is the practice of non-judgment – noticing when judgments arise, acknowledging them, and reorienting toward curiosity and openness. When you’re in conversation, it’s normal for judgments to creep in. See if you can let them go and get curious instead. (E.g., instead of “I can’t believe he said that to her!” you might think, “I wonder how he was feeling to make him say that to her?”)
- Get Comfortable with Silence – Silence isn’t the absence of communication. In fact, sometimes we can communicate more in silence than we can while we are speaking. Try inviting more silence and pauses into your daily conversations. In today’s world of constant busyness and chatter, silence can grab our attention more than words. Plus, time in silence may inspire the speaker to continue sharing more deeply.
- Reflect Back What You Heard – Rather than jumping into your own story (or advice), take a few moments to repeat back what you heard the other person share. This is a technique we use often in mindful communication exercises. The listener says, “What I’m hearing you say is…” and takes several minutes to repeat back what they listened to.
- Support Rather Than Fix – It’s easy to jump in with advice after someone shares a problem they’re going through. However, the most important thing we are giving them is attention and compassion, not advice. After someone shares something difficult, try the tip above of reflecting back what you heard them say. If you do feel compelled to start giving advice, you can lead with, “Can I share something that has helped me?” or “Are you open to a suggestion?” (Tip: If you are especially sensitive to other people trying to “fix” you when you share, you can even try this in reverse. Before you open up to someone about a challenge, say to your companion, “I just need to vent right now, and all I need you to do is listen. Ok?”)
What communication issues do you struggle with at work? Has mindfulness impacted your communication skills and/or relationships?
“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” -James Humes
As Chief Mindfulness Officer of Mastermind Meditation, Dorsey Standish brings research-backed mindfulness and mindful movement to clients throughout the state of Texas. A lifelong learner and scientist, Dorsey has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania and is enrolled in the UT Dallas Applied Cognition and Neuroscience Master’s Program. After mindfulness transformed her own work, health and relationships, Dorsey left her corporate role at Texas Instruments to share the power of mindfulness with others full-time. Dorsey’s teachings combine neuroscience research with her experiences in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program and multiple weekend and 10-day silent meditation retreats. Join Dorsey for one of Mastermind’s upcoming applied mindfulness programs at mastermindmeditate.com/programs.