You want it. You need it. You have to have it.
In today’s high-information and digitized world, finding meaningful, personal connection through the noise is challenging. It requires focus, intention, and above all, mindful conversation with those around you.
This is how you can get back to that connection you crave through your interaction with others:
1. Turn off all media devices.
Yes. That includes your phone, computer, tablet, or whatever it is you don’t think you can put away. You can.
If you want mindful conversation, eliminate the temptation of looking at any of these things for even a millisecond. By ridding yourself of distractions, you clear your attention for meaningful interaction with another. This temporary sacrifice will be worth the connection you are preparing yourself to experience.
2. Listen using your eyes.
Look the other person in the eyes. Remember to blink. And, for goodness sake, don’t stare!
A person’s eyes tell you what is happening in their heart. Your awareness that your conversation partner might be feeling certain emotions allows you to adjust your communication appropriately. To do this, however, you must make eye contact which requires you to have your eyes open.
Having open eyes also will allow you to observe the other person’s posture and gestures. These movements can indicate an emotional wall (crossed arms or legs), a desire to leave or disengage (fidgeting), an inclination to say something (by an opening mouth or a hand that is raised), and many other things.
By not watching for these cues, you might miss an opportunity to dig more deeply into the psyche of the other. You might also deprive your partner of the chance to feel fully heard. This lack of expression will rob you both of the connection you seek.
3. Listen to the tone of the other person’s voice.
Some individuals are able to put on a happy face even when things aren’t going so well for them. A skilled communicator can detect what is bubbling below the surface not only by observing non-verbal cues, but also by listening to changes in the tone of the other person’s voice. These tonal changes could belie the words the other individual is sharing which, in turn, allow the conversation partner to respond to what is really being said and felt.
4. Say “no” to thoughts that have nothing to do with the conversation you are having.
To have a mindful conversation with someone else, you must control your wandering mind–not let it control you. This will involve practice. It will involve re-training your brain.
This is how you do it: each time you find your mind wandering while you are talking with the other person, (mentally) just say “no.” Bring yourself back to the present moment. Focus on the words that are being said.
5. Attempt to truly understand what the other person is saying without judgment, criticism, or defensiveness.
In the event you are involved in a conversation in which the other person says something that offends you, before going off the rails, clarify. Make sure you actually heard what the other person meant to say (or vice versa). If, in fact, the person did say something which hurt you, don’t react immediately. Attempt to understand the true motivation behind the statement.
6. Be aware of how external conditions impact the complexity of your interaction.
Culture, sex, and geographic location affect how individuals interact with one another. A person’s mood will also affect how they approach and receive communication. On top of that, outside circumstances (such as environment) will allow for a clear, uninterrupted exchange… or not.
Just as a tennis player must adjust his or her style based upon the other person’s approach, the composition of the tennis court, and the weather, you should do the same each time you seek to have a mindful conversation with someone else.
7. Respond vs. react.
When you react without forethought, you are jumping to conclusions. When you are jumping to conclusions, you are not really listening to what is being said by the other person. When you aren’t listening to what is being said, you aren’t having a mindful conversation.
When someone makes a statement you would normally be inclined to react to, do this:
Listen. Take a breath. Respond.
8. Make your conversation other-focused.
During many conversations, rather than listening to what the other person is saying, people are more concerned with what they are going to say next. The individual who can’t wait for the other person to stop talking so they can start isn’t focused on the other. When your communication becomes other-focused, you really are trying to understand what your partner is communicating.
This is called listening. Listening helps create mindful conversation. Listening leads to the deepest sort of connection we all seek.
9. Immerse yourself in every word that is spoken and each feeling that arises.
If you would like mindful communication, bathe in the words as they are revealed. Allow yourself to drown in the emotions that are unveiled. Fully express yourself without self-censorship or fear of judgment. Immerse yourself in every instant as it is happening.
As you heighten your awareness during every conversation, every conversation will be elevated to a new level. It will become mindful. It will become mind-blowing.
You will want it. You will need it. You will have to have it.
Each and every single day.
Featured photo credit: Two heads of people with mechanisms via Big Stock Photo