Practicing Mindful Communication in Your Life
Mindfulness is not just for the meditation cushion where we are silent. We can bring it to daily life in many ways, engaging with the world with awareness and care. One way we can do this is through the practice of mindful communication.
Like other aspects of our lives, we can dedicate time, energy, and effort toward being present when communicating with others. This includes listening, speaking, and the space between. Whether you’re interested in practicing mindful communication in the workplace or you want to bring awareness to your intimate relationships, I want to offer a few ways you can be mindful in your relationships.
What Does it Mean to Communicate Skillfully?
Learning to communicate with awareness and presence can go a long way in all of our relationships. From the everyday occurrences to the more difficult conversations, mindfully conversing with others can help you to really understand, reduce reactivity, and cultivate healthy relationships.
There are many pieces to mindful communication, but we can try to simplify to this: It is the practice and act of engaging in conversation in a way that serves all parties involved. There are basics of wise speech to observe such as not lying, not gossiping, speaking with the intention of kindness, and choosing the right timing.
There’s also the piece of mindful listening. We don’t only speak with awareness; we also listen with it. As hard as it may be at times, listening and allowing space can be one of the greatest things we can do for others. We can focus on our desire to react, and instead continue listening.
Mindful communication means recognizing our place in the conversation, allowing space for others, and bringing honesty to the table. We don’t need to always have the answer, and we don’t need to fix every situation right away. For example, when we were talking about picking up and moving to Playa del Carmen, we had some disagreements. It was a tough decision, and we both found ourselves growing defensive.
Together, we decided to take a break from the conversation several times. We did so not out aversion or anger, but in order to collect thoughts and communicate more effectively during the conversation. Recognizing the moments where we’ve fallen into mindlessness is a key piece of communicating mindfully.
“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”
-Thich Nhat Hanh
“When we say something that nourishes us 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.”
-Thich Nhat Hanh
“And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.”
“In those moments when we realize how much we cannot control, we can learn to let go.”
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”
Principles of Mindful Communication
First, bring some metta to the conversation. Open the heart, and remember that the other person wants to be happy just like you, even if it looks different. Metta, or loving-kindness, can help us show up with true care and gentleness.
Next, honesty is crucial. We don’t need to be “brutally” honest. We can be kind, choose words wisely, and minimize any harm caused. Remember that sometimes honesty may hurt, but it actually relieves suffering in the long run.
In line with honesty, vulnerability is an important part of mindful relationships. Allow yourself to be as vulnerable as possible, recognizing you may need to step outside of your comfort zone at times. At the same time, create a space that allows the other person or people to be vulnerable. Listen, don’t judge.
Finally, recognition holds it all together. We must recognize many things with awareness. We see the limits of our knowledge and understanding, recognize when we are growing upset or angry, and recognize how our words may be impacting the other person. Recognition is a key part of mindfulness, and ever-important with mindful communication. Recognize what is going on in your moment to moment exprience.
Mindful Communication Exercises
There are many ways to dedicate time and energy to cultivating an ability to converse with mindfulness. If you have somebody you can sit down with, dyad practices can create a safe environment to deeply investigate mindfulness in your relationship. You can find some simple instructions for mindful communication exercises toward the bottom of our Couples Meditations page. You don’t have to be a couple to utilize these.
For more exercises and activities, we do have our Practice for Two CD and the Practice for Two Online Course. These offerings utilize the dyads, mindful talking, and dedicated listening to help you really look at what it means to create space for skillful communication. Each exercise takes about ten minutes, and they have made a huge difference in our lives.
If you are looking for a mindful communication training, we recommend checking out Mindful Schools. This is not an affiliate link nor an ad. We truly love them, and they have fantastic programs that are worth checking out!
I also recommend reading Elizabeth’s series on healthy communication. You can find the first post here.