Mindfulness is not simply a solitary practice. Like it or not, we live in a world filled with other people! We can use mindfulness to help us to communicate with others more effectively – paying more attention both to ourselves and others.
Often when we have conversations, we don’t really listen to what the other person is saying. Instead, we are distracted by planning what we are going to say next. Listening is a practice:
Levels of listening:
Often we are distracted by other things when someone is talking. Maybe we have something on our mind. Or maybe we have the TV or radio on or are looking at our phone. Some distraction is unavoidable, but if possible see if we can avoid multi-tasking and focus on the other person.
Sometimes when we are talking to our friend, our desire to talk about ourselves takes over. We might jump in with ‘oh yes that happened to me too!’ And suddenly the conversation is all about us! Sometimes that’s appropriate but sometimes that means that we don’t really hear what the other person is saying. Notice what happens if you focus on the other person, rather than on comparing their experience with yours.
It can be really helpful to try and give advice. Sometimes this is welcome. Sometimes it isn’t. Maybe ask your friend if they want advice before giving it.
Active/ Engaged listening
This is a more mindful form of communication. We might not be able to listen like this all the time. But when we do, it can really transform our relationships.
Tips for Active Listening
- Look at body language.
- Notice the tone of voice that your friend is using.
- Ask questions. If you are not sure what your friend means just ask!
- Take the time. If we are in a rush then we might miss things. Take the time to listen to our friends.
Responding with compassion
Mindfulness can help us to make a positive choice to respond rather than react. This is easier said than done but with practice we can learn to respond to with kindness and compassion. Pause and choose your words carefully. Choose words that are respectful, using a tone that is calm and non-threatening. Always remember that it isn’t always necessary to give your opinion, sometimes silence and hug is better than a verbal response.
Before you respond try to apply the triple filter test;
- Is it true and honest?
- Is it kind?
- Is it necessary or useful?
Or simply ask yourself ‘what is the most compassionate response i can give?’
Mindfulness can help us to manage our stress and pain but it’s greatest value is in its increase our awareness of self and others. With regular practice of Mindfulness, loving-kindness meditation and active listening we can transform and strengthen our relationships. To find out more about how mindfulness can improve your relationships check out Mindful Therapies courses and regular drop-in classes.