I was an extremely shy kid and I would never think one day I would be teaching in front of more than 200 students. I would also never guess I would be invited to speak at conferences or run workshops. I broke through my introverted nature and the fear of being negatively perceived by whatever the size of my audience. How did I change? What did I do? This is the story: one day I was sitting in one of my Positive Psychology undergraduate lectures and our guest speaker was a woman who was working with the concept of mindfulness. She talked about being in the present moment, paying attention to what is unfolding both internally and externally.
I don’t remember anything else from that lecture. I can’t even tell you what her studies were like. I can’t say if she worked with schools, companies, or conducted experimental studies in a lab. I have no idea. My last memory of that class is me disappearing on my seat thinking how it would be like if she applied the concept to public speaking. What would happen if she started paying attention to her audience’s feedback, who was either bored to hell or had fallen asleep in the meantime? What would happen if she used mindfulness to connect with her audience and adjust her speaking to notice how people responded? Would they come back to life? Or would they sleep even more soundly?
Here is the deal about communication: there is a sender, a message, and a receiver. If you’re familiar with the broken telephone game, you know that good communication skills are key to make sure that your message does really come across to the other person. Some of these skills include active listening, asking questions, being assertive, feeling confident, using diplomacy, and many others. I must add, however, a skill that isn’t traditionally worked when addressing communication but which I find crucial. I’m talking about being mindful and using mindfulness principles to not only convey your message but also enhance and take your conversational experiences to a brand new level.
|Active Listening||Asking Questions|
|Being Assertive||Feeling Confident|
|Using Diplomacy||Nonverbal Communication|
The more mindful you are when communicating, the greater the chance you will successfully build rapport, deliver your message, and even create positive momentum with the other person. These ingredients create connections and more meaningful interactions, which are essential to our wellbeing. How do we bring mindfulness into our conversations? We do our best to bring Jon Kabat-Zinn’s nine attitudes of mindfulness to our communication with others. These are nonjudging, acceptance, patience, beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving, letting go, gratitude, and generosity.
communicating with no preconceptions and cognitive biases
having the courage to own our feelings, thoughts, and conditions
practicing is paramount and results take time
being curious about moment to moment changes
trusting that walking the talk will do more good than bad
focus on the process and not just on the end result
knowing you did what you could and nothing more can be done
feeling grateful toward people and situations
being kind and willing to give to others
To display these attitudes you must work on being present to yourself and the other person first. You need to cultivate a focused and clear state of attention and awareness. This sounds harder than it is, to be honest. You simply need to be and that’s it. When we learn to be in such a state and communicate from there with a good dose of positive regard toward other people, the quality of our interactions changes for the better and that’s rewarding in itself. For instance, being generous will help others feel comfortable, welcome, and in turn more receptive to what you have to say. Nonjudging is perhaps one of the most difficult – yet most important – attitudes to develop since it requires lots of self-examination and a great deal of self-awareness and monitoring. Noticing and dealing with our preconceived ideas and automatic reactions is hard to practice but very important to maintain healthy and thriving relationships.
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