We’ve all been told plenty of times that “communication is key.” In any relationship – personal or professional – good communication is the cornerstone to getting along peacefully. In her book, The Five Keys to Mindful Communication, psychotherapist and long-time Buddhist Susan Chapman demonstrates how the practice of “mindfulness” can change the way we speak to one another in a way that strengthens and enhances relationships in every area of life.
Here are five ways Chapman recommends communicating with others in a more mindful way:
1. Mindful Presence: Focus on the “we,” not the “me.”
“Mindful presence” means being an active listener with an open mind, and trying not to manipulate a conversation or predict its outcome. When you have a mindful presence, you let go of results, which tends to eliminate emotional outbursts or overreacting. When in a mindful presence, communication isn’t focused on what the “me” needs, but on the “we.”
2. Mindful Listening: Step in their shoes.
Mindful listening is about encouraging the other person by trying to understand things from their point of view. It’s about empathizing and hearing them speak from their best, authentic, true self – looking past their flaws.
3. Mindful Speech: Think before you speak.
When speaking mindfully, one is gentle and thoughtful, saying what you mean without being harsh or cruel. It’s about speaking in a way in which our fears and insecurities do not interfere with the message we try to convey. It’s about speaking from a place of truth, and not from a place where the goal is to “win.” There is no exaggerating, lying or nervous energy projected onto the other person when speaking mindfully.
4. Unconditional Friendliness: Accept others.
This means you accept the ups and downs and cyclical patterns of friendships and relationships. Sometimes you’ll feel lonely; sometimes you’ll feel loved. Unconditional friendliness means that you will accept others despite how they may make you feel temporarily, and you won’t cling to relationships when they aren’t working.
5. Mindful Responsiveness: Be in the moment.
Don’t forget to be playful and have fun. Playfulness is the openness that you have when you let go of preconceived notions and strategies. It’s responding to conversations authentically. No games. There are no rules or expectations. Just honesty.
Other useful techniques Chapman suggests are labeling listening as “green-light,” “red-light” or “yellow-light.” This form of mindfulness involves being aware of conversations as they’re taking place.
When you’re green-light listening, you’re able to hear what the other person is saying clearly without letting personal feelings interfere with understanding. When the light is green – go. Communicate honestly and openly.
Red-light listening is when we don’t want to listen, or when we are distracted to the point that we cannot hear what the other person is saying. When the light is red, stop. Set boundaries and put a conversation aside to prevent unnecessary friction and tension.
Yellow-light listening is when there is some confusion as to whether real listening is taking place or not. An example of this is when we feel we are not being heard and a sense of rejection sets in. When you feel the light is yellow – be careful and tread lightly.
Mindful communication requires practice, but Chapman presents accessible strategies from Buddhism to help turn negative listening habits into positive ones to help communicate better and strengthen relationships in every area of life.
To learn more about Chapman, visit susangillischapman.com.