“Great communication begins with connection.” ~ Oprah Winfrey
How would you describe the way you communicate with others? Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the way people communicate. The way that I communicate. Especially since the COVID-19 pandemic shifted the way we had to communicate and the new ways that we do now.
Every single day we communicate. Whether it’s through our words, lack thereof, body language and/or actions, we are engaged in some form of communication. There are many different ways we can communicate with others. Face-to-face, over the phone, virtually/remotely, or in writing. Such as through text messages or written letters. Just to list a few. Compared to years ago, we have so many more methods of communication available to us.
Because of just how important communication is in our personal and professional relationships, I believe it’s important that we take time to reflect more deeply about how we communicate with others, and about ways we can do so mindfully and effectively. One of those ways can be through mindful communication.
What is Mindful Communication?
Mindful communication is the way in which we can bring awareness, attention and compassion to how we communicate with others. When we become aware of how we communicate with others through our words, body language and/or actions, we can start to pay close attention to how it influences the nature of our conversations and relationships. While there are many different methods that can be used in mindful communication, I’m going to share one I discovered by Gregory Kramer, author of Insight Dialogue: The Interpersonal Path to Freedom. He shares 6 meditation instruction steps (Insight Dialogue Guidelines) that can be used in interpersonal relationships.
1. Pause: Mindfulness
This consists of stepping out of the daily rush and letting go of whatever the mind may be attached to at the moment. It is a movement of the mind towards being more awake and present to a moment of dialogue. This can happen through paying attention to the breath and having a sense of body awareness to ground you. It includes noticing where you are externally (e.g., anything outside and around you), and internally (e.g., thoughts and feelings). In this way, you can enter communication with the whole mind, body and heart.
2. Relax: Tranquility & Receptivity
This step consists of relaxing muscles that are tense and paying attention to the feelings that come with relaxing, such as ease, allowing, and letting go. This can be tested in places that are not usually attended to such as the muscles below the eyes. Relaxation of other parts of the body such as the jaw and shoulders allows the mind and emotions to follow. This step helps to bring about mental tranquility and serenity, and can be explored as you speak and listen to others.
3. Open: Relationality
This step is about how we relate to others and invites an open inquiry into our internal and external experiences. It allows us to look at how mindfulness is resting, whether it be internally, externally or both. This is an intimate experience which allows us to notice where the mind is in each moment and what is being received (e.g., voice, face, eyes, pain, love, beauty, horror, tragedy, potential).
4. Trust Emergence: Attunement
This step is about having the flexibility to trust what will emerge in conversation.
5. Listen Deeply: Meditate
This is all about showing up and paying full attention. It includes a steady quality of listening which matures and develops through concentration. Through this step, you can begin to notice how you make sense and attend to something, while also observing and listening to the phasing, pauses, pitch and changes in loudness in another person’s voice. This also includes noticing beyond one’s language and words and actually hearing the person.
6. Speak the Truth: Language
This step pairs together with the former step – listen deeply, since speaking begins with listening. This step also flows out of the first 4 steps. Kramer says, “It rests on the mindfulness of the pause. It stabilizes with relax. It engages relationally with open. It gains flexibility with trust emergence. To speak the truth, we have to first know what the truth is”. It also includes discerning what gets spoken and what is left unspoken, and giving language to the moment of awareness.
How might you begin to integrate any of these steps into your communication with others?
To learn more about Gregory Kramer’s Insight Dialogue Guidelines
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