Communicating mindfully has two components: mindful listening and mindful speaking
In previous weeks, we’ve already discovered how mindfulness can be helpful in creating and maintaining a deep and meaningful relationship with your partner. Last week we focused on mindful listening.
But mindful communication is about more than just listening mindfully. It's also about mindful speaking.
This week, we’ll focus on what you actually say in a given situation.
Speaking mindfully when it's needed the most
When something isn’t going right and you are upset or disagree with your partner, it’s already hard enough to just listen to them and not barge right in with a comment or counter-argument. But at some point, you are going to have to say something.
Then what? Are you going to show you are upset or distressed? Might you say things you will regret later on? When we speak mindlessly, we’re so much more likely to hurt others, to repeat ourselves, to sway off topic, to say things we did not mean to say, or to get much more involved than we wanted.
To me, at least, that is the biggest problem. I get tired and impatient when I have said “Brush your teeth” to my kids about 20 times within a few minutes and still nothing is happening. I might feel defensive when my husband is asking whether I’ve done the laundry when I’ve been running around all day doing errands.
So this week, let’s focus on speaking mindfully with our loved ones.
The how-tos of mindful speaking
How do you do that? Here are some ideas for mindful speaking:
1. Keep your emotions out.
This is a hard one. Keep your emotions in check as you listen to your loved ones and interact with them. And more importantly, keep those emotions out when you respond!
Easier said than done if you’re a hothead like I am. How, exactly, are you supposed to do that in the heat of the moment?
Well, try to remember that (in most cases, at least!) your loved one is NOT out to hurt you.
Do not judge and remember that people DO have different perspectives and that this is not a bad thing by default.
Focus on the moment and on what is being said without getting carried away.
2. THINK before you speak
THINK is an acronym that can help you evaluate if you should really say what you’re about to say. It stands for
T — True: Is what you’re saying true?
H — Helpful: Is it helpful what you’re about to say?
I — Inspiring/Informative: Is what you're saying inspirational or are you providing important information?
N — Necessary: Is it necessary to say what you have to say?
K — Kind: Is what you have to say kind or are you hurting someone with what you’re about to say?
Take a moment to THINK before you speak. Are you really going to say what was on your tongue a moment ago? Or is it better left unsaid or reformulated?
3. Stay on topic
Do not switch to other topics. “Well, I just wanted to remind you that not only did you not put your clothes away like I have asked you about a million times but you also forgot to go shopping. You don’t ever do anything I ask you to, and it’s not like I don’t have anything else to do.”
If you’re talking about one topic, don’t make it a bigger issue (particularly when you feel emotionally involved already).
Stay on topic, stay fair and as objective as you can. Look at your partner or child and see if you need to clarify what you’re saying.
4. Be concise and specific in what you say
Provide explanations and examples, if necessary, or explain how you feel about the topic under discussion.
Since humans are so inherently social, mindful listening and speaking are one of the best ways to help you efficiently interact with others, create a meaningful connection and increasing your chances that you meet your own goals.
Remember, being mindful sounds easy but it’s really hard to achieve in everyday life. Be forgiving with yourself if you fail and keep in mind there’s always a next time to try!