Mindfulness has been described by MBSR founder Jon Kabat-Zinn as “paying attention, on purpose in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” He sometimes adds that mindfulness practice is in the service of self-understanding and wisdom. However, when it comes to mindfulness, we forget an important component and that is how to communicate mindfully?
The Importance of Mindful Communication
We have instinctively learned to speak our minds as most of us believe in the freedom of speech – unless we learn in certain situations not to. We may even express our angst or negativity, thinking it might help us heal quicker. We learned to study many subjects in school and aim to pass examinations. But schools never taught us how to live happily and to speak in ways and in situations where our speech might be effective and mindful.
You may ask the question what is mindful communication and why should we bother with it? The Covid-19 pandemic unfolding globally shows us the importance of speaking mindfully. Much disinformation and politicizing of the virus has caused fear and confusion in some parts of the world. Some opportunists have even capitalized on the spread of disinformation to profit on their goods. Lying and speaking to confuse others is not mindful speech. What is mindful speech? We share 5 ways to speak mindfully.
1. Be Honest and Authentic
A mindful individual is aware of the present moment. Being conscious of the present means to be able to recognize the mind’s chatter that it does not have much grip on reality. Many times, the mind is just going on and on with running comments and judgments. These comments and criticism are constructed by a series of events that we perceive. And our perceptions are incompatible with reality. This helps a mindfulness practitioner to be authentic and refrain from putting into speech the mind’s ramblings.
For someone new in mindfulness, it would help to pause and check that your thoughts are authentic and not hurtful. Authentic means to be truthful and not to lie to benefit yourself – something we have seen too much in politics and business. Even if someone serves you a homecooked meal that you do not really enjoy, you can be truthful in a mindful way. You can thank the friend for making the effort and perhaps find a certain taste that you like. Or gently let the friend know certain ingredients can be improved. Being gentle with someone’s feelings is also part of being mindful.
2. Speech that benefits another
Communicating in a way that benefits another means to not hurt their feelings or to cause them any unhappiness. It also means you are saying something to another to help a friend in their work or self-improvement – such as curbing a short temper or tardiness. Do we say whatever we feel is beneficial to another at anytime of the day? Which brings us to the third point.
3. Timely Speech
Have you ever spoke to your parent or your child only to see a blank look on their faces? It means that no matter how much we feel what we say could be beneficial to another, it cannot benefit them when they do not want to listen. Many times we think we are doing someone good by giving them advise. More likely we are earning their resentment when they have no wish to listen to what we think benefits them. How do we know when to speak in a timely manner?
4. To Talk Mindfully is to Listen
Someone who is practising mindfulness make an effort to listen. Listening 80% of the time and speaking 20% of the time (with authenticity and gentleness) allows you to become more aware of whether the person you are speaking with is open to your suggestions or advise. Nature has indicated the importance of listening. We have two ears and only one mouth. Speaking less and listening more helps us communicate effectively and to the point but in a friendly manner.
5. Friendly Speech
Friendly speech that is authentic, timely and beneficial after deep listening to another, constitutes mindful speech. A friendly or gentle speech is necessary to avoid potential misunderstandings in case you may sound a little too strong and aggressive. We may sound impatient and aggressive without noticing it thinking that we are just being straightforward. It is good to be straightforward and avoid unnecessary chatter. However, it is equally important to maintain goodwill through friendly and honest communication.
Last but not least. you can also experiment by placing your attention at the tip of your nose or above your lips when you speak. Being present is very helpful to allow us to remain authentic and friendly. Communicating mindfully might be a difficult task for anyone. But it can be done and not chatting idly most of the day also supports mindful speech.