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Mindfulness and effective communication

April 27, 2011

Over the past week I have been suffering from the ubiquitous complaint of an office- based, middle-aged man – a sore back.

However, on this occasion rather than follow the mainstream approach of visiting a physiotherapist I opted for treatment by yoga therapy.

While some of the yoga exercises prescribed were in fact similar those previously given by conventional medicine, the principle difference in treatment lay in the inclusion of daily ‘mindful’ breathing exercises and meditation. As well as treating my back, the treatment also re-ignited an interest in mindfulness and set me thinking about the impact it can have on communication.

Mindfulness has been a foundation of Buddhist and other esoteric teaching for thousands of years but it is only in recent years that is has gained a level of acceptance by western thinking and, increasingly, with corporate wellbeing initiatives in the workplace.

In simple terms, mindfulness is about bringing one’s complete attention to being in the present moment. This leads to a heightened state of alertness and awareness of thoughts and feelings while being able to suspend judgment on those thoughts.

So what does this mean for our ability to communicate effectively?

By being truly in the moment we are better able to pay attention to what is actually being said rather than what we think we are hearing or want to hear. By ‘letting go’ of past judgments, we are better able to hear, understand and respond appropriately to the situation.

For example, who has taken offence at a poorly worded email and immediately fired off a reply only to regret doing so on re-reading the email the following day? Or similarly, arriving at a face-to-face meeting with a head full of preconceived ideas about others’ views to the extent that you cannot get beyond these judgments irrespective of what is actually communicated at the meeting?

Would a little more mindfulness have helped in these situations?

I believe so – being present and aware can only improve my ability to make appropriate choices in how I communicate and respond to others.  What do you think?

PS And my back is feeling much better too!

Further reading

  1. Jiovann Carrasco, MA, LPC-S permalink

    Glad to hear your feeling better! I have to sit for 50 minutes at a time at my job (I’m a therapist). So I have to schedule breaks to do some stretching between sessions, maybe take a walk in the parking lot to get the old circulation going. Anyway, I agree with all you said about mindfulness in communication. I’ve found it to be the antidote to many things in life.

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