Mindful communication means listening and speaking with intention, compassion, and awareness. It means being present. Intimate, complex, and necessary for our very survival, mindful communication can profoundly affect our overall health and wellness. Mindful communication not only transmits information, it helps us relate to each other as human beings in a context of relationships, cultures, families, organizations, and nations. What we say, how we say it, and what we mean are important and can be life changing.
To be aware of a single shortcoming within oneself is more useful than to be aware of a thousand in somebody else. Rather than speaking badly about people and in ways that will produce only friction and unrest in their lives, we should practice a purer perception of them, and when we speak of others, speak of their good qualities.
– The Dalai Lama
Effective communication is speech or other methods of relaying information that gets a point across to the receiver in clear and simple terms. Mindful communication is a way of speaking that facilitates the flow of communication to exchange information and resolve differences in a peaceful manner.
The importance mindful communication cannot be overstated:
- Mindful communication is a skill that is as essential to clinical competence as knowledge, skills, problem-solving abilities, and effective assessment techniques. Without proper communication skills, all the other efforts may be wasted.
- Communication is an interaction between the internal and external factors in any given instance. Understanding and accepting that one cannot control others and/or situations can create the psychological freedom necessary to develop insight into one’s own behaviors and lead to positive change and improved communication.
Think Before Speaking
When someone asks you a question, don’t just immediately start talking. Take at least ten to twenty seconds (or more) to think about the question and how you want to answer it.
Choose Your Words Consciously
Just because something makes sense to you does not mean it will make sense to the other person with whom you are communicating. Painful words can cause more damage than physical pain, so choose your words consciously and carefully.
Speak Your Truth
Many times, when we talk to someone, we like to project a certain image of ourselves. For example, we may not want to appear to have faults or we may want to appear as perfect as possible. The best thing you can do is to be yourself. Mindful communication means speaking your truth with compassion and kindness.
Mean What You Say
When communicating with others, follow through with what you have told them you will do. Mindful communication means keeping promises—saying what you will do and doing what you say. For example, if you have no desire to talk to someone ever again, do not tell them you will “give them a call sometime.”
Having healthy, respectful, empowering relationships involves using mindful communication practices and principles. We all want to be heard and understood. Sometimes in order to have someone hear and understand us, we have to hear and understand them first.