Feeling connected has a significant impact on our health and well-being, but a surprising number of people don’t feel connected.1 We can all feel emotionally disconnected at times. Are you looking for a way to build better relationships—with friends, with those you work with, at home or even when you are traveling?
It isn’t easy getting connected, and a lot can get in the way. Being busy is one of the many reasons. Sometimes it is as straight forward as stop talking, focus and really listen.
It is possible though to become better connected in a meaningful way by making a few simple changes in how we interact daily with others—even when we are on the run.
It is called ‘Mindful Communication’.2 What is mindful communication and how does it work?
Mindful communication is an alternative means of communicating from a place of wanting to connect, (i.e., rather than focusing on saying the right thing back). It is a means by which we can become more emotionally present.
A study examined recent clinical trials of mindfulness-based interventions in older adults as an accessible and effective means of promoting emotional and cognitive health.3 This review found growing support for mindfulness interventions as a means to address mild to moderate clinical concerns, including anxiety and depression.
One of the ways I am building mindful communication in my life, is challenging myself to be a better listener by becoming more present. At times when I am listening to someone share, I catch myself planning what I am going to say next, rather than truly listening.
I’ve noticed it can depend on how much coffee I’ve had that day! If I disagree, I’m already preparing an argument, or my mind drifts off to what I’m doing next. Or if the person I am listening to has a problem, I am mapping out the advice I’ll give.
Here are four easy approaches to mindful communication I have found helpful:
- Listen carefully. Practice listening closely, listening attentively, even if just for a minute. Look for the meaning or emotion that often lies behind the words being used, e.g., Someone is smiling when they are really sad.
- The power of the pause. Don’t rush in to answer, fix the solution, or give advice. Take a deep breath (try counting to 5), say nothing and wait. Practice being comfortable with silence. Then say something like: “Tell me more about that. Take your time.”
- Suspend judgement. Before responding, consider this: “Is this something that would be helpful if it were said to me?” Even though you may have opinions about how the person should do things, try to put them off to the side and just be present.
- Demonstrate empathy. The more we find an authentic empathy for what others are going through, the better we can connect. There is a beautiful saying: “Be kind, everyone is carrying a heavy burden.” People with dementia may have trouble articulating exactly what they want to say. Although we may not know exactly what their burden is, we can try and find some way to identify with what they are feeling. Consider saying: “Thank you for sharing that.” or perhaps “I’m sorry you are going through this. That must be so difficult for you.”
Submitted by Kristine Theurer,
MA (Gerontology), MTA
1Hawkley, L. C., Kozloski, M., & Wong, J. (2016). A profile of social connectedness in older adults. Retrieved September 11, 2018 from https://connect2affect.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/A-Profile-of-Social-Connectedness.pdf
2Smoski, M., J., McClintock, A., & Keeling, L. (2016). Mindfulness training for emotional and cognitive health in late life. Current Behavioral Neuroscience Reports, 3(4), 301-307. doi:10.1007/s40473-016-0097-y
3Communicating Mindfully in Relationships: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/conscious-communication/201709/communicating-mindfully-in-relationships