Hello Peaceful Living Warriors!
It’s February and I’m thinking about relationships again. Last year during the month of Love we talked about Dr. Chapman’s 5 Love Languages & how to “Grow Your Friend Tribe.” This year it’s all about strengthening your relationships with Mindful Communication and THREE crucial skills!
Each week for the next three weeks I will be covering a said “crucial skill.” THIS WEEK I am going to cover the basics of Mindful Communication
It’s a wonderful, romantic thought that, “Love is All You Need.” And, heck, it’s an awesome lyric! Thanks Beatles! But, truthfully, while love creates a necessary solid foundation, some mindful communication skills will get you through the hard times every long-lasting relationship will face.
Most of us, by the time we’re adults, have either experienced or witnessed love dwindling out. Or, even worse, we’ve been hurt by, or seen people get very hurt because of, love.
That said, when love is good, it is GOOD!!!
Mindful Communication skills can help it stay that way.
Many of you may be asking, “Jen, we hear all the time about how important communication is, but WHAT are Mindful Communication skills?”
The short answer is the Mindful Communication is thoughtful communication. The long answer is, that there have been entire books written on the subject. For the purposes of this blog I am going to cover 5 of what I consider to be the most important skills
WHAT EXACTLY IS MINDFUL COMMUNICATION?
But, first I want to talk about what Mindful Communication is in general. Mindful Communication starts with calmness. It is open, empathetic and kind. At the same time, it is not necessarily passive. Mindful Communication allows a person to be assertive without being aggressive. It allows a person to say what they mean, without being mean. But, it also does not mean that they need to be subject to aggressive communication from the other person (or people) in the conversation.
I organize Mindful Communication into 5 key points of understanding:
There is a very wise saying that was taught to me many years ago. It goes like this:
“Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But, don’t say it mean.”
The meaning behind this saying underscores my first point. You can be confident – in other words, “say what you mean & mean what you say.” But, you do not need say things with an aggressive (mean) tone to be heard or understood. If you speak in a calm and confident tone, but state clearly what your meaning is or your wants are, it is more likely that you will be heard and understood by the person listening to you. Humans by nature do not respond well to yelling or negative tones of voice.
2. Think with empathy:
The definition of empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person (Oxford English Dictionary). Empathy comes from a point of view that is not judgmental, critical or defensive. There is an old Native American saying that illustrates this point well:
“Never criticize a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins”
The meaning behind this proverb is to say that we cannot understand another person until we really experience their life from their perspective. There are times when we actually can have true empathy. That is, we have experienced a similar situation in our own lives.
We can do this with communication skills. We can decide that we will not assume that the other person is speaking from a place of negativity, criticism or aggression. We can also assume a neutral tone in with our own words.
3. Listen with compassion:
Listening with compassion comes naturally from thinking with empathy. Using empathetic thinking helps us to have compassion when the speaker does not communicate using mindful communication. In order to listen with compassion we need to think about WHY the person might be speaking without using mindful communication. Did our significant other have a really hard day at work? Did our friend just have an argument with her significant other, so she’s feeling hurt and impatient? Remembering that we do not always know what is going on in another person’s life is key to listening with compassion.
4. Respond with understanding:
Having compassion does not, however, mean that you need to be passive or that you should not communicate to the speaker about your feelings. If a significant other yells at you, it is okay to mindfully (calmly and gently) communicate to the adult that your feelings are hurt, but that you understand the point they are trying to make. A compassionate and mindful response would go something like this:
I feel hurt that you are yelling at me, but I understand that you are frustrated (or angry). I hear what you are saying. You would like me to make sure I do not leave the gas tank in the car empty when I use your car. I see how that can be frustrating for you because you then need to take the time to fill the gas tank. I will make sure I fill it in the future.
If you look carefully at that statement. It communicates right up front that you are hurt by the way in which the message was delivered. But, it also lets the other person know that you understand their point of view and their frustration. It also lets that person know that you will be more careful in the future. Overall, this statement asserts your feelings, but also shows respect for the other person.
5. Be flexible:
Sometimes when I explain mindful communication to people they mistake it for a way to be manipulative and get exactly what they want. That is not the point of mindful communication. The point of Mindful Communication is to find a mutually agreeable solution. Getting your way is not the end goal. Doing what you can to get exactly what you want is not mindful communication. That is not to say that you will not end-up getting exactly what you want. You very well may, because you used mindful, non-aggressive communication. But, be open-minded to compromising. That is the most important part of being flexible.
Therapists sometimes use the metaphor of a “bubble gum brain” vs. a “brick brain,” when trying to get across the meaning of being flexible in your thinking. I like this metaphor because it is really easy to picture a brain as a brick and a brain as a piece of chewy bubble gum. I also like it because bubble gum is something that is flexible, but resilient! When using mindful communication your responses are empathetic, compassionate, understanding AND resilient! Bubble gum oozes and changes shape, but it does not disintegrate. When you are using mindful communication you are willing to change how you respond. You are willing to see things from the other person’s point-of-view. You are willing to see a change in the outcome, BUT you are not completely disintegrating your own point-of-view.
These 5 points briefly cover what I consider to be the most important tenents of Mindful Communication. If you are interested in learning more about Mindful Communication skills and how to use them to enhance your interactions with other human beings, this is a topic I cover in depth in my Empowered Through Peace Coaching. Feel free to reach out and we can talk about getting you into one of my coaching groups either in-person or virtually!
In the meantime… Stay tuned to the blog all this month as I lead you through the often scary/ challenging/ rocky path of three areas of communication in relationships where Mindful Communication skills will serve you well!
STAY TUNED THIS MONTH:
THE POWER OF APOLOGY
I’m starting the series with what many people consider to be one of the most challenging Mindful Communication Skill: Apology
I talk about why it’s important and how to go about apologizing with courage, sincerity and grace.
THE FREEDOM OF FORGIVENESS
It was once said to me, “forgiveness is for you. It frees you from stewing in resentment.” I will discuss how while this was hard to hear and accept at first, when I finally allowed myself to forgive it was, indeed, a very freeing experience!
THE BRAVERY OF SETTING BOUNDARIES
I’m going to end the month by talking about boundaries. It is often the case that we actually need to set boundaries with those very people whom we had to also forgive. It can take incredible bravery to set boundaries with some people. But, it is of utmost importance to do this so we don’t get (maybe even, hurt again!)
As always, I would love to hear from you!
I welcome your comments and questions!
Let me know how Mindful Communication is working in your life!
Love & Light,
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