Essays & Confessions

What Mindful Communication Is And How It Can Help You Every Day

By | Saturday, January 30, 2016


While I was researching links for this week’s Sunday roundup, I stumbled upon on article on Forbes that caught my eye — Mindful Communication: My Number One Goal For 2016. The article was written by Peter Arvai, the CEO and co-founder of Prezi, who has written a number of thoughtful articles. As the title of the article would suggest, Arvai talks about how we communicate with each other, why we communicate the way we do, and how we can communicate better. He talks about the need for efficiency in his work life, and how that desire to communicate as efficiently as possible in the workplace bleeds into his personal life. Arvai claims that in today’s society, it’s all too easy to be reactionary in our responses to ideas, thoughts, and opinions which are typically expressed digitally. He talks about his overall goal for 2016 — striving to be “less reactive and more proactive in my communication techniques.” I can totally relate.

While that goal might sound stale to some people, I found myself identifying with Arvai’s thoughts on how our collective communication has suffered, despite living in a world where we are more connected than ever before. Studies show that 87% of employees feel disengaged in the workspace, despite having an abundance of tools and resources to help connect us. Personally, I feel that the glut of information is what overwhelms me and dulls my sense of real connection. When everything demands your attention, nothing truly gets it.  I also think that the nature of having information available so immediately compels us all to formulate opinions prematurely. And honestly, it’s hard not to let this happen. I know that I have grown incredibly reactionary when it comes to responding to information. I need to slow down and read more thoroughly (and extensively) before formulating opinions. The author describes how we can combat this urge by stimulating our minds and communication techniques in different ways. Arvai writes:

If we want people to have meaningful conversations, it is important to have variations in the pace of our communication. Opposite of reactionary communication is reflective communication, the “slow food” of interpersonal relationships, if you will. It requires us to step back before talking to someone and spend time connecting the dots. At best, it allows us to craft the gift of insight once we share an idea.

When he relates reflective communication to “slow food,” it reminded me of the value of taking the time to do things right. Really listening to the people around you to make sure what they say is getting heard, and that your response is being communicated in the best possible way. Arvai goes on to talk why idea sharing can and should be fun, and how it results from finding the balance between giving and receiving information. He references Steve Jobs as an example, and writes:

“How can we change our communication habits to make them more effective and fulfilling? By creating a mindful balance between reactive and reflective communication. The outcome of exchanges between people depends on what they bring to the table. Steve Jobs, a master of reflective communication and perhaps one of the best presenters of modern times, serves as a great example how to make space for reflective of work. He would spend days rehearsing his presentations; this thoughtful prep work allowed him to circulate his message throughout the world.”

The author then shares three strategies for practicing his version of mindful communication: 1) Don’t let notifications and messages trigger you, 2) Practice non-judgement, 3) Focus on the end result. These strategies are straightforward and simple, and I, too, want to formulate my own concrete strategies for being more mindful and thoughtful in my own life. Because I work online all day, it’s difficult for me to “turn off” when, for example, I want to cook dinner or watch a movie. Since I always feel “on,” I end up feeling distracted when I actually do need to be productive and get shit done.

My communication techniques feel stale because I rely upon the same methods day in and day out. (I mostly text, never call, and make little effort to go out of my way to see people in person.) That sense of distraction is then compounded with anxiety because I still want to be reachable and feel engaged at all times — I just do an increasingly bad job at it. When I hear any type of social media/email/text notification on my phone, I’m hardwired to respond (almost) immediately. Then sometimes, things go completely unanswered, which is another one of those frustrating “all or nothing” pendulum swings.

That being said, I’ve developed my own three strategies for practicing mindfulness in both my professional and personal life. Obviously, the nature of working online demands a higher level of connectedness, but these are the ways I’m going to try to be a more thoughtful communicator, and “connect” more efficiently.

Take My Time (Where I Can)

I have a bad habit of rushing around, and when that happens, I neglect communication strategies that make my relationships feel meaningful. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s essential to take enough time to complete tasks well, and slowing down to do things the right way makes life better overall. Instead of reading an article and providing an instant reaction and response, like I normally do, I’m going to focus on reading follow-up articles to form a more complete opinion.

Set Time To Go “Offline” 

Whether it be early in the morning or late at night, I want to set a designated time each day during which I can turn off and unplug. I’ve read a lot about the value of unplugging from digital life in order to live better, and it’s no secret that it can improve your mental health. I believe that taking even a half hour a day to do something completely analog will help me feel refreshed and more productive when I do jump back online.

Force Myself To Diversify The Places Where I Do Communicate

Similar to the way in which Arvai urges us to diversify where we communicate, I, too, want to make an effort to change up how and where I interact with others. In the same way that Arvai and his employees ask, “Are we using these tools in a way that helps us be more effective and fulfilled by the work we do?” I want to consider whether a text/call/email/chat/or in-person meet up is the best method. Instead of defaulting to the same old behaviors, I want to more deeply consider how I’m communicating with others, which will increase my mindfulness.

I think everyone could benefit from a little reflection on why and how they respond, communicate, and share ideas with the people around them. While the act of being more mindful in play and work can sound vague and difficult to execute in any practical or tangible way, pausing to reflect on our responses to the world around us is beneficial. It has the ability to improve the relationships in our lives and can help us live lives that are more thoughtful and engaged — and all the richer because of it.

Image in graphic via Unsplash

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