Are You a Shitty Conversationalist?: Using Mindfulness to Make Meaningful Connections
Are you guilty of drifting off mid-convo; then internally panicking because you have no idea what the other person said?
The Struggle: Your internal chatter is sabotaging your interactions
Have you ever been mid-convo and realized you were worrying so much about what you were going to say that you completely missed what the other person said? Or even worse, rushed to end the conversation because your mind was racing with "more important" things you needed to do? Ugh. Guilty. Embarrassed.
Sadly, I find this happens to me more often than I would like to admit. The anxiety of wanting to make a good impression is sneakily sabotaging me, resulting in the opposite intended effect. I find myself not being fully present. I am talking to the person, but I am not communicating; I’m just going through the motions while my head is somewhere else. The result is a surface-level, disengaged connection. I am missing out, not only on the actual words the other person is saying, but the chance to make a meaningful connection with another human.
In our modern society, so much of our interactions have become superficial in this way. We power through our days as if in a trance, on autopilot to complete what is required of us. Our addiction to our devices and social media often give us a facade, a false sense of connection. The reality is we are biologically hardwired as humans to be social beings and to connect our nervous systems on a deeper level. We suffer when our social bonds suffer. Which is why mindful conversation has become one of my 2019 goals.
The Solution: Mindful conversation
So what is a mindful conversation? Mindfulness practice can be applied to almost any aspect of life, but I have found its core values particularly handy when it comes to communicating. Mindfulness is defined as deliberate, nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment, so let’s break this down in application to communicating:
Purposeful and intentional concentration on what the other person is saying.
Listening attentively and patiently (aka don't interject with your opinion or improved version of the story!)
Look the other person in the eyes and take in all their non-verbal vibes (just don't forget to blink).
Put yourself in the other's shoes. You obvi want to be paid attention to in a conversation!
Treat the other with respect, empathy, and compassion. Try to see things from the other's perspective (a person who was raised and experienced things completely different than you).
Try to let go of expectations or preconceived notions of how the conversation is supposed to play out, or else you may hear what you want to hear instead of what was actually said.
The present moment:
Quiet the inner chatter and put expressing your thoughts aside to be fully present while the other person is talking.
Take a second to pause before you speak - take a breath and consider what you are about to say.
Stop glancing at your phone and stop flitting your eyelids around the room, preventing distractions.
The Science: We are hard-wired to connect
Communication is key to successful human interaction. Our brains and nervous systems are wired to reach out and interact together, and our social behavior is part of what has helped make us the most successful species. However, over the last 50 years, we have started to deny our social nature and our social connections have been dissolving. As a result, the last 50 years have seen increased rates of depression and suicide and decreased levels of happiness. When we feel connected, we feel whole, and we love being in the world. And the logical first place to start is our most basic level of connecting - conversing!
In Conclusion: Be the charmer you always dreamed of being
Mindful conversation is challenging and it’s easy to revert back to old habits, but I guarantee its benefits will surpass all expectations. You will make the people you surround yourself with feel supported and understood. You will see relationships improve, new friends gained, collaboration flourish, and maybe even woo the love of your life with your charming, charismatic impression.
Share your mindful moments and tips at #HowIRecalibrate and be sure to tag @recalibratestudio
Learn more about author Jennifer Valenza in her bio.