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Being present = more effective communication

Four tips for mindful communication

By Andrea Bodie
Wednesday, November 6, 2013

If you've ever felt the frustration of trying to have a conversation with someone who is plugged into their PDA, otherwise focused or just completely unavailable, you realize how important communication is.

Or more accurately, effective communication.

The constant exchange of information is a critical part of delivering health care. There is always information to share that will help enhance care, improve what we know or build key relationships. It is also an important part of the relationships that often mean the most to us - the ones with the people we love.

How can we get better at sharing the information required to do our jobs? And how can we become better communicators at home too? What does good, effective communication entail?

A mindful component, says Janice Marturano, Executive Director of the Institute for Mindful Leadership.

Being mindful involves being fully present in the moment. That includes noticing and acknowledging what is, with compassion.

"Presence is felt. People know when you're with them, hearing them," says Marturano. "When we're communicating mindfully, our exchange is not only more effective but it can often be more meaningful because we're paying better attention to the nuances of what someone is telling us."

Communicating mindfully doesn't necessarily take more time - nor does it require the person you're communicating with to be communicating mindfully - you alone can change the dynamic of your interactions. But it does involve considering four key elements that can enhance how we're communicating and what we're bringing to the moment: pausing, opening to what is, listening deeply and being truthful.

Marturano encourages people to consider taking a breath and a pause before they speak. "This allows you to connect with yourself. To notice what's going on in your mind, body and heart," she says. "That can help lead you to what is here right now, and notice that."

You may notice some anxiety in your body, for example. That can help you provide yourself with some support in communicating challenging information or emotions. You may notice it's important to you to communicate this clearly. You may notice you're looking forward to sharing something with someone.

All of this is helpful information, according to Marturano. "In listening deeply to ourselves and others, we open our capacity to truly connect," she says.

That's when we may notice cues the person we're communicating with is offering us. How are they reacting to the information? Here's where Marturano encourages us to not jump in or interrupt, but to ride the pause out and allow the opportunity for the person to continue to talk.

Why? "Because that's where our communication can go deeper. If there's a pause in your interaction, don't rush to fill it," she suggests. "That's where you may be able to gain some important insight or information."

Incorporating truth can also help deepen our communication. The important distinction with that element, notes Marturano, is that we share the truth without an intention to harm. "There are ways to communicate your truth without hurting someone," she says. "If you are present and mindful you are in a stronger position to choose your words more carefully so that you can be clear instead of reacting."