Mindful Communication for Business Leaders

Mindfulness is an art. Mindfulness is an orientation – a way of life – and communication is one of the primary ways we can demonstrate mindfulness.

Communication encompasses more than just the words we speak. It includes our actions, the impressions others perceive while interacting with us, the impact of our written messages, and our body language. Communication is everything that is transmitted from us to others, and it includes both those things we consciously intend to communicate and those things others hear, see, and feel from us (even things we do not intend). Mindful communication is the result of being aware of those messages we send and those that others receive, and creating an environment where open, honest communication can occur. It is pure communication that minimizes misunderstanding and maximizes understanding.

The following actions of mindful communication can help you continue to develop into a mindful communicator in all areas of your life, including your role as a business leader.

Relax

Stress inhibits good communication, and when stress is conveyed by a leader, everyone else perceives it and internalizes it, as well. Prior to any communication in any setting, take an appropriate amount of time to relax – consciously and actively. Take a deep breath through your nose; hold it for a few seconds; let it out slowly. If possible, close your eyes while you do this. If you have a few minutes, read something that will make you laugh, then refocus calmly on the upcoming discussion. How you feel will impact how others feel, so feel good before you begin to communicate.

Prepare

Know what you want to communicate (the overall message, not necessarily the exact words). With the exception of delivering speeches in front of a group, don’t rely on memorized messages; rather, plan the general flow of the conversation and how you want to manage it, but be open to changes that bring deeper, more comprehensive insight and input from others.

Smile

This is advised so often that it tends to be ignored. Even if the topic of conversation is a serious issue, a smile at the beginning of the discussion is critical, to set a tone that will encourage mindful communication. The conversation can be serious and smiles can be scarce during the discussion, but starting with a smile invites others to the conversation.

Listen First

There are rare instances when you will need to give directives right from the start, but those instances truly are rare for those who are mindful leaders. Truly imminent crises are rare; in all other cases, listen first. Introduce the topic, then solicit input.

Understand before You Respond

Listen to understand. Listen until you understand. Restate what is said. Ask for clarification, even when you think you do understand.  Your primary responsibility is to understand first. Only after you understand should you seek to be understood.

Share Your Opinion Last

Form your own opinion only after you have heard from others. Give serious consideration to their input, even if you have to pause during a meeting, and reflect on their opinions for a period of time. Never share your opinion first. More than anything else, that will inhibit honest input and limit the possible insights everyone will receive.

Respect Time

Honor people’s time. Start and end meetings on time.

Remember: At the most basic level, people want to be shown they are respected, appreciated, and loved, but they also want to feel respected, appreciated, and loved. How you communicate is more important than simply what you communicate, since anyone can say anything and be completely insincere. You have to mean what you say, and you have to say it in a way that others feel what you mean.

If you are truly mindful of others, others will be more mindful of you and of themselves, and that expanding mindfulness will improve not only how people feel about each other and their jobs, but also how they perform their jobs.