Here’s one thing I absolutely hate when talking with someone: Having to repeat myself again simply because they were not paying attention the first time.
Sure, they were probably not doing it on purpose. But seriously, that’s not a good enough reason. Not paying attention (especially if it’s important) shows you lack interest and care for what the other person is saying.
That leads to a lot of negative outcomes: The other person might feel unappreciated and unimportant, you might miss an important detail to an instruction, potentially offend the other person for appearing like you don’t care, and a lot more.
A lot of problems and conflict can be avoided if we simply listen and give our undivided attention to the other person. And it helps you too because it helps you really connect and understand people.
Why do you think Oprah’s show was such a big hit? Because she was exceptional at listening to her guests. She gave them her 100% attention. She showed true interest and awe to each word. And that made her guests feel special, which lead them to share genuine thoughts and feelings, leading to a terrific conversation really worth listening to.
How do you develop your communication skills? Simple: By applying the principles of meditation.
When we're tired or angry, we tend to lose control of our emotions. There's more risk of being insensitive and confrontational during conversations.
For example, say you’re on your way home from a very busy day at work. It’s late. You look forward to going to bed early.
However, upon arriving, your wife tells you about a leak in the faucet and asks if you can help your daughter with her homework tonight because she (your wife) has a conference call with a client.
How will most people react? I’ll be honest, if it was me, I’ll probably start an endless rant about how awful my day was and start thinking about how unlucky I am. I’ll end up arguing with my wife and taking those negative feelings with me to bed. Worse, I might end up saying hurtful things that I will regret later.
Is there a better way to handle this situation? Yes. Instead of being reactive to the issue, I can pause, calm myself, reflect, and respond accordingly.
Meditation allows us to take a third-person view of ourselves and see the situation from a neutral position. This allows us to untangle our negative emotions from our actions.
Does this mean sweeping our emotions under the rug each time they appear? No. You still have to acknowledge your true feelings.
Be mad if you truly are. Be sad, be happy. Whatever it may be, you'll always have to be true to yourself. What meditation does in this situation is bring you back more quickly from a state of unpleasant mood so you won't have to carry it with you the whole day.
Doing this will make you a better communicator because it sheds off negative emotions and feelings faster, allowing you to reset your mood faster so you won't end up yelling at other people.
Meditation promotes focus, which when used in communication, allows us to be better at listening to and understanding people.
Sometimes, our attention drifts when conversing with someone. It’s normal, it’s not a bad thing. However, we should make an effort to be aware that this is happening or we’ll risk looking like we aren’t listening to what the other person is saying.
Think about it, how many times were you asked, “Are you even listening? I’m talking to you!” Ouch. We didn’t mean our minds to drift but when it does, it’s hurtful to the other person as it shows lack of interest and care.
By being more mindful (which you get through meditation), you develop the ability to refocus quickly. As Sarah McLean, the director of McLean Meditation Institute says about mindfulness, “It cultivates the attention necessary for anyone to become aware of and redirect their thoughts, again and again back to what they are actually engaged in.”
For example, let's say your friend just went through a really tough emotional experience. By being able to focus on her words and the meaning behind each of them, you give her 100% of your attention and really understand what she's trying to express. Aside from getting better insight to her story (which will help you give meaningful advice if needed), you also show her that you're truly there for her because she sees that you’re intently listening and have your undivided attention.
Sometimes, this is all that people need when going through a rough time. Having someone to listen to them and vent out to. Through the practice of meditation, we become better listeners and friends.
There are always two sides to a story. Whether you're a parent listening to your two kids explain why they're quarreling or a boss mediating an argument between two employees, the key to making a sound decision is listening without any biases or judgment.
How does meditation help us make better decisions? By allowing us to detach from ourselves (personal preferences, bias, beliefs, etc.,) and see the situation based on pure facts alone. It clears your mind and enables you to focus on what's being said.
If you think about it, most arguments really boil down to a difference in perspective. By being a mindful listener, you'll see each perspective through the lens of someone without preference over anyone and reach a fair and meaningful conclusion.
Meditation promotes the exercise of detaching our "true self" from our minds and see things from a better viewpoint. For example, let's say you'll be meeting with a client for a project proposal.
The usual scenario will be like this: You prepare the proposal, list down what you think is best, anticipate and have answers for each potential question, practice your pitch and final offer.
While this is all fine and good, you can significantly increase your chances of success by focusing your intention to the client themselves instead of your pitch.
More often than not, we tend to focus on our own beliefs and preferences when trying to convince someone. We don’t realize that others will be more willing to believe and trust us by simply putting ourselves in their shoes.
Note that it doesn’t mean you’ll have to agree or take the other person’s stance. It’s all about focusing and understanding what the other person is truly saying so you can craft a win-win solution for everyone.
The following are actual steps that incorporate principles of meditation for becoming a better communicator.
Step 1: Clear your mind of any unrelated thoughts when someone is talking or prior to starting a conversation.
Step 2: Let them finish, don’t interrupt them while they’re talking.
Step 3: Maintain good eye contact. I try to focus on just one eye only since it prevents my own eyes from darting left and right.
Step 4: Let them pour it all out. If they’re sad, let them cry it out. If they’re mad, let them vent out. Don’t try to fix their feelings yet. Remember, they have to get those negative feelings out first before they can feel better.
Step 5: Practice empathy. Put yourself in their shoes. Take their viewpoint about the topic. Try to assess the situation based on their own perspective. Doing this will allow you to understand where they’re coming from.
Step 6: Clarify if something is not clear. But don’t do it immediately. Wait for your turn.
Step 7: Be mindful of your words. Be honest, direct and compassionate with your sentences.
Becoming a better communicator is all about “being present” to the other person and listening without distraction to what they’re saying. By applying the principles of meditation in communicating, we develop better and healthier relationships with others.
Amiel is a staff writer at Kaiya, who enjoys the simple things that life has to offer. When not reading, he's usually taking long walks, or spending time with his family.