Marut Bhardwaj is the Country Head of Potential Project, India- a global consulting & professional services firm that partners with organizations to create a more human world of work. She is a leadership development speaker and facilitator transforming the competitive corporate chaos into a more humane world of work so that the organizations and its employees can all thrive together. She has conducted over 100 sessions for Potential Project, including many Fortune 500 companies, and trained closed to 3,000 employees across different spheres and levels.
We’ve known for decades that efficient communication in the workplace is critical. According to research, it can lead to a variety of results, including increased cooperation and employee engagement, advantages that are the launch point for greater clarity, productivity, and enhanced financial outcomes.
Many people, however, continue to struggle with improving their communication skills, and more importantly, in bringing the right attitude towards discussions.
Challenges in communicating effectively
At its most basic level, communication is about thoughtfully interacting with others.
If you’re not attentive during a conversation, people will, rightly, end up assuming that you do not agree with them, do not appreciate what they are saying, or do not respect them and their time.
Such kinds of conversations fall under the class of mindless communications. Essentially, it’s a case of “physical presence, mental absence”. In other words, you communicate with others on autopilot. For instance, while listening to others, you may continue to surf through social media. Or your staff are reporting to you, and you’re preoccupied with something else. Several misunderstandings and unresolved anger can take root because of mindless communication. Your employees can start disputing without rational cause, superiors may argue due to ego clashes. You might even see a lot of aggression in the way individuals interact at times.
Needless to say, one big secret to effective communication in organizations is, then, mindful communication.
What is mindful communication?
Mindful communication, as opposed to mindless communication, is about presence. This presence is proven not simply by your ability to listen and respond properly to your discussion partner. But it’s also based on truly paying attention and compassion for the individual with whom you’re speaking.
Mindful communication entails applying the principles of mindfulness to how we communicate with others. Therefore, being present, remaining open and non-judgmental, and interacting to others with compassion are essential characteristics of mindful communication.
How does mindful communication become effective in the workplace?
Short answer: through your leaders.
The decision to practise mindful communication must originate from the top down.
Through their dedication to open, honest, and timely communication, the CEO and senior leadership team must set the bar for authentic communication. Their actions, attitudes, and communications convey a significant message to employees about the organization’s style and flow of communication. Even the most competent corporate communicators will fail if there is no commitment from the top.
Plus, rather than striving to be the superhero, much of being a good leader is about empowering people. If we truly want to empower people, we must allow them to access their own wisdom, expertise and solutions while also supporting them as a leader, mentor, and consultant.
So, ask yourself – “Why Am I Talking?”
Before you enter a session, a performance review, a training exercise, or a challenging conversation, stop and ask, “Why am I talking? What am I trying to achieve? What is it that I truly want to offer here?” and be truthful to yourself in your responses. “To express my opinion, to prove that I am correct, to educate others, to settle a conflict, or to learn something new,” you may say.
And if you feel like that answer is more about what you feel and what you want to portray yourself as rather the needs of your listeners or the needs of the organisation, then you’ll know you are on the wrong track.
A huge part of communication is usually focused on “us”.
When speaking, we are extremely aware of yourself. We believe our language is insufficient, our gestures inappropriate, and our facial movements offensive.
All of these fears and insecurities vanish when the attention is fully tuned to “others.” Because the only idea that matters in your head is, “How can I help?”, “What value can I add to this discussion?” When you’re paying attention, in silence, being open and present, you start to be genuinely interested in what is being said and you are naturally mindful in your talks.
They, not you, are at the centre of the conversation. And that makes all the difference in the world.
In essence, mindful communication is increasing awareness of the two main components of communication: listening and speaking.
The purpose of mindful listening is to absorb what the speaker is attempting to express, which may, at first, seem self-evident. But it’s not so easy as that.
“Most people don’t listen with the intention of understanding; they listen to respond,” Stephen Covey said famously and justly.
Therefore, to become a more mindful listener, avoid interrupting others, completing other people’s sentences, formulating a reply while others are still speaking, or even forming judgements. Start to be aware of how your ‘inner voice’ pipes up, wanting to interrupt ever so often. This involves being fully aware of your inner space, slowing down and letting others complete their sentences. It also includes allowing individuals to gather their ideas before stepping in to answer.
Mindful speaking is the second component of effective communication. Staying on topic but also paying attention to how others react to what you’re saying is the goal here. By watching others, you can clarify your message as required.
Make an attempt to be succinct, straightforward, and detailed, using examples to back up your points when necessary. This also demonstrates that you value other people’s time and attention as you are concentrating on the most vital information to convey.
Mindful speaking also necessitates honesty and authenticity. It is what aids in the development of trust and urges others to follow suit.
Above all, communication is a mindfulness practice. It’s less about what you say and more about what you intend. If we want to be strong as leaders and influencers, we must be mindful of our true motives and use it as a secret strength.