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INTRODUCTION

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.

–Buddha

One day, my 10-year-old son came home from school and told me he had won a contest. I was very proud of him, and I wanted to listen—but I also needed to dig through several emails, and I continued to do so as he spoke. It wasn’t until he stopped mid-sentence that I realized that my inattention had hurt his feelings. “Continue the story!” I said, mustering my enthusiasm. “No,” he said sadly. “I get it. Your email is more important than I am.” Talk about a wake-up call! That very moment I vowed to be more present—more mindful—when communicating with others.

Mindfulness is about being present in whatever is happening in the present moment (Kabat-Zinn, 1994). Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and without judgment” (Mindful, 2017).

Mindful communication involves conversing with kindness, attention, and compassion. It means maintaining an intentional focus or awareness on the current state as well as a growth mind-set. When we communicate mindfully, we are cognizant of our emotions, thoughts, and environment. This helps us translate our thoughts into meaningful and respectful words. It also demonstrates sensitivity to others. Mindful communication enables us to remain open to multiple points of view and to understand things in new ways.

With mindful communication, people feel heard, understood, and empowered (Kabat-Zinn, 1994). This is due in large part to the active listening required by mindful communication. Listening—really listening—is one of the greatest gifts we can give someone. Listening with intention shows that we care. It also improves our social awareness—our sense of people’s moods, behaviors, and motives.

Mindful communication involves more than listening and speaking clearly. It also involves using nonverbal communication. Our body language often reveals more than we realize. Through mindfulness, we become more aware of what we communicate nonverbally. When we are mindful, we are more thoughtful about how our body gestures make other people feel. Being mindful about our body language helps us become more aware of how we affect other people, as well as how they affect us.

Mindful communication enables us to improve our conversations, influence others, make good decisions, and manage expectations. Moreover, it doesn’t take any more time than “regular” communication, and it doesn’t require the person with whom you’re talking to be versed in it. Simply having this skill set ourselves enables us to lead conversations in a positive direction (Gonzales, 2012; Kabat-Zinn, 1994; Taren et al., 2015).

A Taste of Mindfulness

I recently attended a mindfulness course for healthcare providers. This course served as an introduction to the theory, practice, and application ...

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