The first key of mindful communication, according to Chapman (2012), is having a mindful presence. This means having an open mind, awake body and a tender heart. When you have a mindful presence, you give up expectations, stories about yourself and others, and acting on emotions.
You are fully in the present moment; your communication isn’t focused on the “me” and what the “me” needs, but the we.
Mindful listening is the second key to mindful communication. Mindful listening is about encouraging the other person. This means looking through the masks and pretense and seeing the value in the person and the strengths he or she possesses. It’s looking past the human frailties and flaws that we all have to see the authentic person and the truth in what that person is attempting to say.
Mindful speech, the third key, is about gentleness. Speaking gently means being effective in what you say. It’s about speaking in a way that you can be heard. To be gentle with our speech means being aware of when our own insecurities and fears are aroused to the point we are acting out of fear rather than acceptance.
Practicing self-compassion for our fear, envy, jealousy and self-doubts is more effective than focusing on others as being a threat or attempting to change them. When you use gentle speech, you are communicating acceptance to the other person and saying what is true, not an interpretation or an exaggeration or a minimization.
The key to mindful relationships is unconditional friendliness. Unconditional friendliness means accepting the ebb and flow of relationships. Sometimes you meet new friends, sometimes friends move on, sometimes there is joy and sometimes there is pain. Sometimes you’ll feel lonely, sometimes you’ll feel cherished and connected, and then you’ll feel lonely again.
Unconditional friendliness means that your acceptance of others is not dependent on them staying with you or agreeing with you. You don’t cling to relationships to avoid loss.
Mindful responsiveness is like playfulness. Playfulness is the openness that you can have when you let go of preconceived ideas and strategies. It’s like creating something new. Imagine two skilled dancers who alternatively lead each other in creating a new dance in every interaction, never doing the same complete dance over and over. They respond in the moment to the message sent by the other. There are no rules or expectations and yet they both bring skillful behavior.
Mindful communication requires practice. If you choose to practice the keys, you might choose to focus on one at a time. Being willing to regulate your emotions is a prerequisite to mindful communication and mindfulness of your emotions is necessary for emotion regulation.
Mindfulness is a core skill for the emotionally sensitive.
Chapman, Susan Gillis. The Five Keys to Mindful Communication: Using Deep Listening and Mindful Speech to Strengthen Relationships, Heal Conflicts and Acceomplish Your Goals. Boston: Shambhala, 2012.
Note to Readers: Healing Hearts of Families is a Houston conference for those with borderline personality disorder and their families and friends. Please join us on November 10 for informative presentations by experts in the field.
My sincere thanks to everyone who has completed our second survey. If you haven’t participated, please consider answering the survey questions about being emotionally sensitive.