Workplace interactions are often fraught with tension, commonly due to stress from overwork/undersleep, multi-tasking challenges, power dynamics, economic considerations, and social conflict between people who would prefer not to have to interact. Maintaining authentic connection to others in this context can be extremely challenging, but one of the best tools to cultivate it is through mindful communication.
The Value of Connection In the Workplace
In traditional hierarchical workplaces, staff members are generally cast in a listening role, expected to be ready to respond to their leader’s instructions. But as our society and management practices evolve, leaders who are willing to share the stage and listen as often as they speak – those willing to truly connect with their colleagues – are finding they stand to gain much more from their team than just work product!
A connected workplace can help achieve improvements in productivity, and allow leaders to glean valuable information from every team member. Employers who mindfully communicate at work can attend to the progress and needs of everyone on the team in those precious moments of shared space and teamwork, and nurture authentic connection with and between their teams. Really, this is what effective leadership is all about.
Three Ways To Mindfully Communicate In The Workplace
There are three aspects to mindful communication in the workplace: Listening, Speaking and Awareness. If an employer is willing to switch back and forth between these practices, they’ll most likely find their staff responding positively, feeling more connected and inspired to contribute more to the team.
The key here is genuinely listening, rather than just counting the time until you respond. Instead of thinking while someone is speaking, try NOT formulating your next response. Alternatively, you can focus your attention on the speaker, be curious about what they are saying, and even ask for clarification to make sure you understand. When you ask questions, they will know that you’ve been listening.
Making eye contact and trying to read between the lines will also give you a deeper level of understanding about what your conversation partner is really trying to communicate. Remember that workplace hierarchy often makes authentic communication more risky for subordinates, because they fear what a negative management response might mean for them. Be compassionate and supportive in this regard, and encourage honest sharing.
Before you speak in the workplace, take a moment to breathe, self-reflect and think about what you’re about to say. Consider whether what you’re planning to say is appropriate to the situation and your role, and ask yourself: is it beneficial to the dynamic? You may find that leaving space (instead of filling it) will give other less confident voices a chance to be heard.
You may also realize that the timing could be better, or that the tone or phrasing of your delivery should be adjusted. Taking the opportunity to be mindful of context, and consider things before you speak opens up a world of options for more effective messaging and connection.
This is perhaps the most important of the three aspects of mindful communication. The key is to observe yourself and your reactions at work. Pay attention to how your body and emotions feel, then try to maintain that self-connection and stay present. When faced with an exciting creative idea, are you prone to go off on your own tangent or stay with the speaker? When you feel a stress or anger response to someone’s point of view, are you able to let them finish speaking without interrupting?
By monitoring yourself, it’s possible to come back to the moment any time you’re pulled away from an opportunity to be present. The goal is to maintain a calm and relaxed demeanor that allows you to be fully connected to yourself and others.
Set Your Intention To Connect With Your Colleagues
In the workplace, we often have pre-established roles that impact our communication style. If you haven’t consciously decided what style of communication fits your role, then take a second to set your intention. Think about what’s appropriate and how you want to be perceived, and then commit to honoring that intention every day.
With a bit of effort, you will find many moments throughout your workday to recenter yourself and come back to these intentions. It may take a little practice to balance your professional boundaries with your intention for connection, but the goal is well worth striving for. Our workplaces powerfully influence our lives and offer a wealth of opportunities to learn and improve them.