Mindful communication and building trust

24.11.2016 |

Episode #5 of the course How to be a more mindful leader by The Plato Project


If we are to be mindful in our leadership, we also need to be mindful in our communication. If we are to express our values in how we lead, we also need to express those values in how we communicate. And if we are to be present as we lead, we also need to be present as we communicate. Mindful communication is built upon mindful listening and self-awareness. It is about making space for others and listening with all the senses. It’s about being present in communications.

Communication is how we actually connect with each other—it is how we transmit and reinforce our intent, our values, and our being. Understanding mindful communication is essential to becoming a mindful leader.

A strong starting point is understanding the unspoken beliefs that we bring to all of our communications. All of those automatic assumptions we make short-circuit actual listening. The simple act of bringing awareness to those assumptions and beliefs makes space for mindful communication and allows unthinking responses to be replaced with conscious intentions.

Mindful communication also requires empathy and a suspension of judgment, which are sides of the same coin. Empathy in communication allows a listener to be open to what another person is feeling, and suspending judgment stops the listener from devaluing the other person’s views and feelings. Practicing both creates an “emotional contagion” where the goodwill is felt and shared and leads to an enhanced ability to communicate mindfully.

Mindful communication is also accepting that there is a limit to what can be perceived. It is letting go of the notion of being a “good communicator.” It is ultimately a gesture of giving—giving to the communication itself and giving to the other person. This can be contrasted with typical communications, which are often about taking, or getting something (such as getting somebody to see your point of view).


Different ways to pay attention

Effective leaders communicate from a place of strong self-awareness, and from this can forge the trust necessary for effective one-on-one communication alongside the ability to communicate effectively to a group of people. They are able to connect and inspire. Mindful communicating can be fostered in the workplace by paying attention in different modes.

The first is to pay attention to oneself—the emotions and triggers that can sabotage communication efforts. That might be as simple as acknowledging emotions as they come up. It may be as explicit as asking those in a meeting to state their emotional state at the start of a meeting. The point is to notice the emotions, not necessarily to “deal with them.” Once noticed, we can engage strategies to bring about alternate emotions.

The second is to pay attention to the moment—being present in the moment, the conversation. Again, this could be as simple as checking in with oneself, a gentle nudge to remind oneself of the moment. It could be as explicit as starting a meeting by asking each member how present they are in that meeting, or it could involve a short meditation before the meeting.

The third is to be explicit in your intention for certain communications. This might be making it clear to yourself, or it might be communicating the intention of a meeting to participants. And having stated your intentions, return to these intentions once the communications have ended. Quickly wrap up the outcomes of a conversation or a meeting so that it is clear what has been achieved and what has not.


Building trust

Trust greases the wheels of civic and commercial life. Without trust, every interaction needs verification, a process that takes time and is expensive. Whether it is reporting mechanisms to try to extract honesty from politicians or regulations and checks to get businesses to do what they should, low trust environments are costing us dearly.

An approach to building trust is to apply the principles of mindful leadership. To treat employees as humans who deserve respect. This comes down to three very simple actions:

1. Involve people in decisions that directly affect them. This means bringing people in before you’ve made the decision.
2. Be transparent and consistent in your actions. Understand that the process is just as important as the outcome.
3. Pay attention to relationships. Interpersonal connection between employees and managers is significantly important.

Leaders you can build trust and communicate effectively and likely authentic in their approach. We’ll take a deeper look at this idea tomorrow.

“Rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them.” — Eckhart Tolle


Recommended book

“How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie


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