What you see and what you hear depends
a great deal on where you are standing.
It also depends what sort of person you are.
– C. S. Lewis
Mindful Communication asks us to look at our communications and conversations with a new perspective.
Communication involves so much more than just the words we say to each other. Communication includes framing our thoughts, expressing those thoughts clearly with consideration for who we are speaking to, listening, understanding perspective, empathy, responding and providing feedback.
Mindful Communication asks us to be aware of each one of these stages, and to be thoughtful at each stage, rather than reactive. It asks us to remember, at every stage of communication, that all of us bring to the conversation different perspectives, different experiences and beliefs, and a variety of opinions. We can get so lost in wanting people to understand our perspective, or to agree with our beliefs and opinions that we step out of listening, we stop framing our thoughts clearly and our reactive feedback can bring the interchange to a level of conflict or challenge.
It is in the space between revealing and listening that we create understanding.
On our way to the place of understanding we will take missteps, say words we later regret, find ourselves upset and in conflict. Even in these moments we can practice taking a step back, learn how to change our perspectives, and move a conversation going south in a better direction.
I love the “three lenses of communication.” Each lens teaches us to take a pause, to reframe our current perspective, and move forward in a more productive and healthy direction.
Shifting Our Perspectives
The Long Lens—the first lens—asks us to step back and ask ourselves the importance of pushing our position or continuing the conversation where there is disagreement. Can we “agree to disagree” and let it go? Will rehashing the discussion or proving this particular point be important in three months, six months, or a year?
The second lens—the Wide Lens—asks that we question how we can learn from this situation or from the conversation. Is there a place where can we take responsibility for the way the interchange has gone? What lesson, or new way of speaking and acting, can we employ in the future to eliminate repeating this experience? Can we actually learn something new if we listen more and let go of holding onto our perspective so tightly?
A Reverse Lens—the third lens—requires that we ask, “What is the other person in this conversation thinking or really trying to say? How might they be right or how might I better understand their perspective?” A Reverse Lens demands empathy and compassion. It asks that we consider what is going on with the other person that could cause them to respond or to act in this way. What is going on in their life that might be influencing this conversation or interaction?
Let Mindfulness Lead the Conversation
To use these techniques in the moment requires practice, a willingness to stop, pause and start over. It requires a desire to reach the magic place of understanding.
Take a moment now to reflect back to a recent conflict or upsetting situation you had with someone in your life. Rethink the situation through each lens and see what might shift for you even now. Can you use one of these lenses to forgive, to apologize, or to let go? Can you apply one of the lenses to a current challenge or conflict?
Where can you practice mindful communication in your life today?