Workplace communications can be fraught with difficulties. Office politics, personality clashes, and other factors can mean that communications can break down.
When communication breaks down, it can have negative effects on productivity and efficiency for teams and the business as a whole.
What can you do to avoid potential issues? How do you ensure that communications remain as positive as possible and that staff remain on good terms and work towards common goals?
One very effective method is to have your workforce practice mindful communication. Just what is mindful communication, though, and how can you implement it in your organization? Let’s find out.
What is mindful communication?
Put simply, mindful communication is combining your communication skills with the principles of mindfulness. Put even more simply, you could see mindful communication as being present and aware of what you are saying, being more empathetic and compassionate.
Communication consists of two activities: listening and speaking. When you apply mindfulness to those two activities, then you are elevating your communication skills to ones that consider both what others are saying – and how they are saying it – and what (and how) you are saying things to them.
Keeping an awareness of those two activities can help you avoid the sometimes harmful effects of a lack of communication while leading to more mindful communication in all your interactions.
The principles of mindful communication
Before you look at ways of implementing and promoting it in your workplace, it can be helpful to understand the principles that underpin mindful communication as a whole. Views on these can vary but we’re going to focus on the main three pillars.
As you build a policy based on these, you can expand your knowledge and look into other areas that can contribute to the overall success of your communication strategy.
I’m sure you’ve all been there. While sitting in a meeting, your focus begins to wander as someone is speaking. You could view that ‘wandering’ as breaking the first principle of mindful communication. Communication is a two-way street and to participate, you need to be fully present and actively listening.
Here’s what you can do:
- Pay attention to any non-verbal cues and body language.
- Maintain frequent eye contact.
- Ask open-ended questions when you want more information.
- If you’ve not fully understood a point, reflect on what was said to ask for clarification.
- Understand what is being said and listen to every point.
- Hold back responses and questions until the speaker has finished.
2. Understanding and curiosity
As already mentioned, communication is a two-way street and for mindful communication to be successful, you want to employ effective communication strategies and for the other party (or parties) to be showing those same active listening skills.
One of the best strategies to incorporate is adding an element of understanding and curiosity to take your conversations a step nearer to mindful communication. Curiosity and understanding can help cement connections.
They can turn the mundane into something wonderful. In the context of the workplace, let’s imagine that you work in HR and your colleague and friend Bob works in IT. You can start “training” yourself to develop a genuine curiosity about what Bob is telling you – whether it be about his latest golf game or his upcoming vacation plans – by listening to him mindfully.
Eventually, you’re going to become much more naturally inclined to listen carefully to him when he calls a meeting to explain how to use the company’s new HRIS system – a platform that you’re going to have to use a lot in your daily job.
3. Taking ownership
Remember that simple rule of thinking before you speak? How often have you said something in a conversation and immediately thought, ‘That didn’t come out right’? While active listening helps when others are speaking, you also need to take ownership of everything you say, too. You also need to remember that non-verbal cues and body language are not always possible.
For example, let’s imagine that you have to make a voice phone call to a client or colleague in a different location. In cases like that, you need to focus on exactly what you say and also your tone of voice. Think about what you are trying to communicate, and consider that your voice is the only cue that the other person can perceive right now.
What are the benefits of mindful communication in the workplace?
Let’s talk about the main benefits of mindful communication.
There will always be different opinions in the workplace. However, one of the main benefits of mindful communication is that the effects of those negative moments can be dramatically reduced.
When people actively listen to others and think about what they are saying, workplace relationships can be significantly strengthened.
1. Better relationships
One major barrier to good relationships happens when you have a distributed team. Some members may work in one location while others are in a completely different one.
By promoting mindful communication across your entire workforce, you can ensure that good communication is prioritized in distributed teams, avoiding conflicts that may have adverse effects.
2. Increased productivity and efficiency
When communication is poor and relationships are strained, the main knock-on effect you will see is lower productivity and efficiency. This happens because your staff are neither listening to others or talking to others in the right way.
With mindful communication, you can cultivate better relationships between team members that can result in improved efficiency and productivity.
When people fail to understand others’ opinions, then progress on tasks and projects can be severely impeded. On the other hand, if conversations are efficient and people are open to hearing conflicting opinions to their own, progress can be more streamlined and hurdles overcome.
3. Better mental health
You want your staff to be happy in their work and have good mental health. This can be a big problem when you have remote workers who face collaboration issues but it can also be an issue when your workforce is based in the same location. When your workers experience good communication that goes both ways, then they are more likely to feel happier and more positive.
The benefit of mindful communication is that it not only helps you understand other team members and their points of view, but it can also help you better understand yourself.
If your staff understand themselves and communicate better with others, then all the interactions between staff will improve and everyone will feel more positive about their work.
4. Improved understanding
Mindful communication can vastly reduce misunderstandings. When staff are confident enough to have efficient two-way communications, then it is easier for one person to see the other’s perspective and for any misunderstanding to be removed from the equation.
For example, if one staff member can’t see the benefits of the use of VoIP text and explains their reasons why, you can better understand their points and can counter them with the reasons why it’s an extremely useful tool. Good communication can lead to better understanding between staff.
How often have you encountered issues with processes because they are not as good as they should be? These issues can lead to delays and other problems. When staff have more open communication, conversations, and brainstorming can find innovative ways to improve existing processes.
Mindful communication can be a springboard for the sharing of ideas. Innovation does not always happen in a vacuum and can be a combination of suggestions from different people. When you have a company culture that fosters and nurtures effective communication, then people have more confidence to suggest ideas.
How to practice mindful communication
Of course, this is not going to be something that happens overnight. You need to identify tactics that suit your particular business model and staff and ensure that any practices are rolled out across the entire workforce. When thinking about how to promote mindful communication in your organization, consider the following areas, it’s perfect to have a communication plan.
Even when a staff member disagrees with someone else, they should be compassionate and try to understand their point of view and opinion. When your workers can practice compassion with each other, then disputes and conflicts can be easier to solve. Compassion can help team members find a middle ground and some form of compromise.
Compassion in mindful communication, however, has to be genuine. It’s not an area where you will see instant success as many people are stuck in their ways. It can also be helpful to combine exercises in compassion with some of the other aspects of effective communication you are looking to instill in your workforce.
As the old proverb says, ‘Physician, heal thyself’. While not exactly healing, a major component of effective workplace communication is self-awareness. In this scenario, what we mean by self-awareness covers everything from the tone of voice people use to body language to how prepared they are to listen to others’ points of view.
Encourage your staff to be aware of how they react to situations and how they interact with others. When there is a major disagreement, ask them to reflect on how they acted and what their feelings were. Reflection can be a very helpful tool for anyone experiencing communication issues and who exhibits ‘stubbornness’ in changing their ways. When they analyze how they acted and what they said (and how they said it), they will become aware of their own shortcomings.
Some people find it difficult to express their true feelings. But when they do, the other person is more likely to do the same. This can lead to more effective and transparent conversations. Hold workshops with staff members that encourage them to be more open. These workshops do not necessarily have to focus on work-related issues. If you ask them to be open about a sensitive event in their life, then they can move forward to openness in other areas.
By encouraging openness, you are promoting better communication. Someone who may have held back from saying something in the past will be more likely to participate in an open conversation in the future. Transparent communication is something that can benefit every staff member as well as your business as a whole.
Nobody is right all the time. You need to be able to recognize when you are wrong or when you have offended someone by the way you have interacted. Being prepared to apologize in those scenarios is a big step towards better relationships. While apologizing may sound trivial at first, it can be an essential component when it comes to promoting mindful communication in the workplace.
For example, you have a team tasked with a project. The project leader is insistent that his way is the best way to progress. Others disagree and effectively make their case. The team leader realizes he was wrong and apologizes to his team. This promotes transparency but also gives the team more belief in and respect for their team leader.
Many people lack the confidence to communicate effectively or to voice their feelings and/or ideas. You should recognize people with these traits and offer encouragement and support when they do speak so that their confidence increases. This is called a transactional model of communication. This is not just something you should be asking management and supervisors to do: the idea should be rolled out across the entire workforce.
Using encouragement and praise not only boosts an individual’s confidence, it makes people feel more valued, too. That quiet team member who never says anything may have a great idea that will streamline workflows but is too ‘timid’ to participate in the conversation. When encouragement is something practiced by all your staff, then you are moving towards a fully inclusive workforce.
You have to be aware that many people have boundaries and certain words or phrases may be triggering. Ensuring that boundaries are not breached during a conversation not only shows respect, but is a big part of effective and mindful communication. You also need to consider that your workforce may be a diverse one that could include neurodivergent and disabled individuals.
Recognizing boundaries should not just be part of your mindful communication work, it should be a policy that sees every member of your staff as an equal. It’s also an area where workshops can be beneficial in establishing rules and guidelines, and demonstrating that boundaries can instill respect and help boost more effective communication between staff.
Promote mindful communication in the workplace
Mindful communication comes down to two main things: how you listen and how you talk. It should be an integral part of your company culture and should be practiced not only within teams but also by looking at how teams and departments collaborate.
Mindful communication strategies could be applied to all possible communication models.
Of course, from a business owner’s perspective, there is also a slightly selfish reason for promoting mindful communication.
Employees who communicate mindfully with each other are more likely to be productive and efficient and very rarely have breakdowns. This can make your business more profitable. Talk about a win-win situation, right?