As much as you love the significant people in your life, it’s common to talk over each other, make snappy comments, and even get into arguments. Sometimes it feels impossible to have a loving, peaceful conversation.
The art of communication takes several lifetimes to master, and when you think you have learned all there is to learn, there is always something new to discover.
In today's blog post I want to share with you a few of the mindful tips I have discovered recently on ways to communicate and develop better relationships with loved ones.
Why You Should be Mindful When Conversing with Loved Ones
Being inattentive or dismissive to the people you love can create a rift in your relationship. People shut down rather than opening up, issues stay unresolved, and you feel like you don’t understand each other.
It can cause a lot of stress when this happens, but if you learn to speak to the significant people in your life with mindfulness, you’ll foster happy healthy relationships. So. let’s get into how you can make that happen.
Respond, Don’t React to Your Loved Ones
When you respond with mindfulness to someone, you are aware of how you’re feeling and consider your reply. I don’t mean mulling over every conversation before you answer, but being mindful of how you interact with that person.
Pausing before replying allows you to communicate clearly instead of your emotions dominating the conversation.
A reaction is an unconscious and often defensive response to a situation. Meaning you behave or reply as if you have no control. It’s like touching something hot. Your body jumps away without thinking.
Reactions are often triggered by someone’s upbringing, past experiences and learned behaviour. For example; if you grew up with criticism about your weight, you may automatically get defensive when the conversation comes up rather than having a discussion.
When you react to someone without consideration, it often causes hurt. For example, if a loved one says, ‘I don’t know what that word means,’ a sudden reaction could be, ‘How can you possibly not know that?’ Without thinking, you’ve blurted something out, causing the other person pain.
It’s essential to become mindful of how you communicate with loved ones so you respond rather than react. A way to respond is to take a moment before you reply—take a breath or pause for consideration. Ask yourself, ‘What are my bad habits when talking to others? Am I being triggered? How can I respond instead of react to this situation?’
Even if you practice responding, it’s okay if you fall back into reacting. Sometimes we fall back into reacting as if there’s been no change. A classic example is finding yourself acting like a thirteen-year-old when you’re with your parents, despite all your self-development work.
If that person also reacts rather than responds, it can be tough not to trigger past behaviours. Consider what’s best for you in times like these. Rather than winning the argument or continuing the conversation, try changing the topic or gently walking away.
If you’ve always been a reactor, then it’s almost like mind muscle memory. Your first instinct is to behave the same way. When you’re learning to respond, you’re retraining the brain.
Meditation is an excellent way to note how you move, talk, and feel in your day-to-day life, so it helps develop self-awareness. It’s incredibly challenging to catch yourself in those moments of ‘react or respond.’ If you find yourself in the reacting position, apologise and tell the person you are sorry for reacting in that manner. They’ll feel better, and so will you.
Remember, you won’t be able to become an expert responder overnight. You’ll make mistakes and slip into old habits, but you can use those opportunities to learn and progress. Awareness is always the first step towards change.
Listen to the People You Love
Have you ever had a friendship when you’re chatting to the other person, but they're clearly not listening? They ignore what you’ve said and start talking about themselves as soon as you finish? It’s very draining and doesn’t make for great conversation.
Learn to truly tune in, listen and become present with the person you are talking with. Listening isn’t just about using your ears, and when you listen with heart and presence you are connecting. It’s about understanding what they’re trying to say.
Don’t just listen to what they're saying, but how they’re behaving. Take the time to observe [not assume] their tone of voice, body language and consider how they feel.
Someone might say they’re fine about a situation, but all the other senses you’re picking up could express otherwise. Instead of ignoring those signs or saying, ‘Well, you’re clearly not fine,’ it’s kinder to say, ‘It’s okay if you don’t feel fine,’ or, ‘You seem like you’re struggling, I’m here if you need me.’
Equally, it’s critical to listen to what your loved one is excited about as well as what they find difficult. From time to time, we are all guilty of getting lost in our own deep thoughts without really listening to what the other person is saying.
Whenever that happens (because, let’s be realistic, it does), say, ‘Sorry I wasn’t listening properly, can you say that again?’ or, ‘I didn’t take in what you said, can you repeat that?’ You could even say, ‘I’m sorry, I started talking about something completely different. What were you saying?’
It’s okay if you make a slip-up and find yourself talking over someone or not listening. Acknowledge it to yourself and the other person, which in turn will make you a more warm, engaged and mindful listener.
A lot of judgement and intervention comes from wanting to prevent family members and loved ones from getting hurt. Judgement often stems from our own experience, past hurts or upbringing.
If you grew up in a household where concern was voiced through judgement, be gentle with yourself, for you don’t know any different.
However, people feel belittled when you judge them and a direct response to this is that they don’t want to share with you for fear of criticism. It’s time to change that habit and support your loved ones so they will open up.
If your child wants to work in a coffee shop after University, rather than going for that academic job, then let them. It’s likely part of their process so they can switch off, enjoy a simple life, and work out what they want to do in their own time. They are learning, experimenting, and gaining experience.
The truth is, when you judge others, you are really only judging yourself.
You have to practice being non-judgmental toward yourself before you can be the same with others. If you see someone walking down the street and think, ‘They look terrible, I would never wear that,’ you are more than likely judging yourself when you wear certain items.
So often, others look down their nose at someone’s career, fashion, or life decisions. Judgement makes both people not feel good inside [each for different reasons] and it creates a rift in the relationship - even if words are not exchanged the judgement is felt.
All everyone wants is to feel love and belonging. Accept them as they are without degrading, belittling or criticising them.
If a loved one calls to tell you they’re excited about a new opportunity, don’t poke holes in it. How would you feel if someone always disapproved of what you were doing? My guess is not great. It’s disempowering to that person, and you want to lift them, not bring them down.
Even if you disagree, try to understand where they might be coming from and their motives behind it.
Acknowledge Their Feelings
Too often, we dismiss people’s feelings, making family members and loved ones feel unloved and unheard, as if we don’t care about them. Now; that’s rarely true, however many people are uncomfortable with emotion and don’t know how to handle it.
When we speak from a reactive state, we ask why someone is feeling that way, making the person justify themselves. Or we try to solve their problems rather than being in the moment with them.
Then there is the common reaction, such as, ‘Don’t feel that way, you shouldn’t feel that way, there’s no need to feel that way,’ etc. All those phrases shut the person down and make them feel rejected and unheard.
And finally; toxic positivity. Toxic positivity is when we encourage our loved ones to focus on the positives of life instead of giving them the space to feel and process their emotions. Toxic positivity can silence negative emotions, demean grief, and make people feel under pressure to pretend to be happy even when they are struggling.
If someone important in your life says something like, ‘I’m stressed,’ reply around the lines of, ‘I’m sorry you’re stressed at the moment, it sounds difficult.’ By acknowledging how they are feeling you are expressing empathy and accepting their feelings so that they can accept them too.
Being Mindful to Your Loved Ones Takes Practice
Self-awareness is a lengthy process, and mindfulness is a small part. It takes time, and you’ll find yourself returning to old, comfortable habits when you’re just beginning.
You're already improving if you make a conscious effort to hold the awareness to choose responding rather than reacting.