MINDFUL MAGAZINE

Mindfulness Technique: The Art of Conversation

Five steps to enjoying more empathetic and artful conversation.

 

By Dawa Tarchin Phillips

When we're having a real conversation we're actively exchanging—giving and receiving—which begins with truly being together. We can’t exchange something with someone when they, or we, are not present. We can talk to them, we can talk at them, but we can’t have a conversation.

If we take a look at our conversation style based on five elements, we might find valuable doors open and take us into more mindful and artful conversation.

1. Be present: “Con” means together with. If you want to have a conversation, be present, fiercely. Since the value of a conversation lies in what all parties have given and/or gained, if you're not present, there will be no exchange.

2. Think before you speak: Take the time you need to craft your language. It’s not how quickly or slowly you respond. It's the value you offer that matters. If no one in a conversation is offering anything of value, everyone will try to end it as soon as they can get away.

3. Make yourself heard: Saying something worth hearing helps make great conversation. We love it when we're affected by what we hear, when words move us. If you're not being heard, don’t blame your audience. Come up with something that engages them more. Build a bridge all the way across.

4. Be relational before being transactional: Take time to develop the relational aspect of the conversation without focusing solely on the give-and-take of thoughts. Build an opening for experiences and insights to fl ow through. Show that you care, and if you have a lot to say, make sure the opening you've made is big enough to handle the volume you're transmitting.

5. Enjoy yourself and let go: A real exchange happens when all sides are enriched. Learn to enjoy yourself throughout a conversation, not just when you got what you came for or had a chance to say your piece. You don’t sing to get to the end of the song or live to get to the end of life. Enjoyment is a choice and vital to having an artful conversation. And when you’re done, let it go.

Dawa Tarchin Phillips is president of Empowerment Holdings, a leadership consulting firm, and a research specialist at the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at UC Santa Barbara.

For more on mindfulness practice, go to mindful.org/inpractice. To submit questions about techniques, the workplace, or relationships and home life, email inpractice@mindful.

This article also appeared in the August 2014 issue of Mindful magazine.
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