What is mindfulness anyway? Essentially, being mindful simply means being present in the moment. It is focusing on sensory details, how you’re feeling, and what people around you are saying to you.
So, how can you use mindfulness to improve the quality of your relationships? Below are some suggestions.
Learn to nip arguments in the bud
We’ve all been there. Something that your spouse/friend/child/boss does regularly is getting to you. Maybe it’s leaving the dishes in the sink or showing up late for lunch. If you were being mindful about how each of these situations was impacting your mood, you’d be positioning yourself to be responsive rather than reactive. The key is to pay attention to the present moment, on purpose, in a non-judgmental way. As this becomes more natural and normal for you, you can become your own self-soother, catching stressful feelings before they overwhelm your thinking brain. In this way, you give yourself time to choose how you want to act…hopefully from an assertive (as opposed to aggressive, passive or passive-aggressive) approach.
Be in tune with others
Not only does being mindful allow you to know how an interaction with another person makes you feel, but it allows you to spot when something might be off for that other person. When you’re in tune with a person, you are being mindful of who they are, what their needs and wants are, and what their expectations are. This sets you up to be an effective influencer. While you can’t control another person’s thoughts, feelings or behaviors, you can certainly influence them. And you have a better chance of success when you operate knowing the other person’s mood, needs, desires, drivers, intentions, preferences and perspectives. In other words, you are sharing your perspective while speaking from their point-of-view.
Admit when you’re wrong
Not only do mindful individuals admit when they’re wrong, but they approach each situation with the belief that the fact that they could be wrong is very much a possibility that’s on the table. When you approach every difference with the mindset of ‘I may be wrong’, this allows you to put aside your own feelings, beliefs, fears and worries, and focus on what the other person is saying. Yes, this may be difficult, but with focus and mindfulness, it can become more automatic.
Keep communication open
In the midst of a conflictual interaction, it’s very common to feel like you’re not being understood, and vice versa. If you develop a pattern of conflict avoidance (to keep the peace, for example), you are less likely to actually resolve issues. This shutdown occurs because one or the other feels so anxious and upset that they exit the conversation before any solutions can be found. This is where a bit of mindfulness helps. If you can stay in the present moment, you are more likely to recognize this pattern of shutting down. You are more likely to reduce your anxiety, and thereby feel safer in trying to resolve the disagreement.
With all of these benefits, how can you practice mindfulness so you can reap the rewards? The key is to be mindful as regularly and as often as you can. Stop and ask yourself: “What am I feeling in this moment?” If the answer is “negative,” then check in to see what you can do to soothe yourself. If the answer is a “positive” one, ask yourself what you can do to keep your heart open and your mind clear. With practice, this will become second nature!