When was the last time you felt yourself zoning out of a conversation, or checking your phone whilst someone was talking to you? Last week? Last night? Right now? Chances are you didn’t emerge from that interaction feeling positive or fulfilled, and neither did the person who had to patiently wait for you to finish checking that non-important Instagram notification.
This is exactly the type of situation being mindful sets to change. It’s all about becoming aware of the ‘here and now’, being fully present in the situation, and trying to maintain an ‘open-mind’ without judging. In turn, this can lead to forging deeper relationships and better connections, not just with your friends, but also your colleagues, and your loved ones.
It’s a win, win, win. All you need to do is make a conscious effort to start.
With your partner
Whether it’s debating what’s for dinner or why the toilet seat has been left up yet again, a little discord is inevitable in any relationship. But what matters, and what lasts, is how you react to these arguments.
As mindfulness expert Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn explains, if we make an effort to concentrate on the moment, without judgment, we’re less likely to start listing their flaws in our head and building up negative points against our partner. Instead, we’ll be able to feel more empathy and gain an insight to how they’re feeling, which they’ll also (hopefully) reflect back in their responses to us.
With your friends
Guilty of sleeping with your phone by your bed? You’re not the only one. Social media and text message relationships are fast replacing face-to-face interactions, but are these getting in the way of us building mindful connections?
Speaking at a TedX Talks event, Interpersonal Educator, Susan Fox, challenges us to, "Make technology wait. For an hour a day, turn your phone on flight mode… what are you going to miss?"
With your work colleagues
Think about it, how many times has criticism about your work put you in a bad mood?
International executive coach Melinda Fouts, Ph.D., explains how you’ll get a feeling, (a ‘kinesthetic charge’) in your gut when you’re about to become defensive. According to Melinda, "an unhealthy ego will act on that charge and take a defensive posture and/or argue with the points being made in the feedback," whereas, "a mindful/healthy ego can observe what is happening to them, not react, and return their attention back to the other person, fully listening and not conjuring up their response."
So instead of arguing back, remain fully attentive and open-minded, accept what they’re saying, and don’t react to those horrible gut feelings. They’ll feel like you’ve really listened and understood them, and you won’t hold onto any bitterness, creating a more positive connection for both of you.
When meeting new people and acquaintances
We’ll let you into a little secret. You’re not as bad at remembering names as you think you are.
As mindfulness author and director of the Mindfulness Meditation Institute, Charles Francis says, "the reason isn't that we have a bad memory; we didn't store it in our memory to begin with… We're usually thinking about what we're going to say, none of us wants an awkward silence. We're thinking ahead, and in the process, we miss that the person told us their name."
Next time you meet somebody new, Charles advises to look into their eyes and listen mindfully to what they’re saying. Try not to get distracted by anything else in the room or in your head. You’ll feel a much greater connection when you’re immersed in a conversation with someone who you know is listening to you fully.
With your child or niece or nephew
Whether you’re a parent or the cool auntie or uncle, building a mindful connection with a kid can be as easy as making them laugh.
Psychology Today states that "laughter establishes - or restores - a positive emotional climate and a sense of connection between two people." Pull a funny face, do a silly impression or tell a joke, it’s as simple as that.
With your parents
Whether you have a good or not-so-good relationship with your parents, The Mindfulness Project explains how "we’re all used to interacting with our parents in a certain way; perhaps with us giving power away to them, and perhaps them expecting it to be that way too." After all, they did spend years bringing us up and making decisions for us. But that doesn’t mean this has to still be the case now.
They suggest trying to be more mindful about what we want to give, and get out of the relationship with our parents. This can help us to avoid saying things that we’ll later regret in the heat of the moment, or giving auto-pilot responses to questions, leading to a more rewarding and honest relationship that’s truly in-line with our current values.