The openness and empathy in a mindful dialogue

As a repeated customer of a shop, I came across different types of salespersons in my buying experience.  I went to this shop this week and wanted to shop for an item that I planned to buy for a while.  When the salesperson saw me walking in, she immediately recommended me to buy an item that I had not planned to buy.  She kept telling me the benefits of using this item and the current promotions of the shop.  She kept talking and talking and I finally had a chance to tell her what I planned to buy.  However, she kept on selling me the items that she intended to sale and did not recommend me items that I needed.  At the end, I ended up buying nothing as I have not enough information and confidence to buy any items in this shop due to the lack of connection between me and the salesperson.  This is a typical example of not being mindful in dialogue with others.

In mindful dialogue, we extend our internal mindfulness to our external environment.  When we practice mindfulness exercise on our own, we bring our awareness to our breathing, bodily sensations, or thoughts, etc.  When we extend our mindfulness to our external environment, we bring our awareness to our physical worlds and others in the environment.  For instance, in mindful dialogue, we extend our mindfulness to observe the appearance, actions, facial expressions, and listen to the conversation of the other person if we are engaged in an one-on-one communication.  For example, when a parent is communicating with one’s child, he or she may try to be more mindful in observing the child’s facial expression and tone of voice, as well as listening to the child’s conversation with openness.  The parent needs to be patient in listening what the child has to say in the dialogue without judgment and with acceptance.  If the parent gives the child space to disclose his or her feelings, the child may tell you he or she dislikes going to school because a teacher had scolded him or her once in class, when you asked why he or she refused going to school.  On the contrary, if the parent scolds or blames the child for school refusal at the beginning of the conversation, the child may be reluctant to be open in telling the parent his or her true feelings and thinking.

Very often, we rush to tell the other person what is in our mind in a dialogue without listening to the viewpoints of the other person deeply.  We are too eager to give our message before listening deeply and observe how the dialogue evolves.  In fact, it is very important for us to trust that the dialogue between us and the other party will emerge gradually with its own path without our eagerness to intervene.  For instance, when we engage in a meeting with our potential business partner, it may be more beneficial if we withhold our viewpoints at the beginning and listen more the perspective of the other party.  As the conversation unfolds, we may communicate our viewpoints in view of what the other party had just said.  In this way, it is more likely that a compromise could be made as the dialogue emerged naturally.  It is very important we listen the other party deeply with openness and empathy.  This means that we are open to listen to the viewpoints that are quite opposite or contradicting to our own viewpoints.  With empathy, we understand the feelings and thinking of the other party with empathy so that he or she felt being understood and listened. 

During listening, apart from being mindful to the external environment and the other part, we also bring our awareness to our internal feelings and thinking during listening to what the other party is saying.  In this way, we can also manage our own emotions while we are listening.  For example, when a therapist is listening to his or her client’s description of being abused by one’s parent in childhood.  Besides listening deeply with acceptance and openness, the therapist may also bring his or her awareness to one’s own feelings and thinking during listening.  The therapist may recall his or her own abusive history in one’s childhood or may feel angry at the client’s parent’s cruelty towards him or her.  By being mindful of one’s internal experience in a mindful dialogue, we may be able to contain our own emotional reactions and also be mindful of our own preconception and premature conclusion about what the other party is saying.  This facilitates our ability to listen more deeply to the other party.

In this era of popularity of cyber communication, it is easy for us to neglect the importance of being mindful in our dialogue with our significant others.  It is very important for us to cultivate mindfulness in communication if we want to have harmonious relationships as well as successful career or business development.

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