How can mindfulness help you in building your relationships with others? Do you consider yourself a “loner”, OR a workaholic who has no time for a social life OR one who has no close friend to hang around OR a failure at dating? If any of the above, this tool of “mindfulness” may be just what you need to change your social life or enhance your relationship with others.
Mindfulness according to Wikipedia, “…is the psychological process of bringing one's attention to experiences occurring in the present moment…”. If you are living in the moment you are focused on one thing and the experience associated with it. Perhaps it is the beautiful, majestic sunset in front of you. Perhaps it is the intriguing complexity and array of colors from the flower you are observing. Perhaps it is the alluring look in another’s eyes that is captivating and sustains your attention. Busyness or multitasking would be the opposite of mindfulness (according to Forbes, 2014/03/20) because we get lost in various activities as “a sort of mindlessness”. Other antonyms to mindfulness would include disinterest, apathy, neglect, indifference or disregard. You generally know when you are not connecting with someone in conversation because they either do not reflect your emotion, miss the point, have nothing to say or even change the subject. That is easy enough to recognize.
Harder to recognize is just how interested a person is in you as a friend or possible sweetheart. They may be generally very conversational with you, but while you center on asking questions about them, they tend to laugh, turn around the question to apply to you or make a joke of it. Lack of sustained eye contact is usually one indication they are not seeking to share your feelings and be in the moment with you. If they wish to identify with your feelings and connect with you, a comment regarding your feelings or a question about such feelings would come naturally. An example: “that must have made you feel good after receiving the positive medical opinion”.
Gratitude, filtering, and active listening are good indicators that the other person is connecting with you by being mindfully in the moment with you (www.corporatetrainingmaterials.com). Let’s explore how these 3 indicators can work seamlessly with an example where you happen to meet an acquaintance while shopping at the store. Hi-I’m so glad (Gratitude) we happen to see each other. I need a second opinion from someone who is a classy dresser (filtering out distractions/subjects to focus on her) on what type of shirt I should buy to go with this pair of pants to attend a wedding. Well, she replies, I am certainly no expert in dress, but I do attend weddings! He then follows up with, Ok, I sense your humbleness, but respect your opinion (a reflection of her feelings as well as her worth) as an avid wedding attendee, so tell me, what should I buy to go with this? Active listening perceives the other’s feelings behind their statements and reflects those feelings in the reply. In this case he reflected her “humbleness” because she said she was no expert and he probably also heard it in her voice inflections. Mindfulness of the content of her statement and the feelings behind her statement he replied in such a way as to reflect those feelings and stay focused in the moment of their experience together.
When we are engaged in conversation with someone the focus can go several ways. Our attention can focus on:
1. Reflecting the other person’s feelings behind their statement, (mindfulness)
2. a follow-up to the statement itself, (mindfulness)
3. an association related to the topic (“Too often a rabbit trail”), or
4. a change of subject (redirection by feeling awkward, ignorant or distraction)
A response, however, containing both 1. and 2. together is ideal as active listening. It is our response to someone’s statement that reflects our state of mind and reveals our focus. A pattern emerges in how we respond to someone during an extended conversation. Honesty and transparency are important to the building of the relationship. If one of the two persons talking does not wish to explore the feelings of the other on certain topics which appear personal, the self-exposure is avoided and transparency is halted. Of course, there is also “body language” cues and voice inflections that augment the conversation content and help one determine the other’s intentions.
Some of us are well-guarded individuals who feel very vulnerable with showing our feelings or revealing much about ourselves for various reasons. We may not wish to appear to be “playing games”, or being a “big tease” to the opposite sex. It may be that we sense we are vulnerable because of our last close relationship. We may be in a deep grief cycle (IE. Somewhere in denial, anger or depression). We may have trust and bonding issues related to being used, abused or neglected by a previous paramour. When well-guardedness is seen through defensive or avoidant responses and behaviors, the observant friend will not be permitted to share a lot of “in the moment” mindfulness type experiences with the injured person. You can be available and when the timing is right and they have resolved their issues you may be seen for who you are and valued. You can pursue that individual now and be disappointed beyond measure if the other person has not healed enough (or resolved certain issues enough) to recognize your value and compatibility.
The injured must improve their mindfulness by understanding themselves and being in the moment with others. This is accomplished by becoming more mindful of their actions as well as learning how to interpret and express their present environment. They will increase self-regulation of attention of personal experiences to develop more positive people connections with all types. Too many often struggle with developing the long-lasting positive connections with the same or the opposite gender based on recent past experiences (www.corporatetrainingmaterials.com). Many of these persons know how to use mindfulness when they are in their element (Singing, acting, art, praying, or viewing nature), but fail to practice it when they are with others.
“Money can’t buy me love” was a song by the Beatles and a saying we still hear today. Money can sometimes buy a person’s loyalty or time and that time can sometimes yield enough attention for mindfulness to occur or be learned. It’s not a given or a safe bet, but it happens occasionally. It happens when a person treasures safety and security above all else and is willing to trade their loyalty and affection for it.
Mindfulness, on the other hand is a safer bet for earning rather than buying one’s love. The practicing of “being in the moment” with a significant other and “active listening” will aid us in fully understanding each other’s needs and a step toward learning to compromise. There are many skills that one can practice enhancing effective communications and building a stronger relationship. Mindfulness is only one, but a very important one!
By Wayne R. Faust, MA, SPE, HSP
Author of 300 Billion to One,