Daniel Siegel, a neuroscientist and author of The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being, contends that a corporate culture of cognitive short-cuts results in oversimplification, curtailed curiosity, reliance on ingrained beliefs and the development of perceptional blind spots. He argues that mindfulness practices enable individuals to jettison judgement and develop more flexible feelings toward what before may have been mental events they tried to avoid, or towards which they had intense averse reactions.
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Here are some ways in which leaders can be far more mindful in their conversations:
- Ensure they are fully present and focused on the current conversation with another. This means having taken the time to clear the mind from the previous conversation or meeting and also not having their mind focused on the next meeting or conversation;
- Engage in a brief grounding 2 minute meditation prior to important conversations or meetings to facilitate calm and clear intentions;
- Practice “beginner’s mind”—suspending assumptions, fixed beliefs and having the predetermined answer to issues— which enables them to see the situation or others’ perspectives brand new, without prejudgment;
- Practice empathetic listening to others. This involves not just hearing words, but attuning to others’ emotions and feelings;
- Practice compassionate responses. If the conversation is a result of another who has made a mistake or failed in some way, rather than automatically reacting with criticism, judgment or punishment, intentionally responding with compassion first;
- Stop needing to be right and the “authority” in all conversations. This requires the leader to be able to say “I don’t know,” show vulnerability and turning to others for answers;
- Practice reflective listening. All too often in conversations and meetings, the leader is the one who talks the most and others listen. Mindful leaders do the opposite, listening and reflecting most of the time.
- In meetings, formally checking in with how the other participants are feeling that day individually and one at a time, to gauge the energy in the room.
In summary, mindful leaders have very different conversations, ones that not only facilitate better involvement by others, but also deeper connections.