What is Mindful Communication?

The topic of communication is vast and complex with a myriad of interweaved nuances. It is also the foundation of connection and relationships which means that in order to thrive; we need to learn to master the art and skill of effective communication.  To effectively connect with the people in our lives and build relationships we need to cultivate proficiency in the art of communication. Communication and by association, these vital connections are vastly improved through the practice of mindful communication. 

According to Merriam-Webster, the simple definition of communication is “the act or process of using words, sounds, signs, or behaviours to express or exchange information or to express your ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc., to someone else“. I would suggest that this definition only tells half the story, and that meaningful communication is far more than this idea of sharing ourselves with the world. Meaningful communication must include our willingness to receive and be changed by the ideas, thoughts and feelings of others. Mark Nepo’s definition of listening sums this up so succinctly:

To listen is to lean in gently with the willingness to be changed by what you hearMark Nepo

Now days, the mediums of communication are vast and varied and very often do not involve actual human interaction. Posts, Tweets, WhatsApps and the like have, to a large extent, replaced the conversational dialogue. As such the skills involved in person-to-person communication may begin to atrophy, leaving us feeling awkward and uncomfortable in may social and professional situations. To become a skilful communicator one needs to develop all the functions of communication: speaking, listening, body language and presence.  Mindfulness in communication, involves all of these functions and significantly improves the quality of each.


Speaking is the part that we all want to do. We want to say our say and often all of the other functions of communication are hurried or even ignored so that we can get to say our say. To speak mindfully does not mean that we no longer say our say. We do. We just do it with more clarity, honesty, brevity and kindness. We remember that speaking has two functions:

  1. To convey a message or an idea.
  2. To respond to another’s message or idea.

When we speak mindfully, we are more aware of what we would like to say and how we would like to say it. We are more conscious of the message that we would like to convey and how we would like to convey it. We speak with more clarity and we are aware of our tone as much as our words, and the effect they may have. We practise one of Don Miguel Ruiz’s agreements: be impeccable with your word. We think before we speak and we do not agree to or commit to things that we cannot deliver or do not believe in.

Mindful communication teaches us to respond rather than react to another’s message or idea. We can pause before we speak, take in the words, tone and context of what another person is saying and make a conscious choice of how to respond.


Listening is a key function of communication. Good listening involves listening to the words, the tone and the emotion behind the words with openness and curiosity. We listen to understand and potentially be changed by what we hear. We listen with our whole being.

We tend to think about listening as a auditory function, but real listening is far more than that. Present or mindful listening involves:

  • Listening to words and tone with your ears.
  • Listening to emotion by watching for facial expression and posture and by feeling an empathic reaction to the person you’re with.
  • Listening with your body to how you’re reacting to what you hear see and feel – this is also called embodied awareness.


To be present is to be in the moment. This sounds quite intangible, but it isn’t really. It simply means that when you are in a conversation with someone you are really in it. You’re focused on them and what they’re saying and you’re not thinking about anything else – including what you’re going to say next. This is where mindfulness come into play most poignantly in communication; mindfulness is just that – present moment awareness.

Presence in communication allows us to be aware of:

  • The emotional tone of the conversation
  • The context which includes:
    • Our own beliefs and judgements about the conversation, our selves and the other person
    • Our intention and agenda in the conversation
    • The environment  and the effect it is having on the atmosphere of the conversation
  • Any discomfort we or the other person may be feeling and whether or not it is related to the conversation

Body Language

Body language includes facial expression as well as posture. We often say a thousand words before we have even opened our mouths purely with our posture and facial expressions. Learning to read and interpret body language is very useful in effective communication, but we can also use it to strengthen our message and convey the authenticity of that message.


Mindful communication is a skill, which helps us negotiate the relational world we live in, make strong and healthy connections and to thrive. Luckily, it is a skill that can be learned and honed with practice. 

I am interested to hear your thoughts on mindful communication – please leave a comment in the box below. If you found this article interesting or helpful, please like and share it to your social media platform of choice. Thank you.

To work with me or book a mindfulness-based support session, please contact me directly.

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