What is Interpersonal Mindfulness?

So much of our wellbeing and happiness is about how effectively we can connect. When we embark on personal growth journeys, we may begin with re-connecting with our self and our internal world, but integral to our growth and evolution is the ability to connect with others. To form meaningful relationships, yes, but also in the everyday connections of basic functioning. Relating mindfully, is about bringing the qualities of mindfulness to how we relate to each moment and a part of that relationality is connecting to the people present in that moment. Whether we’re relating to them in our thoughts or in person – we bring the following three elements to the way in which we relate to them.

The 3 Elements of Interpersonal Mindfulness

1. Cultivating Presence

A purposeful act of tuning-in. It may be helpful to think of this as an engagement of all the senses so that we can take in the fullness of the moment – the whole moment. How do we do this? How does it help us to be more present? We tune-in to:

Our agenda by asking ourselves what we want from this scenario and the people involved. We always have some or other agenda – sometimes we want to be seen or heard or acknowledged or liked or respected – whatever the agenda. Tune-in to it and acknowledge it as this will allow you to be more authentic in your engagement and communication.

The feeling and emotions that arise in the moment. By bringing attention to the feelings, we can acknowledge them and allow them to be processed in a healthier way. This helps to keep us from being ‘hooked’ by the thought narrative which pulls away from the reality of the moment into the stories we create about the moment.

Our body, we notice and acknowledge the sensations that arise. This active awareness of our body and its sensations allows us to anchor ourselves in the moment. It also helps us to notice if there is something else like pain, tiredness, thirst or hunger that may be affecting how we are experiencing this moment.

The environment – the atmosphere, the temperature, the noise level, the privacy, etc. All of these environmental elements can affect how you and those involved in a particular interaction perceive and experience that interaction. BY taking note of the environmental elements at play, you can get a fuller understanding or awareness of the situation and the simple act of tuning in the environment helps us to be more present in that moment.

The other person or people involved in this scenario. We tune-in to the reality of them rather than our interpretation of them. We bring awareness to their body language and facial expressions. We acknowledge the whole of who they are – their agenda, their feelings, their needs, etc

2. Communicating Mindfully

When we communicate mindfully, we pause regularly and slow things down so that we can we cultivate presence. We listen actively – to understand and not just to respond. We pay attention to the words and the languaging and we recognise that our interpretations of words and languaging may be different and we check in to ensure that we have actually understood the other person’s meaning. We notice thoughts that arise and we notice when we have been hooked into the stories that they generate and actively tune back in, to the reality of the moment and the encounter and what the other person is saying.

3. Cultivating Feelings of Connection and Compassion

Interpersonal mindfulness requires an attitude of openness and acceptance. This is not to say that we accept everything that is said by the other party or parties involved – it means accepting the reality of the moment. Accepting that this is what they are saying and how they feel and also acknowledging and accepting your own feelings about what is being said.

In order to make connections we make appropriate eye contact. Remember that appropriate eye contact for you may not be the same for the other person so be sensitive to that fact.

Look for similarities or commonalities between you and the other person. By highlighting these similarities, there is an active cultivation of connection – even if it is only a small connection. This is especially important when there is conflict. Be aware of the other person’s potential suffering and actively open your heart to that suffering. This is also especially important in conflict situations, but it goes without saying that it is equally important to protect yourself – this is not about exposing yourself to anything harmful. There are many versions of the meta or loving kindness meditation that can help you to do this in a safe, healthy and productive way. In short, interpersonal mindfulness is about connecting with the reality and fullness of the moment, communicating in a way that is open, honest and kind, and actively looking for ways to connect and build

What are the Benefits of Interpersonal Mindfulness?

In short, interpersonal mindfulness is about connecting with the reality and fullness of the moment, communicating in a way that is open, honest and kind, and actively looking for ways to connect and strengthen those connections. The benefits to this way of relating may seem fairly obvious to you now, but to summarise interpersonal mindfulness allows for deeper, more open connection, and it allows us to feel safe and cared for in our relationships. Who doesn’t need that?

I am interested to hear your views on interpersonal mindfulness. Please tell me what you think using the comment box below, and if you found this article interesting or useful, please like and share it on your social media platform of choice. Thank you.

If you’d like to work with me, please contact me directly.

Featured image by Joseph Chan sourced from Unpslash

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