Even the most extroverted among us get tired of the same old small talk topics - the weather, where you work, what suburb you live in. And with Christmas parties, networking and festive events stringing this season together, it’s hard to avoid the mindless chit chat.
So what if we had mindful conversations instead?
We’ve curated a sort of antidote to this easy trap of human interactions, where we learn to become more engaged and thoughtful in our communication with others. And in turn, steer the conversations in a more interesting and deliberate direction. Put your phones away, save your memes for later, and learn how to make your conversations more mindful!
Cultivate presence to stay in the moment
One of the cornerstones of mindful conversations is being fully present with the people you’re conversing with. The most obvious expectation is no multitasking - put your devices away, plan your time so you’re not watching the clock, and if you’re on the phone, avoid doing other tasks at the same time.
In our fast-paced lives, it's easy to get caught up in thoughts about what you’re cooking for dinner or something that happened earlier in the day - and that’s normal! But if you catch your mind wandering, take a breath and tune back into their voice, make eye contact, and refocus your awareness.
If you miss something they’ve said, it happens to the best of us - but better to be upfront than to fumble through without the information. Just apologise and ask them to share again. Even bothering to hear something again will show your mindful intentions in the conversation.
The power of active listening
Effective communication is a two-way street, and mindful conversation is only possible when you listen to each other. Instead of planning your response while the other person is talking, focus on truly understanding their words and emotions. Make eye contact, nod in acknowledgment, and use verbal cues to show you are engaged. As you absorb what’s been said, you can ask follow up questions to dive deeper or guide the conversation along shared interests.
By actively listening, you not only gain a deeper understanding of the other person's perspective, but you also create a space for them to express themselves freely. Which is one of the fastest ways to spark a captivating conversation that goes where the mutual passions lie.
Choose your words wisely
Alongside active listening, a mindful conversation comes from how we express ourselves. Be conscious of your language - and notice if you start sliding into automatic, small talk territory.
While we’re advocates for going with the flow of conversations, it doesn’t hurt to have some interesting questions up your sleeve to get to know people better in any setting. This list of 99 mindful conversation topics is a great place to start, asking things like ‘where do you feel most centred and happy?’ or ‘who do you most admire?’.
If the setting suits, then we also love a good conversation deck to ignite new topics, like renowned relationship specialist Esther Perel’s Where Should We Begin game. With a number of different versions of the rules, the game can be played with partners, friends, or at dinner parties, and invites you to share stories and connect with others.
Embrace the silence
Silence is a powerful tool in mindful conversations. Instead of rushing to fill every moment with words, allow for pauses. It might feel unnatural - but don’t be afraid of a little silence, as it often leads to clearer communication and more intriguing conversation topics.
These silent intervals provide both you and the other person with time to reflect on what has been said and formulate thoughtful responses. Embracing silence also reduces the pressure to constantly contribute, creating a more relaxed and comfortable atmosphere for everyone involved.
Navigate difficult topics with compassion
Mindful conversations aren't limited to easygoing topics, and sometimes the true test of mindful communications comes from navigating challenging discussions with compassion.
Approach difficult subjects with an open heart and a non-judgmental attitude, whether that’s an emotional experience or an opposing view. Acknowledge the other person's feelings and concerns, and express your own thoughts with empathy. In tricky conversations, it can be helpful to remember the goal is not always to find a resolution - but to foster understanding and connection.
Use "I" statements to express your thoughts and feelings to put the focus back on your own personal responsibility. By opting for a statement like “That’s interesting, I’ve previously thought this. What do you think?” rather than “You’re wrong, and this is why,” you’re choosing words that convey understanding and encourage respect.
If it’s an awkward time or setting for the conversation - say a work Christmas party or a busy cafe - you could also suggest moving to a quieter room or taking a walk. Sometimes, people shut down when they come up against a strong emotion or challenging perspective, so being present helps you notice if the other person needs a break or a lighter change of topic.
This subtle shift can reduce defensiveness and promote a more open dialogue, one where the people involved can feel comfortable sharing their thoughts without judgement.
Communicating beyond words
Not everything can be said with words - and when you bring mindfulness into a conversation, you’ll become even more aware of the role body language plays in conveying thoughts and emotions. When engaging in conversation, maintain an open posture, make eye contact, and use facial expressions to complement your words.
Try to avoid defensive gestures like crossing your arms or looking around, which can create barriers to genuine connection. By aligning your body language with your words, you let the essence of your words come through loud and clear, adding more impact to your conversation.
The aftermath of conversations
After sharing a mindful conversation, take time to reflect on the exchange. In the moments after you part ways, head home, or return to your own company, think about any big or vulnerable moments, lessons learned, and your own feelings about the discussion.
Reflecting allows you to internalise the experience, and maybe even spot areas for improvement - whether something you said rubbed the wrong way or a particular setting wasn’t conducive to connecting.
And if the conversation involved a decision or action items, take the time to follow up as needed, so you can reinforce the value of the interaction and the positive effects of conversing mindfully.
Make mindful conversations a habit
In a world where constant connectivity and memes are the hallmarks of communication, it feels like genuine conversations take a back seat. As a result, it takes more time and energy to cultivate these meaningful interactions with the people in your life.
But by weaving these ideas into your daily interactions - from the office or coffee shop, to your home or after-hours gathering - you can create a positive ripple effect in your relationships. The real essence of mindfulness lies in being present, actively listening, and responding with intention - and once you get these in the bag, you'll discover the profound impact mindful conversations can have on your connections and overall well-being.