Note: This is a guest post by blogger and author, David J. Singer who blogs at Six Simple Rules. He’s a great guy you would do well to get to know.
If you stop to think about the number of times a day you interact with other people you’ll probably find it’s more often than you think (at home, the store, the bank, post office, gym, neighborhood, classroom, in line, at the office and even passersby).
The opportunities are certainly there. Now think about those interactions. Are they deep, or do they tend to be shallow?
For most of us, the vast majority of these interactions are shallow. For example, when you go into your favorite coffee shop and order coffee, what happens? Do you say “hello” or “how are you?” to the person taking your order?
If you do, are you mindlessly doing it out of habit or are you mindfully engaging with the other person? It’s mindlessness that usually rules the day.
How about when you pass a co-worker in the corridor at your office? Do you smile or do you keep your head down? Even if you smile, and even if you say “How ya doin’?” are you really asking them how they are actually doing and truly listening for their answers? Or are you just being polite?
Most of us operate to a great degree on autopilot, following our routines and habits in many of our daily interactions. What I’m going to suggest is that developing mindful interactions is a terrific investment of your time and energy and is the secret to deepening your relationships.
The result of mindful interactions is positive vibes for the other person and positive feelings and experiences for you.
Here’s what to do:
1. Create a log of your daily interactions in order to enhance your awareness of all of the people with whom you interact.
2. Then, when you come across them in the course of your day-to-day activities, stop what you are doing, look them in the eye, and ask how they are doing in a way that lets them know that you really want to hear the answer. Smile while you wait for a reply.
3. Listen—really listen—to their answer.
4. The next time you see them, do the same thing (and after having heard a real answer from them the time before, perhaps you will have something specific to ask about—a follow-up to something that came up previously.)
5. Each day, think about your positive experiences with this new habit and celebrate your progress.
6. Keep at it until it becomes a habit. It takes about 21 days to create a habit, as long as the task is small enough. But don’t be too hard on yourself. Maybe you can create the habit for certain people you interact with as a start, building momentum from there.
Here are 6 of the people with whom I have worked on this new habit:
1. Supermarket cashiers
2. Parking lot attendants
3. Restaurant greeters
4. Restaurant servers
4. Dry cleaner store attendants
5. Gas station attendants
7 Results from Mindful Interaction
1. Interesting conversations that I would not have otherwise had.
2. Good vibes for me from having helped someone else feel happier. (The same way that simply smiling at people elicits good feelings and results in a smile back.)
3. An overall sense of better well-being for me from having slowed down rather than mindlessly moving through such a significant part of life.
4. Better conversations with people at business functions where in the past I might have “moved on to the next person.”
5. Becoming a better listener.
6. Feeling a bit less rushed, despite spending more time in these interactions. It’s an amazing thing: when you slow down, you feel less stressed, and less rushed, despite using more time. Sometimes you will have to cut off the conversations in order to stay on your schedule. Or maybe you will find yourself giving yourself more time to get from one place to the next in order to leave more time for these new, enjoyable parts of your day.
7. Having more friends. Friends aren’t just the people I hang out with in my spare time. I would love to be friends with everyone in the world. Really.
You may feel like you are super busy—that’s a common feeling. You may find yourself frequently rushing to the next thing you have to do, or the next place you have to get to—another extremely common life experience.
As a result, you may worry that these additional interactions will add stress to your already busy, rushed life. But if you add up the amount of additional time you put into these mindful interactions over the course of a day, you will find it to be a small additional investment of your time.
And if you do a cost-benefit analysis— the cost being the time, and the benefits being those outlined above (and more), you’ll see that this habit yields a wonderful return on your investment.
What do you think?
Where are some places you can employ more mindful interactions? Or if you already do this on a regular basis, what has your experience been? Join the conversation in the comments below …
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Photo credit: ymc_photos