Standing in front of a packed conference room during a presentation Q/A, my client asked me a question. My palms started to sweat and I felt lightheaded. As each word came out of her mouth, I realized I wasn’t listening. Instead, I involuntarily thought, “What are they going to say next?” or “Am I going to answer all of these questions correctly?” When the room finally fell silent and I realized I had no response prepared because I had missed her question, I fumbled through a response before finally asking, “Can you repeat the question?” Needless to say, it was not a shining moment.
When it comes to business, communication is everything whether you’re presenting to a client or communicating with coworkers. Even though it’s so key, it’s a struggle. There is so much on your plate from multiple meetings, clients, and deadlines that when you need to be present in the room, you freeze up. You’re so used to mentally being onto the next task that it’s difficult to actively listen to the other person. Not being present in the moment is the most revealing reason you struggle to communicate because it comes from how you show up in other areas. Let me explain.
When was the last time you listened to your coworkers’ complete thoughts before tuning them out and thinking about how you were going to respond? Maybe you even talked over them before they finished speaking? Our immediate reaction is to respond quickly — to get our thoughts out and keep the conversation going, but often we miss something leading to miscommunications and swirl.
Mindful Listening Tip
Try this mindful listening tip next time you’re in a conversation. Simply wait for the other person to finish speaking and take two breaths before responding. It might feel awkward at first, but it gives you a chance to listen and digest what they said and take a moment to thoughtfully respond.
Another great tip is to notice when you’re drifting out of a conversation and slowly guide yourself back. In a meeting and catch yourself thinking about lunch? Gently guide your mind back to the meeting you’re attending. Your coworker starts rambling and you lost them in a train of thought? Come back to the conversation and pick up where you left off. These gentle reminders help us to be present and listen.
You have a choice: decide that you’re going to be an effective communicator and take micro actions everyday to get there.
Next time you’re presenting to a client and catch yourself drifting off into your own mind. Don’t let your mind get the best of you, take a breath and be in the room. Once you’re mentally in the room, you’ll know what to say.
About the Author
Jess Penesso is a mindfulness strategist, yoga teacher, and podcaster in New York City. She shares tools with women to shift their mindset to live passionate and productive lives on her website, Fit and Flow.