Lets talk about mindfulness and how to be mindful of other people! We often talk about mindfulness in relation to our-self. The practice embodies self-awareness and highlights our attention to the present moment. It also requires you to become less judgmental, and asks that you embrace humanity for all that it is, with all its strengths and weaknesses. The more mindful a person is, the more accepting they are of others. Ultimately, a mindful person is not only exceptionally in tune to their own emotions, feelings and beliefs but they demonstrate a deep respect for the people they interact with on a daily basis.
What Does It Mean To Be Mindful Of Others
Mindfulness influences the way we interact with the people around us. It teaches us to become consciously aware and awake, it helps us to live in a more authentic and respectful way. In order to be mindful of other people we have to live mindfully ourselves. This is done by practicing a heightened sense of no-judgmental awareness and by living in the moment.
Examining your personal values
When we talk about being mindful of others we need to talk about respect and empathy. Basically, I want to encourage you to become more aware and more awake in the way you interact with others and the world. Mindfulness teaches you to practice kindness and foster peace in a world that is diverse, difficult and sometimes crazy. In doing so, you not only positively impact those around you, but you become a better and calmer person for it.
Respect is a word we often throw around, especially in relation to another person. I often say things like, “I wish my boss would respect me more” and “I wish my son would respect the rules of the house”, but what does it actually mean? Respect means we pay attention to the beliefs and rights of others. We honor another person by demonstrating consideration for their feelings and needs. In some cases respect can mean you show admiration for an individual and appreciate their abilities and qualities. It does not mean you have to agree or like a person’s standpoint, it simply means you acknowledge that they have a right to one.
“Respect begins with this attitude: I acknowledge that you are a creature of extreme worth” – Gary Chapman
Empathy on the other hand is something quite different. It is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes. Empathy like mindfulness is an awareness of the emotions and feelings of others. It is a skill you can develop whereby you try and understand, listen and pay attention to the other person and their perspective.
“If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
– Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
1. Dealing with the unknown and unfamiliar
Mindfulness starts with evaluating your belief system and challenging the way you think about people and the world. We live on a rather large planet, with billions of people, and yet we often avoid or become averse to people who are different to us. We should be celebrating diversity not criticizing it.
When interacting with people from other religions, races and cultures put your judgement aside. Educate yourself instead, look for similarities rather than differences and keep an open mind. We all have something of value to offer, explore it, and be kind.
2. It is not wrong to be different
This follows on from the above. We ALL come from different backgrounds, each family system is unique, and we all have different likes and dislikes. Honor one another’s creativity and uniqueness, praise an individual’s ability to move away from the heard, or respect their need to stay with the familiar. How often have you judged someone because they were different from you?
One of my favorite things to do is to sit at a coffee shop at my local mall and watch the people go by. It always amazes me how different people are, from the way they dress to how they express themselves. I am sure you have caught yourself looking at a “goth” with a distasteful glance, or have made a comment about the “dirty hippy” wearing no shoes. We are human we judge, but we need to work on it. Rather admire the person for being authentic and for believing in something bigger than themselves. They can teach us a thing or two.
3. Identify your inner critic
When we are faced with something unfamiliar and different we often have a lot of negative things to say. This is often our minds’ defense mechanism kicking into action. However, I want to challenge you to become a little more self-aware. Next time you catch yourself judging another person ask yourself if it is necessary, how is it helping and what do you hope to achieve?
Explore your interactions with people face to face. How often have you made negative comments or belittled another person? Have your comments helped this person or made things worse? Do you find yourself forcing your opinions on others in an effort to put them on the right path? If so – stop!
4. Do you minimize people’s struggles?
Sometimes we minimize other peoples problems by saying things like, “Stop being so dramatic”, ” I have experienced worse” and “Get over it”. When we respond like this to people who are in pain we make them feel insignificant. There are a few reasons why we do this.
Firstly, we minimize when we don’t know how to deal with the person standing in front of us. We have this weird need to fix other people’s problems and when we don’t have a solution, we would rather avoid the problem all together. We also downplay people’s feelings because for many of us, emotions make us uncomfortable. Lastly, we diminish people’s experiences because we live in a selfish society and it is all out “ME”.
When you practice mindfulness you confront a lot of truths about yourself. This can be a painful and difficult process, but completely necessary for change to occur. If you want to live a more fulfilling life where you embody respect for yourself and others, then the work has to be done. By reevaluating your belief system and becoming more empathic toward others, wonderful things will start to happen. Life will become more pleasurable and you will feel more connected to yourself and others.
How To Be More Mindful Of Others
1. Listen to understand
When we listen mindfully, we are actively present with another person. We pay acute attention to how and what the other person is saying. You clear your mind from all distractions and judgement, and resist the need to formulate an immediate response or answer. Rather you give the other person your full focus, by listening not only to their words, but their feelings and emotions as well.
Volunteering provides us with the perfect opportunity to practice compassion and awareness. When we deliberately put ourselves in a situation where we must give of ourselves and time, we practice how to be mindful of others. When we volunteer we must put aside our beliefs and judgments to assist people/animals in need. It is here where we truly learn to live in the moment, practice gratitude and learn from others.
I have done a lot of volunteer work in my life. Every time I experience something new about others and about myself. Through volunteer work I have learnt what my limits are, It has challenged my thinking and it has given me the opportunity to grow as a person. Being a mindful person does not mean you have to endure everything life throws at you. Mindfulness taught me to accept my limits, as well as, embrace my strengths.
I used to volunteer at an orphanage for babies who had been diagnosed with HIV. It used to kill my soul. I would come home each time and be completely depressed. I noticed that I would become snappy at the people around me. So I decided to stop. Guess what, thats perfectly okay. I admire the people who have chosen this as their career path, but I could not handle it. Instead, I now volunteer at an animal shelter and at an old age home. The elderly have a rare way of teaching people how to appreciate life, and enjoy every moment as if it were your last. So find what works for you.
Traveling is fun and gives you the perfect excuse to learn about other people and cultures. Travel locally or internationally it doesn’t matter, because when you witness first hand another culture’s belief system, how they live and interact with the world it can be enlightening.
If you don’t have time to travel then get out of your comfort zone! Visit a new Church, go to a new gym, or try a new group hobby. The aim is to immerse yourself into the unknown, where you can learn about other people and how they behave.
4. Look after yourself
“Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”
As a counselor I have experienced burnout first hand. It is a horrible place to be. I learnt the hard way, that it is impossible to work with other people and have meaningful relationships if you don’t take care of yourself properly. Make sure you spend enough time doing something positive for yourself.
- Get creative (draw, sing, act, play music)
- Read books
- Take naps
- Go on long walks in nature
- Have a “time-out” with a friend or loved one often
- Speak to a therapist or join a support group
5. Love deeply and be present in your relationships
Foster meaningful and healthy relationships with the people around you. Tell the people you love and care about how much they mean to you and how much you appreciate them. Make time for your friendships and spouse. Take those extra 5 minutes and play and read to your children. Now is all the time you have – Enjoy it!
6. Practice mindfulness daily
Be present with the people you interact with, observe yourself and others without judgement, and accept people and the world for what they truly are. Practice mindful meditation, and do these mindful exercises and experience the results for yourself.
To Sum Things Up
To be mindful of others means to be more patient and compassionate to the people around you. To demonstrate respect and empathy to all individuals, cultures and society as a whole no matter their belief. When we are mindful of others we have to embrace our flaws and practice self-awareness in our communication and behavior toward others, so we can live a more meaningful existence.