I was running late to a meeting with a colleague. I grabbed from my desk several piles of what I thought were relevant papers as well as my computer to take notes. I had somewhat of an outline in my mind of what I wanted to discuss, but the demands of the day had left me with less time than I would have liked to prepare for our conversation.
When I arrived, I could tell right away that we were both distracted by other tasks that seemed to be taking over our day. I thought, should we reschedule? How productive can this meeting possibly be if neither one of us have had a chance to focus our attention on issues to discuss?
While the meeting was not as productive as I had hoped, it was still a valuable teaching tool to help generate awareness about how to stay mindful in a sometimes reactive environment. Here are my best tips on how to stay mindfully engaged in interpersonal interactions in a professional environment.
Maintain Eye Contact
A simple way to stay engaged during interpersonal interactions is to maintain frequent eye contact. This checking in with the other person helps reassure him or her that you are in fact listening to what he or she has to say. Doing this helps the other person understand that he or she matters enough to look up from your busy note-taking (also important!). To further increase your awareness while maintaining eye contact, try to remember the color or shape of the other person's eyes. If you can recall this, then you must have been paying close attention and truly noticing the other person in the interaction.
Keep an Agenda
Keep an agenda, but don't necessarily stick to it. Coming prepared to a meeting is always important to help ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of it, but consider creating an agenda beforehand to further help you stay on track and accomplish all that you need to in the limited time you have. Keep the agenda fluid, however, and allow the other person flexibility to contribute to the conversation by adding his or her own topics for discussion. This back and forth is a true respectful conversation that includes thoughtful points worth mentioning.
Create Next Steps
As you near the end of a meeting, move toward thinking about next steps considering the progress you have made in your communication. In fact, you might even prepare your proposed next steps before the meeting. Returning to next steps in your mind helps bring the meeting to a close while providing you with direction for the immediate or distant future. Propose next steps to your counterpart, and gauge whether these next steps are appropriate. Try to leave the meeting with at least one clear next step, referral, or recommendation for you to explore beyond the meeting.
The tips above help me make the most out of my meetings by ensuring I pay close attention to the person with whom I am conversing. While productivity does depend on task-oriented communications, the human element of work requires us to fully use our senses to practice the empathy we seek to give and receive.
© 2016 Melanie Glover. All rights reserved.
First image above: Shutterstock.