I first started looking into mindfulness a few years ago, when I realized that I was starting to become too frustrated at work. Throughout my career, people had told me that I was “always calm”, which used to make me laugh, because I often didn’t feel that way.
In one particularly chaotic and stressful role, I noticed myself becoming more and more frustrated, which resulted in an uncharacteristic emotional outburst. There was no damage done and things worked out fine, but still… I knew that this was something I wanted to improve on.
For me, having more mindfulness in my leadership was a good step to improving the way I responded to stressful situations.
In my experience, mindfulness helps leaders because we gain a heightened awareness of our emotions, thoughts and the way our body feels under stress. Mindfulness in leadership gives you the opportunity to respond consciously and intentionally, rather than to react in explosive and dysfunctional ways, without thinking first.
For leaders, this means you can tackle difficult conversations more easily, and handle criticism and harsh comments without flying completely off the handle. If people make comments (even unintentionally) that hurt your feelings or offend you, you’re more likely to be able to show restraint and remain polite.
Ultimately, being more mindful will help you to remain more composed, and help you to respond in a constructive manner. This will help you keep your composure in your interactions with your team, your colleagues and your boss.
Mindfulness helps leaders because we gain a heightened awareness of our emotions, thoughts and the way our body feels under stress
Our attitude represents how we feel about certain people or events, and is based on our own judgements.
These attitudes are based on logical reasoning, which are also shaped by our beliefs and feelings.
Emotions, on the other hand, are not necessarily based on reasoning or logic. Sometimes, emotions just hit, without us realizing what exactly they mean, or why they came.
What we would like to be able to do is react to situations rationally, instead of emotionally. Because emotional reactions bypass our logic and reasoning.
So, the way we can manage this is to become more aware of our emotions as we experience them. This means we can more consciously process the information, before we do something silly and reactive.
Because emotions are just that: information. With practice, we can use this information to better understand our situation and our environment.
A friend of mine called me once and said she was going into a stressful meeting, where she felt like she was likely to react emotionally to the conversation.
My advice in this case was something I’ve learnt over the past few years, and that is to become an observer of your emotions during the conversation.
As an observer, you listen to the discussion and still actively participate. The difference is that during the conversation, you pay careful attention to your emotions as people speak. Instead of losing yourself in the conversation, you try to detach.
What happens is that “I can’t believe that idiot said that! I’m so angry!” becomes “It’s interesting that I feel angry when he said that.”
Practicing this mindset over time can help you to improve the way you respond to rude remarks, or stressful situations.
This has helped me greatly, because when I notice myself becoming tense in meetings, I now have the awareness to try to relax and respond, rather than react without thinking.