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Mindful : October 2017
When our mental filters blind us at work, it’s time to clean the lens. Seeing Clearly Michael Carroll is a regular contributor to Mindful magazine. He is the author of Fearless at Work. When it comes to work, getting the job done isn’t the only thing that mat- ters. The way we relate to our cowork- ers is also crucial—without healthy workplace relationships, it’s hard to accomplish much of anything. So how can we cultivate a positive social envi- ronment while on the job? In his bestselling book Social Intel- ligence, Daniel Goleman describes how we’re biologically hardwired to “tune in” to one another. In fact, one of the central skills of social intelli- gence, he found, is attunement, which is our ability to build rapport with others by offering total attention and listening fully. Building relationships at work is not just a matter of “knowing the right people” in order to get ahead. Working well with colleagues elevates everyone’s experience, builds trust and mutual respect, fosters creative collaboration, and instills confidence that may even translate to greater professional opportunity. The Role of Meditation Science is exploring how mindfulness meditation strengthens our ability to attune to others—specifically, how it strengthens the part of our brain responsible for reg ulating emotions, heightening communication, and reducing anxiety. What’s less measurable is how it helps us to see beyond our own filters. In work as in life, we tend to view people through mindsets that empha- size how we prefer them to fit into our world (see “Belonging Is Believing” on page 20). For example, if we’re looking for a mate, we’ll filter their information for cues about the possi- bility of a relationship. Likewise, if we hope to make a business deal, we’re on the lookout for hints of opportunity. While using social filters to discern such possibilities isn’t a problem, being unaware that we’re doing so is. Mindsets help us focus on what we need, but they also can blind us to what others may need from us. In other words, too often we unwittingly misread others, not appreciating them for who they truly are. By bringing your attention to your immediate experience, instead of relating to others through a filter based on your assumptions or needs, you interact with the actual, fully dimensional person. The Impatient Doctor I once coached a research scientist who struggled to “tune in” to his col- leagues. One had complained that she felt diminished and disrespected by his impatience. After several months, we had a breakthrough conversation: “How did your meeting with your colleag ue go yesterday?” I asked. “I think I am getting better,” he responded. “Did you notice anything new about her?” He hesitated. “She does seem a bit tired.” “How so?” “I don’t know. Like she was maybe sad?” “Like her heart is broken?” I gently suggested, hinting that I knew more about the circumstances than I had let on. With a glance of recognition, it was clear he suddenly understood what it felt like to tune in. “ You’re right,” he said softly. “She is sad. Why? I don’t know. It feels like I haven’t actually seen her until now.” “And you may not know,” I offered, “that she has recently divorced and is now a single mom of two small kids.” Like so many of us, my client had blinded himself to his colleague and dulled his natural ability to really see the complete person. Rather than lis- tening, he had dismissed; rather than opening, he had closed off. Through mindful self-reflection and training, he reawakened his instinct to tune in. And today, his ability to build socially intelligent relationships has greatly improved. No matter where we start, we don’t need to be blinded by our filters. Mindfulness teaches us how to offer our total attention and listen fully. Healthy workplace relation- ships are just one of many potential positive outcomes. ● PRACTICES | work–life balance 36 mindful October 2017 Illustration by Edmon de Haro