When I walked in for the job interview, I realized several things right away. I noticed how I felt in response to the beautiful views from the windows, relaxed attire, flowers on desks, and the open space. As this was a small company, I could see many of the people at work at their stations. It felt engaging and welcoming at the same time.
Just paying attention to the “vibe” of the place helped me quickly understand the culture and feel like I was a good fit. That is a great state of mind to be in to start an interview. I had the thought, “I’m so glad I’ve trained in mindfulness or might have missed this.”
Once the interview started, I had the opportunity to use the mindfulness and communication skills I learned studying group dynamics and somatic psychology. One of the most valuable practices was to learn how to pay close attention to body language. In this case, the interview team was telling me, with their smiles and sweeping, open gestures inviting me into the conference room - “we like you, don’t blow it.”
In a job interview, you will often hear a phrase early on like “We’re looking for someone who….” These kinds of statements are exceedingly valuable, so pay close attention to them. They are telling you exactly what they want to hear from you. You will often hear this in budding romantic relationships as well. They may say, “I’m looking for someone who is loyal” or “I don’t want a serious relationship.” In a job interview, you might hear, “we need someone who can think outside the box” or “we need someone who can work across teams.” Statements like these are beacons of light to guide you to success. Listen for them.
In my case, I heard them say, “This role requires someone who can turn around unhappy customers.” But it was what they did not say that caught my attention. They looked at each other like they were both recalling a not so great event, and that event was the actual topic of conversation. They may as well have said, “The last guy really blew it. It was a huge problem, and that’s why we’re talking to you now.”
Being present with the feeling of “Wow, this is a big deal topic”, my first impulse was to recite my resume accomplishments in this area. Instead, I took a breath, checked-in with my senses for a moment, and decided this needed a more personal touch. So I choose to tell a story instead. That breath and moment of consideration turned out to be key.
I could tell from how they were nodding along and seemed to relax that this was the right move. Also, to my surprise, the tone of the interview became far more conversational. Suddenly, it felt like colleagues telling stories at the brewpub instead of a job interview.
Without mindfulness training, I would have said, “Well, when I was at Contoso, I was in charge of technical remediation with enterprise customers,” rather than tell the story. When being mindful in conversation, you have more choices in the moment, often better choices that lead to better outcomes. By the end of the interview, the only question they had for me was, “When can you start?”
Looking back, I felt great about this interview, but I did not arrive at such a good outcome by just walking in and winging it. I trained for moments like these. I have a saying, “if you want to be mindful under pressure, you have practice when you’re not.”
In mindfulness meditation, the heart of the practice is learning how to notice your present moment experience and suspend judgment about it. In effect, to recognize what is going on in you and then name it objectively. You may notice an emotional state such as “I’m feeling tight and angry right now,” or “I’m having thoughts about what to do tomorrow,” or even something as physical and straightforward as “I’m noticing how hungry I am.”
You can take that same sensitive, alert, mindful state to your work environment. Imagine walking into your workplace, looking around, and noticing, non-judgmentally, what is going on for you and the people around you. “I’m noticing how stressed I feel about my deadlines,” or “This place is buzzing!” As with the meditation practice, there is no right or wrong; the exercise is simply to notice.
You can apply this to meetings. I call this technique “zooming” in reference to a zoom lens on a camera that can zoom out from a shot, then back in. Take a moment to consciously zoom-out from the meeting. Assume the point of view that you are a fly on the wall. Mindfully glance at the faces in the room (or on your screen) and notice how you feel. Do some people seem more engaged than others? Are people paying attention? How do you feel? It does not take long to get a read of the room. You will be surprised at what emerges from taking this point of view.
When you re-engage with the meeting after doing this, you are more fully informed about how you relate to the individuals and the group as a whole in this moment. Maybe you notice someone who seems quiet and held back, so you invite them into the conversation with a non-challenging question. Perhaps you notice that you do not feel safe and are less inclined to speak up. Regardless, as you are now more informed than you were, what you do and say is different, which influences the group. Often, for the better.
What difference would it make in our world if people were more present, authentic, and real in day-to-day conversations? Would we have a better society? More meaningful work and deeper conversations? Do you want more of this in your life? For most people, the answer is an enthusiastic “Yes!” With just a little practice, you can be more present, authentic, and effective in your communications, personally and professionally, leading to more satisfying relationships and better outcomes. You may have heard of the “Language of the Heart?” In the same sense, I call this “The Language of Mindfulness.”
If you are interested in more on this topic, see 8 Ways to Be More Mindful in Virtual Meetings.
*The Language of Mindfulness is a registered trademark of Brett Hill.
Brett Hill is a Mindfulness Coach specializing in mindful communication. He created The Language of Mindfulness, a process to help people be more present and skillful in communication. The method draws on years of study and work in mindfulness based somatic psychology with Ron Kurtz (and others) who created the Hakomi method, leading meditations for several years with the Lotus Center under the guidance of the late Audle Allison, and group dynamics with the founder of Matrix Leadership – Amina Knowlan. In addition, Brett has a degree in interpersonal communication and is an accomplished technologist having written books for Microsoft Press and named by Microsoft as a “Most Valuable Professional” for nine years. His business background includes running his own companies, working for tech companies including Microsoft in roles such as Technical Evangelist and Technical Marketing Engineer where he could use his storytelling and communication skills. www.languageofmindfulness.com