Mindfulness can help practitioners stay present with clients

By AdvocateDaily.com Staff

For conflict resolution practitioners, mindfulness can be a useful strategy to both improve quality of work and decrease stress, St. Catharines family lawyer and mediator Sharon Silbert recently told attendees at the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) annual conference.

Presenting as part of the ACR’s “New Voices” initiative at its conference in Cincinnati on Oct.8, Silbert discussed steps that those engaged in conflict resolution can take to connect more deeply with the situation at hand, and use their skills more optimally.

“Mindfulness is not about trying to stop having thoughts, or trying to change your thoughts. It’s about recognizing when you’ve disconnected from the present because you’ve been caught up in thoughts, or swept away by emotions, and then simply returning your focus to the here and now.

“In addition to helping us care for ourselves and manage our stress levels, incorporating mindfulness can also help us in our work as dispute resolution professionals. In particular, it can help us to be ‘present’ with our clients, to access the powerful skills we already possess, and to employ them to maximum positive effect.”

However, Silbert told those in attendance, those who are interested in incorporating mindfulness into their lives and work often struggle to do so, because the most powerful benefits of mindfulness only come with consistent practice.

As such, one method of facilitating the consistency required to integrate mindfulness is by developing a ‘mindfulness habit’, she says. This involves thinking about the kinds of triggers you can use to remind yourself to pause and re-connect with the present moment throughout your workday.

“If we want to make moments of mindfulness more common in our lives, we can take steps to turn the process of returning our attention to the present into something we do by force of habit.

“Habits are formed when actions are tied to a trigger by consistent repetition so that, when the trigger happens, you have an automatic urge to do the action. A good example from my personal life is that, as soon as I wake up, I walk to the back door and open it to let my dogs outside. Waking up is the trigger, and the habit is opening the door,” Silbert told the conference.

While the road to more mindful living is paved with challenges and obstacles like discouragement and feeling too busy, Silbert says there are ways to manage those kinds of thoughts.

“One was to realize that the feeling that ‘I just don’t have time’ or ‘I’m too busy’ is actually anxiety, and the best way to deal with that anxiety is through self-care, which, for me, includes pausing for a moment, taking a few deep, deliberate breaths, stepping out of the tornado of thoughts whirling around my brain, and re-connecting with the present.

“Another thing that really helped me stop these type of thoughts from completely derailing my efforts to become more mindful was to realize that it’s okay to start small. There’s no need to commit to hours of meditation every day for the rest of your life.”

If conflict resolution practitioners take even a few moments a day to focus on mindfulness, they can learn to be more present for their clients and for themselves.