By Nate Macanian – Meditation Coach and Friend of Rational Games
In a business culture permeated by buzzwords, it is no longer even possible to ignore the practice of mindfulness, a movement that’s been spreading like wildfire. And for good reason – scientific studies have documented a long list of benefits attained through the practice of mindfulness meditation. While meditation is indeed a wonderful tool for relaxation, recent research has also shed light on meditation’s considerable ability to upgrade other noteworthy life skills; things like enhanced focus and memory, improved creativity, and even better sleep.
In today’s fast-paced world, it seems that mindfulness can also impart a leading-edge advantage for… negotiators? We certainly think so. Consider the most successful negotiators you know in your own life – what do they all have in common? Certainly a certain amount of grit and technical expertise, but more than that, most successful negotiators today exhibit a strong sense of mindfulness. They are emotionally intelligent, self-aware, free from distractions, and exhibit phenomenal listening skills. Thinking about it the other way – have you ever seen a negotiator or leader who was completely mindless? How did that go?
As artfully said by Henry Ford,
“When I talk to managers, I get the feeling that they are important. When I talk to leaders, I get the feeling that I am important.”
Whereas meditation was once left to the world of hippies and monks, today, meditation is now practiced by the world’s most high-performing individuals, including NBA superstar Lebron James, media maverick Oprah Winfrey, and SalesForce CEO Marc Benioff. Steve Jobs was an outspoken supporter of meditation, and even Bill Gates has commented on how crucial practicing meditation has been for his success.
“Meditation is simply an exercise for the mind, similar to the way we exercise our muscles when we play sports. For me, it has nothing to do with faith or mysticism. It’s about taking a few minutes out of my day, learning how to pay attention to the thoughts in my head, and gaining a little bit of distance from them.” -Bill Gates
(Side note – is it a coincidence that the names above are also some of the most charitable philanthropists of the 21st century?)
So, how do mindfulness and negotiation or leadership connect? Perusing the business section of Barnes & Nobles, we will soon recognize that one of the most important skills for thriving in the business world is communication, and indeed, it’s a skill that mindfulness influences directly. Take the example of negotiation. In negotiation, dealing with a mindful person generates trust, empathy, and synergy. Overall, mindful people are more intentional and values-based. This intentionality naturally leads to honesty and integrity of practice, which makes them much easier to work with.
Said simply: we want to work, manage, be managed, and make deals with people who communicate mindfully. On the other hand, negotiating with someone who is inconsiderate, selfish, and unaware can feel like hitting your head against a brick wall. This is also true for working with teammates. Strong collaboration and team communication skills are incredibly important for any well-functioning company, and sports provide a strong example. The NFL Superbowl champions and the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers both have a colorful history of introducing mindfulness meditation practices to their players.
The good news: neuroscience also shows us that the qualities of mindfulness are all eminently trainable – the gray-matter density in the parts of our brain that account for memory, positive emotion, and concentration all increase in size while practicing meditation. Even better, the regions that create stress and negative emotions seem to shrink with proper practice.
The verdict is out: mindfulness is not only a wonderful tool for enhancing our mind, but it is also a thoroughly rational business decision in any effort to improve the bottom line.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to practice mindfulness, here are a few resources: