3 Keys to Effective Communication for Leadership and Life

Mindful communication builds positive relationships.

Posted Feb 13, 2019

Whether we are leaders at work, in volunteer organizations, or within our families, mindful communication strengthens relationships and inspires positive outcomes, energy, and engagement.

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Jeff is a busy manager in a mid-size financial company who could benefit from more mindful communication. Rather than carefully listening when meeting with colleagues, he multi-tasks, checks his emails, or thinks about his next meeting. Jeff’s responses to staff are frequently abrupt and negative. Lately, several significant errors have been made in his department, which scored poorly on a recent employee engagement survey.

In his book, Positive Leadership (2012), University of Michigan researcher Kim Cameron reports that positive leaders use supportive communication strategies. This includes sharing support, appreciation and encouragement when things are going well—and striving to preserve and support positive relationships when dealing with challenging or uncomfortable situations. 

Whether you’re currently a leader/manager, an aspiring leader, or in a position to influence others in your personal life, here are a few strategies to stimulate supportive, mindful communication:

1. Deliver more positive than negative messages in conversations.  Include feedback with the intention of strengthening and building a relationship. 

  • Improve team performance with a ratio of three to six positive statements for each one negative statement (Cameron, 2012; Losada & Heaphy, 2004).  
  • Where it’s appropriate, show encouragement or appreciation. For example: “This is a good idea,” “You make a valid point here,” or “I appreciate your hard work on this.”
  • Make your negative messages supportive, appropriate and problem-focused – consider the other person’s feelings as well as your own. 

2. Act in your own best interest while respecting the rights of others.

  • Listen carefully and respectfully. Ask the other person to listen carefully to you.
  • Speak clearly and firmly with a steady, calm voice.
  • Be aware of your body language. Make regular eye contact in a way that feels comfortable and respectful. 
  • Squarely face the person you are talking with.

3. Speak and listen mindfully. 

  • Be fully present to the conversation; focus on the person who is speaking, and listen intently. 
  • Pay attention to the speaker’s reactions in addition to the words. What do you see? What you hear?
  • Ask questions, listen to the speaker’s response, and clarify as needed.
  • When you notice you’re distracted, take a mindful pause and remind yourself to be fully present. 

*This post is for educational purposes and should not substitute for psychotherapy with a qualified professional.


Cameron, K. (2012). Positive Leadership: Strategies for Extraordinary Performance. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Losada M. & Heaphy, E. (2004). The role of positivity and connectivity in the performance of business teams: A nonlinear model. American Behavioral Scientist, 47(6), 740-765.