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    Mindful communication and McMindfulness

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    Business Spotlight 9/2021
    Female silhouette on pink background with a picture of the world
    Von Professor Peter Franklin

    If I had a euro for every hithier: Treffenhit that Google supplies for the term “mindfulnessAchtsamkeitmindfulness”, I would be a multimillionaire. The popularity of the term has, however, led to considerable controversy in the past few years. 

    Yet, it all started off with such good intentions. With roots in Buddhist meditation, mindfulness became a term used by clinical psychologists in the West from the 1970s to describe various therapies to treat conditions such as anxietyAngst(zustände)anxiety, depression and stress. 

    But then mindfulness slowly became the goose to lay the golden egg many times over. The increasing commodification of the term, often at the at the expense of sth.auf Kosten von etw. (anderem)expense of the ideas behind it, led to what Buddhist psychotherapist Miles Neale calls the “McMindfulness” business, said to be worth some $4 billion (€3.4 billion).

    In 2019, US management professor Ronald E. Purser — author of  McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality — wrote in The Guardian that “mindfulness has been oversold and commodified, reduced to a technique for just about any instrumental purpose”. He said the business is “to be void of sth. | voidan etw. mangeln | leervoid of a moral compass or ethical commitmentVerpflichtungcommitments, unmooredlosgemacht; hier: entkoppeltunmoored from a vision of the social good”.

    A mindfulness model 

    So, what has mindfulness got to do with intercultural communication? And what possessed Jeremy Comfort and me to start writing a book in 2008 with “mindful” in its title (see footnote,
    p. 29)? Certainly not the wish to jump on the passing mindfulness to jump on the bandwagonauf den Zug aufspringenbandwagon. Rather, we were impressed by the model of mindful intercultural communication (see p. 29) formulated by pioneeringweg-,zukunftsweisendpioneering and respected intercultural scholarGeisteswissenschaftler(in)scholar Stella Ting-Toomey in her 1999 book Communicating across Cultures. This, in turn, was inspired by Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer’s 1989 book simply entitled Mindfulness

    Langer suggests that mindfulness originates in three areas: 1) creating new categories to understand the world; 2) openness to new information; and 3) awareness of more than one perspective. Jeremy Comfort and I also recognized this set of qualities as being central to effective and appropriateangemessen; hier auch: situationsgerechtappropriate intercultural communication.

    Heightened awareness

    Based on a mindful conceptualization of the components of intercultural competence familiar to interculturalists — motives, knowledge and skills — Ting-Toomey’s model proposes outcomeErgebnisoutcomes of mindful intercultural communication that satisfy the familiar criteria of effectiveness and appropriateness. Interestingly, she added the criterion of satisfaction. These outcomes — being understood, being respected and being supported — still to resonate with sth.bei etw. Widerhall findenresonate 20 years later with the modern requirements of diversity and inclusion in society and organizations. 

    For Ting-Toomey, mindfulness in intercultural communication is a form of heightened awareness of people’s behaviour during interaction. She refers in her book to the “focused attention to the process of communication taking place between us and dissimilar others”. 

    Language and mindfulness 

    The qualities and attitudes needed for mindful intercultural communication are fairly obvious: an open-mindednessAufgeschlossenheitopen-mindedness, an awareness of one’s own cultural and individual assumptionAnnahmeassumptions, values and norms and of those of the other, a willingness to to take account of sth.etw. berücksichtigentake account of these different perspectives in one’s actions  and evaluations of people from different cultures.

    But how do you actually “do” mindful communication? How do you achieve this process orientation in language when communicating across cultures? 

    Ting-Toomey provides a number of recommendations, admittedly unsupported by authentic examples, that are intuitively plausible and have been to elaborate on sth.etw. näher ausführenelaborated on by other scholars: using language (and appropriate non-verbal signals) to show attentiveness to what is being said; modifying language to make it more comprehensibleverständlichcomprehensible; using language to construct and negotiate meaning by to paraphrase sth.etw. zusammenfassenparaphrasing, to summarize sth.etw. zusammenfassensummarizing, testing the correctness of one’s understanding; and repairing misunderstanding when it becomes obvious.

    commodificationKommerzialisierungCommodification of an idea? An example of McMindfulness? Hardly. More the application of an idea for heightened interpersonal and intercultural understanding.

    A model of mindful intercultural communication 

    In addition to the criteria and outcomes mentioned in this article, Stella Ting-Toomey’s 1999 model describes and to elaborate on sth.etw. näher ausführenelaborates on the components of mindfulachtsammindful intercultural communication. These are “knowledge factors” such as cultural and personal values, language and verbal communication, relationship development and conflict management; “motivational factors” such as the need to be mindful of identity domainIdentitätsbereichidentity domains, identity needs and ethnocentricethnozentrischethnocentric tendencies; and “skill factors”, which include mindful observation, listening and stereotyping, as well as the skills of flexible adaptation and constructive conflict management.

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