Mindful communication

Intentions and notes

The intention of this session is to encourage people to really listen to each other – and also to give the opportunity for them to (hopefully!) feel heard by someone else. As the handout says, times of conflict with others are a huge trigger for substance misuse, so if we can help people to experience a more ‘aware’ – mindful – way of communicating then they may remember this when stuck in old patterns of conflict at some point in future.

It seems like a good opportunity to bring in a meditation practice of awareness of sounds, to start opening up the ears and exercising the listening parts of the brain – but as always this is a suggestion, so use what seems appropriate for you and your group.

The most important thing with the exercise is to ensure you’re really clear about the order of what people are going to be asked to do, and to explain it in the right order for them, so that they are clear. I usually write the two topics on the board in advance and have it hidden – revealing it when I reveal the topics, immediately before doing the exercise itself, when they’re already in position and know who’s going first etc. This is to avoid them planning/overthinking it beforehand and not listening to the instructions properly – this can be a really anxiety-provoking exercise for people. This anxiety is another reason it’s important to give permission to sit in silence if they run out of things to say, and to give them a ‘job’ to do in that time (bring awareness to the body).

It’s also worth repeating that they will summarise what they heard back to the other person when it’s their turn – not giving any feedback about how well the other person is doing, or encouraging them – but saying what they heard. People often want to support each other and let the other person know how well they think they’re doing, but it can be a much more powerful experience simply hearing what you’ve said fed back to you through another person’s filters.

I find this group works best with at least three pairs – less than three and people can tend to feel more awkward and anxious about speaking. Having said that, one learning outcome for someone in this group once was his ability to face that anxiety and awkwardness, and the strength he felt he’d gained from ‘feeling the fear and doing it anyway’.


  • Download the printable group outline and handout here.


  • Title and running order of group
  • Topics for talking about

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