An Exploratory Study of the Application of Mindsight in Email Communication

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Abstract

Research problem: Email communication is a type of virtual communication with specific characteristics: - it is a form of written communication; it is asynchronous, i.e. not occurring at the same time for the sender and recipients. Email does not include face to face communication and thus the capacity to develop a sense of connection, shared knowledge and trust are distorted due to the lack of interpersonal cues and may become a problem.
Communication is a process where one mind affects another, and it is through the process of communication that individuals develop shared perceptions and coordinate their behaviours. This implies creating social worlds rather than disseminating information between people. The fact that communication is not a mere means of disseminating information but also a means of developing social entities for co-creation of understanding requires that individuals approach communication with a sense of awareness of themselves and others.
Proposed solutions:
In this article the theory of Mindsight is proposed as an approach of mindful observation of the act of communication resulting in deeper awareness, reflection and potential impact on behaviour. Although Mindsight has been extensively used in addressing self-awareness and communication in real spaces, there is a gap in the existing relevant literature about the application of Mindsight in virtual/email communication.

Methods: A Mindsight Utility for Virtual Communication (MUVC) was developed for use in engaging with email. The MUVC is a set of exercises enabling users to identify and manage their email habits over a period of time. The utility was developed to engage users in experiencing self-awareness and awareness of others and provides an aid to formulate personal guidelines in email communication. It was implemented with nineteen participants as part of action research allowing each individual to develop their own guidelines grounded in the experience of using the observation practice.
Data: Qualitative data was collected in the form of diaries for a period of 6 days from two group of participants: -university students; - employees of a social enterprise. Ethics approval was granted from Northumbria University prior to data collection. Thematic analysis was used.
Results: The study uncovered potential problems and solution strategies, inhibitors and facilitators of communication. Problems with email were perceived as: not knowing one another, difficulties in connecting, lack of trust, lack of interpersonal clues, reduction in communication quality, emotional and psychological discomfort. Solution strategies included: open-mindedness, empathy, compassion, attention focus, clear language, awareness practice, addressing physical and emotional discomfort.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere04305
Number of pages29
JournalHeliyon
Volume6
Issue number7
Early online date15 Jul 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020

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