Take a minute to reflect on how it feels to be really listened to, and how it feels to be only partially or hardly listened to! Start noticing today when this happens….and then begin to notice when you really listen – and when you don’t… I thought I was a good listener until I did this exercise!
So how do we do Mindful Listening?…I believe we can use any strategy we have that can help us to come back into the present moment; I like to use these strategies from Russ Harris, ACT Mindfully (below).
The trickiest bit with Mindful Listening though is to remember to gently come back to the present moment – how often do our minds stray to unrelated topics or planning or dreaming or if the discussion is emotional we can stray to forming our defence or analysing what is said instead of just listening… even with practice I can still go a whole day forgetting to mindfully listen!
I remember being shocked when I heard Billy Joel say in an interview that he might be playing to a crowd of 1000’s and they are singing along joyously and his mind will be thinking of the sandwich he’ll have off stage – so it’s normal for all of us for our brains to wander…it’s just that we know we get so much more out of life when we are back in the present moment…
So what will you use this week to help you to mindfully listen – at work, at home? Who do you find easy to listen to and why? Who do you find really hard to listen to and why? And when is the best time for you to listen and when is it hard?
Some strategies I have used is to massage my hands as I listen – it helps to keep part of my brain focussed in the present – perfect for work meetings or when feeling stressed or having an emotionally charged conversation! Sometimes I need to let my kids / partner know ‘now isn’t a good time’ can I listen in 15 minutes, in 1 hour, tomorrow….
Ruby Max (Mindfulness for the Frazzled) focusses on an aspect of the person’s face very mindfully – I’m not sure if this could count as staring though?
In my Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course my mindfulness teacher ran an exercise where we had to listen for 4 minutes without saying a word to someone. This seemed intimidating for both the speaker and listener but we all found that some issues were completely resolved in that 4 minutes with someone’s complete attention yet no interruption, no questions! I have used this in highly charged conflict situations to say – you have your 4 minutes uninterrupted and then I’ll have my four minutes – and when you do that you are forced to hear out the other person’s point of view and really hear what they are trying to say rather than reacting in anger to their first sentence!
So give it a go. What you have noticed about yourself as a listener and what will you aim to do this week…