Mindful Listening

I taught a class last weekend and I realized that sometimes we put more of an emphasis on how mindful listening benefits us in times of conflict and confrontation. While it certainly helps us in difficult situations, it also benefits us in our day-to-day conversations as well.

How? By helping us to appreciate the moment we’re in, see the other person with kind eyes, and letting us focus on one thing at a time. All of which brings more calm, clarity, and consciousness into our day-to-day.

 

Appreciate the Moment

Say you’re out to dinner with your partner. And neither of you are talking. Instead of following your thoughts, thinking and worrying that there’s nothing left to talk about, that you guys have lost your spark, and finding yourself insecure and angry that maybe your relationship is over you observe them. You note where your mind is going. And then you come into the present moment and see the truth of the situation. Silence can be intimate. You see him or her in front of you as someone to care for, respect, and love. In the silence, you feel the love you have for your partner; the love they have for you; the environment you’re in; the helpfulness of the waiter or waitress; the hard work of the chef and then you can even trace it back to the ingredients and the amount of nurturing and care given from those who grow the food. Being in the present moment and not stuck in our exaggerated and often fearful thoughts makes it easy to be grateful for the moment we’re in so we can enjoy our time with our partner, even in silence, and not create unnecessary suffering.

 

See with Kind Eyes

Maybe you’re at work and your boss is telling you something you already know. If you apply the technique of mindful listening you begin to notice your reaction to the words. You feel the heat rising in your body; the want to potentially shut down and stop listening – thinking I already know this, and wondering if he or she thinks you’re not getting it, maybe that you’re stupid, or something else. You notice your want to jump in and interrupt and I say, I get it, I know. You notice all of what’s happening while doing nothing about it – not reacting to the event that’s triggering you. Instead you observe what’s going on, note that your boss doesn’t know you know what he or she is talking about; you remind yourself that he or she is only trying to help you; and then you come back to the present moment – focused attention – open ears.

Or with your family they ask you a bizillion questions about your life and the gut reaction is to roll your eyes, saying nothing is new, nothing is going on, or say nothing at all. If we apply mindful listening to this what we observe is our desire to shut down, close ourselves up and not share ourselves with others. Then we come into the present moment; we see our family with loving eyes – we see that they don’t know the answers to these questions. We know what’s going on in our lives, but they don’t. They are asking because they care, because they want to be a part of our lives. These are the people who knew every second, minute, hour of our lives growing up – all they want is to continue to feel a part of our world. When we think about their need and we know we want to help others suffer less – we open our ears again – we open to listening.

 

Listen to One Thing at a Time

Mindful listening also helps us listen to one thing at a time. So if we’re being pulled in many different directions, feeling overwhelmed, cluttered and confused – we observe the chaos building up and our want to yell, react impatiently, snap at someone and instead take a minute to detach – come into the present moment and choose what to listen to, where to focus. Choose what element gets our energy in this moment right now.

 

These are only a sampling of ways mindful listening can help create more calm in our day-to-day. If you have more to add I’d love to hear it. Or if you put the above into practice I’d love to know how it goes.

 

 

Cynthia Kane teaches the skill of empowered, mindful and self-responsible communication to men and women to help them change their communication routines so they feel present, less critical, more patient, and in control of their words and reactions at home and at work. Her latest book, How To Communicate Like a Buddhist, was published April 2016. She lives in Washington, DC and offers workshops and private programs.

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