The Relief of Listening

Last month I attended a workshop called “Working with Mindfulness”.

In simple terms, mindfulness is the practice of becoming more aware of our surroundings, other people, emotions, feelings.

Our instructor, Mirabai Bush, taught a variety of techniques including breathing, gratitude, and mindful eating. (we stared at and thought about a raisin for several minutes before eating it. More on that another time.)

The practice that most affected me: Mindful Listening.

Here’s how the activity worked:

  1. Free writing exercise. For 10 minutes we wrote (without editing, stopping or thinking too much) a response to the prompt: I feel most alive when…
  2. Pair up. Next, we paired up with another student to share insights from writing. The “speaker” shared. The “listener” listened. No interrupting and no problem solving. (A smile or head nod were appropriate. Otherwise silence.)
  3. Debrief. After two to three minutes, the listener restated what s/he heard. The speaker could clarify to ensure their message was heard.
  4. Switch roles. Repeat steps 2 and 3.

By the end of the activity I felt relieved. Lighter. More grounded.

See, when listening I didn’t have to solve any problems, offer advice or sound smart.

I could relax and appreciate the other person.

And when speaking I could share freely – no one would judge or critique.

Wow, wow, wow, wow. Talk about feeling seen and heard.

Of course I started to wonder what would…

  • Meetings be like if we let colleagues say their peace before interrupting with our own thoughts?
  • Conversations be like if we let the other person finish speaking before jumping in with our own stories or solutions?
  • Presentations be like if we listened to our audience and their needs?

I don’t know…maybe less tense and more productive, engaging and meaningful?

We talk to people every day. How well do we listen?

In an age of distraction real listening is a gift.

Imagine if…

  • We let others speak without interruption.
  • We made eye contact and an effort to understand?
  • When we spoke it was without interruption.
  • Others made eye contact and an effort to understand?

How would that impact professional relationships? (and personal ones for that matter!)

Will you join me in the practice to respond less and listen more? It might just be a relief.

Talk to Me! (I’m listening)

  • Are you a great listener?
  • How do you know?
  • Looking for someone to listen? Call me!

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Want to improve verbal communication? Join a small group of motivated professionals September 27, 2017 for the Speak with Confidence workshop in Hanover, MA.

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About the blog

Humor, stories, and insights, delivered 2x per month, to perform without the pressure.

Topics include mental health, work, human connection, creativity and more.


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