Monday, September 3, 2012

Are You Hearing or Listening?

Are you tuned out or busy thinking about what you're going to say next?  Are you asking for clarification on what is being shared?  When we are completely present with the people we're communicating with, the engagement can be a meditative practice.

We bring an openhearted presence to our thoughts and feelings rather than reacting out of fear or hurt when we approach our conversations as we do meditation.  Being in meditation is being in a place of patience, observation and objectivity of the moment.  A good listener has those skills and is often a widely-valued friend, employee and family member.

Most of these tips I learned when working with teenagers; from suicide to break ups and sex to God, we talked about it all.  I cannot imagine a tougher group to communicate with.  I find the following tips help me to be a good listener to people of all ages.

Paraphrase what you hear... An active listener will listen to what you are saying and may often repeat the main points to establish an understanding.  This may be done by saying, “What I am hearing you say is…” finishing the sentence by paraphrasing the speaker's points.  This helps to avoid mis-communication and develops trust with the person talking. 

Ask about their experience or feelings... With this tip, you will be avoiding the pitfalls of unintentionally assuming, judging or labeling the other person’s experiences.  Ask, “How does that make you feel?”  This question opens the door for your friend to share about their experience.  For those individuals that are shy or the topic is sensitive they may use the “I don’t know” excuse.  You can easily turn it around by saying, “If you did know…?”  That usually elicits a response and keeps the conversation flowing.  The response may not be the answer you are looking for but it will keep the person from closing conversation's door.

Stay grounded... Remember you always have your breath.  Just as your breath grounds you on the mat, it will ground you in a conversation allowing you to ride the wave of emotion rather than be swept away with it.  

Let’s bring our meditation practice to our relationships and listen.