When we focus on cultivating authentic communication in our lives, many of us will only think about speaking – how to speak your truth with integrity, clarity, and compassion. If you missed my post on this aspect of authentic communication Part I: Finding Your Voice, check it out here.
Yet, listening is another aspect, often overlooked, of authentic communication. It might seem to be something we do naturally or easily in a conversation, but it’s more complex than we usually realize.
Yes, of course, we naturally will face the person speaking and appear to listen, even remembering to be quiet for a while so the other person can speak. But, true listening is so much more.
Often when we try to listen, our minds will wander.
Maybe judgments or advice arise within us as the other person continues to speak.
Maybe we want to respond with our own thoughts and opinions, and we’re simply waiting until they are done or rehearsing what we’ll say even as the other person continues to speak.
Maybe the content we hear elicits an emotional response in us and our attention goes to our own feelings about what the other person’s saying.
True active listening includes giving the other person your full attention, with focus and presence – holding a space for all that needs to be shared. And even allowing a pause for what’s being shared to live in the space for a moment before responding.
The other day, I was out walking on a snow-covered path through the foothills with a friend. She was telling me a story of a young man who was renting a room from her and how she had taken on a motherly role toward him. He was anxious and nervous about the outcome of a recent job interview and he didn’t have any family within this country. So, she’d become his sounding board and support during the interview process.
As she told her story, I found myself curious and wanting to interrupt to ask questions. I also contemplated why this story was important to her today. A bluebird flew by and my attention followed the flight of the bird, happy to see this sign of spring at that moment, even as she continued talking. As she neared the end of her story, I found myself disappointed in the way the company had handled the interviewing process and feeling disheartened for the young man and his experience. I wanted to share my opinion of this with her even before she finished speaking.
How easily our mind jumps from here to there even when we are trying to listen!
How easily our own feelings arise and come to the forefront, overpowering our ability to truly listen to the other.
And how hard it is to hold an attentive space – calmly and silently, for a period of time – to truly listen.
Not an easy task! But one worth taking up to cultivate deeper relationships with our loved ones and with ourselves!
- Turn off or put away any physical distractions such as your cellphone, computer, TV.
- Set an intention to listen actively with your full attention, with an open heart and without judgment.
- Be aware of the more hidden parts of communication including body language, tone of voice, and hand gestures.
- Notice when you interrupt or want to interrupt. Offer a space where the other one can share without interruption.
- Be mindful of your mind wandering and bring it back to listening to the other person.
- Thoughts, feelings and body sensations may arise. Notice them and return your attention to creating the space for the speaker to share.
Cultivate the art of communication in your daily life and soon you will be on your way to …..
- finding your authentic voice
- speaking your truth with integrity, clarity, and compassion
- actively listening to another with care and focus
This is the 6th in my series on Radical Self-Care. Watch for more over the next few weeks! You can also access an audio of a mantra to chant to invoke Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of abundance, here in my Free Healing Library. She can support you in your efforts to listen deeply to others, bringing abundance to all. Click here to access the audio.