Yes! There is a huge difference between hearing and listening especially in the context of a conversation or an argument.
Nowadays, it seems that we spend far too much time thinking about what we are to say next rather than fully embracing what the other person has to say to us.
This results in people interrupting and talking over each other in some sort of competition making for a less than effective dialogue for the participants involved and an awkward listen for anyone who happens to be outside of it listening in.
This wouldn’t happen if both parties engaged in active listening
So, with that being said, the first question is… “What is active listening?”
According to Wikipedia, active listening is…
… a technique of careful listening and observation of non-verbal cues, with feedback in the form of accurate paraphrasing, that is used in counseling, training, and solving disputes or conflicts. It requires the listener to pay attention, understand, respond and remember what is being said in the context of intonation, timing, and non-verbal cues (body language)
In the context of a conversation, active listening essentially means that you fully immerse yourself in what the other person has to say at the very moment they say it.
And how does active listening become a mindfulness exercise?
Well, if you’re fully engaged in what another person is saying to you in the context of intonation, timing, and body language, you are well and truly in the present moment and therefore, mindful of what is going on in the conversation.
Whatever information is exchanged will be fully received because you are not getting in the way of the conversation with your own thoughts.
Now, the second question to tackle is… “How does active listening create a sense of calm?”
Think back to a past conversation and try to remember how it all played out in your head. Was it an orderly, two way dialogue or was it a mad rush to see who’s ideas can be heard the most?
If you’re anything like me you’d be choosing the latter.
Personally, mastering the skill of active listening is of real importance to me because I’ve been guilty in the past of talking over and interrupting the other person in a conversation.
This is especially true if I’m passionate or excited about the subject being talked about so therefore, I’ve made a concerted effort recently to fully participate in active listening in my interactions with people and the results have been amazing.
Previously, I would feel a little frustrated or stressed that I didn’t have enough opportunities to have my say or that I wasn’t eloquent enough to partake in the conversation but now, I feel no frustration, no stress and no feelings of unnecessary conflict after a conversation.
But now, I’ starting to walk away from the conversation feeling calm and satisfied that the both of us have had our say and we’ve been heard.
Now. the final question to answer in this exercise is… “How do we practise active listening?”
This is the easy part as you don’t need any special tools, apps or devices to make this happen. You just need your ears and a willingness to be totally mindful of your interaction with the other person.
Whether it be face to face, remotely using a tool like Skype or, over the phone, you have the opportunity to practise active listening every time you speak to another person. Whether you know them or not.
Try active listening as a mindfulness exercise the next time you strike up a conversation with someone.
To start with, when they are talking, SHUT UP and really listen to what they’re saying. Notice yourself feeling every word as it enters your ears.
As you’re actively listening, don’t think about how you’re going to respond, just sit in their words until they have finished speaking. When it’s your turn to respond, sit in silence for a moment, formulate your response and then say what you need to say.
As you’re doing this, you’ll find that the conversation will become more of a collaboration of ideas, not a competition and afterwards, there is no second guessing what was being spoken about or, regrets about words not said due to hindsight.
So, what is your conversation style? Are you a collaborator or a competitor? Would you benefit from having a go at active listening? Start practising it today and let me know how it goes.
In the meantime, be still and enjoy the silence,
The Calm Life