Today’s Solutions: December 08, 2022

When engaging in conversations (and especially arguments) with others, most people tend to react immediately or impulsively rather than intentionally trying to understand what is being said. Or perhaps when people are speaking, you may find yourself zoning out or getting distracted and not realizing it until the speaker has finished. Another possibility is that the person with whom you are speaking brings up a topic that makes you feel threatened or uncomfortable, so instead of listening you gear yourself to strike back.

Recognizing these habits is the first step to practicing mindful listening. Listening mindfully to others doesn’t eliminate distractions or defensive feelings, but it will allow you to notice these things without judgment so that you can redirect your attention to the words of the speaker. Mindful listening will help you pause and reflect on the root of whatever feelings are triggered by what the speaker says, so you can cultivate compassion instead of lashing out defensively.

Here’s how to put mindful listening into practice:
  1. Find a partner for this exercise.
  2. Set a timer for two minutes.
  3. One person begins to speak about whatever they would like, which can include how they feel about the relationship or about whatever they fancy. It’s good to keep the topics light since this exercise is about practicing uninterrupted listening.
  4. The listening partner practices listening. Nonverbal responses are okay, but verbal responses are not permitted during the two minutes.
  5. After two minutes, the listener now takes a moment to quickly jot down one to three key points the speaker presented as well as what, if anything, they noticed triggering them or distracting them from listening.
  6. Set the timer again for two minutes.
  7. Now switch roles so that the initial speaker becomes the listener.
  8. After two minutes, the listener now takes a moment to quickly jot down one to three key points the speaker presented as well as what, if anything, they noticed triggering them or distracting them from listening.
  9. After each of you has spoken, notice together what thoughts, feelings, or body sensations were elicited during this experience. Notice together, with compassion and nonjudgment.
  10. Thank each other for the time taken out of your day to strengthen your relationship.

To get the full benefits of this practice, try to do it once a day for a whole week. Soon, mindful listening will simply be a part of how you communicate with others.

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