I’ve written before about the challenges of listening well and how important it is to practice, but that previous post didn’t include any guidance as to how. I also shared five questions for exploring another’s perspective, but that supposed you are really hearing someone in the first place.
So I was happy to come across a set of exercises in Radical Acceptance for being more “present and awake” in everyday interactions. These offer one approach to being a better listener and communicator.
Here are the five steps:
- Set your intention – Remind yourself of your resolution to be present, honest, and kind in relating to others. Remind yourself of your intention prior to a new interaction.
- Use your body as an anchor – Choose a few points in your body that you can return to during a conversation to maintain a sense of presence. These points could be your breathing, shoulders, feet, etc. Return to them as often as possible when you are communicating. The more you practice staying aware of these points, the more present you will be.
- Listen from the heart – Try to let go of your own thoughts and judgments and any “agenda” for the conversation. Not the actual agenda, but your preconception about how it is supposed to go. If you find yourself criticizing, analyzing, or interpreting, meet these thoughts mindfully and let them go. This doesn’t mean agreeing with whatever is being said. Let your listening be wholehearted and deep. Allow yourself to receive the mood and spirit of what another is expressing.
- Speak from the heart – Say what feels true and meaningful in the moment rather than something prepared and rehearsed. Say what you are experiencing and feeling. Sharing your vulnerability can help others do the same.
- Pause, relax, and attend – Speak slowly enough to stay connected to your body. Pause repeatedly before and after you speak to reconnect with your feelings. Pause when another is done speaking to let what they have said settle.
🗒 To help me remember this I’m going to add a note to my meeting template and notebook.
Finally, keep in mind that this is really hard to do well and give yourself a break. The important thing is to keep trying.
The effort to be present and awake with each other is very humbling. The given is that we will forget our intention, forget to connect with our body, forget to listen without thinking, forget not to rehearse, forget, forget, forget. Hold the whole process with Radical Acceptance, forgiving yourself and others again and again for being perfectly imperfect.