My husband and I had fun talking about how mindfulness has affected our relationship on the podcast this week. Spoiler alert: it’s definitely for the better!
Being more in-tune with our own minds and the way we process things, we’re able to be more aware of how the other person is seeing something differently. There’s a whole lot less of the “my way or the highway” mentality when we’re discussing important topics or disagreements.
In fact, mindfulness has really altered the way I communicate with others entirely. I’ve always been an approachable person. I’m one of those people who attracts complete strangers that ask questions or ask for help.
Ok, I’m approachable by others, cool. What does that have to do with mindfulness and connecting with others? EVERYTHING! I am really good at direct conversations; conversations that have a purpose. But I am horrible at chit-chat and small talk. I find it incredibly awkward and I just shrink down hoping the other person will take over the conversation. And then I’m always so worried about where the conversation will go next that I’m preparing my next words and not listening to their responses.
ENTER: Mindful & Active Listening
Mindful listening has made it so much easier for this little introvert brain of mine to carry on those conversations. And I’m not just talking about small talk with strangers, it’s even working to improve my close relationships. I’m less concerned about my fear of being judged in the conversation, and more concerned about making sure the other person feels seen and heard. The conversations just flow so much more naturally now, and it’s amazing!
Tips for practicing active listening to connect with others:
1. Listen to hear, not to figure out what you’re going to say next.
If you’re not taking the time to actually listen to others, is that going to make the conversational flow easier or harder? Definitely harder. What if you’re creating MORE work for yourself by preparing answers and trying to predict the direction of the conversation? When we are so worried about what we’re going to say next, we are actually projecting OUR presence on the other person because we’re trying to control the conversation.
2. Listen like you want to be listened to.
This one doesn’t need much explanation. You feel it when you spend the time to say something or tell a story only to be met with blank stares. It’s not fun. So don’t do it to others either. And on that note too: don’t interrupt, don’t look at your watch, and don’t look at your phone. Listening involves opening your eyes and your ears to being in someone else’s presence.
3. Listen with all of your senses and match their vibe.
As I said in the podcast, active listening is a form respect. You are being present by not letting your mind wander and you are better picking up on the tone/gestures/vibe being presented by the other person. Give eye contact, take in their body language, absorb the energy they’re giving off, and match it so they know you’re invested in what they’re saying.
4. Be honest about your ability to listen if you’re busy.
Tell the person upfront if you’re distracted and aren’t able to focus at the moment. It could save you both time and frustration, and may even avoid an argument! Then make note to check-in later with each other. Or, ask them the next question. Perhaps they just want to tell you something and you don’t need to worry about having the energy to respond.
5. Ask if they just want you to listen, or if they want input.
This is a very simple question that can clear up a lot of frustrating conversations. Sometimes people just want to be listened to and not given advice.
So now, take a listen to the podcast and see how my husband and I used mindfulness to quickly solve a misunderstanding during a stressful part of our day.