3 Ways to Show Someone That You’re Really Listening
Mindful listening helps me show up more fully in my life, especially with other people. Here’s how to do it.
A few weeks back, I did a full day of group therapy with the American Academy of Psychotherapists. When I say “full,” I mean nine hours of deep diving into break ups, miscarriages, divorces, deaths, and family history.
I’m glad I threw myself in the ring. The Tibetan Buddhist monk Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche calls pushing past our edge, “adding wood to the fire.” But damn, I didn’t expect to be burned so quickly.
Minutes into one of the sessions, I shared that I felt disconnected from three women who were talking about a common experience. One of the women responded that she didn’t want to hear about “a man’s problems.”
I’d been trying to be honest and vulnerable, as the group therapist had instructed. What she said made me feel even more disconnected and a little ostracized.
Part of me wanted to explain what I’d meant so she’d know I was a feminist and one of the “good guys.” But another part remembered that she’d mentioned that she’d recently gone through a divorce. She was probably projecting on to me her resentment towards her ex-husband or maybe even all men.
I decided to listen to this more aware and skillful part. I let the moment pass and the group’s conversation shifted towards processing her pain and resentment.
I tell this story to bring up one of mindfulness’s benefits that often gets overlooked. Yes, mindfulness meditation does all the things we read about in the New York Times. It increases focus, decreases anxiety, and turns up the vibrancy of life. (I wrote about these benefits in my free ebook, How to Get Out of Your Head.)
But the deeper reason I’m obsessed with it is that it also helps me show up more fully, especially with other people, over and over again.
What do I mean by showing up “fully?” When I’m mindful, I’m less quick to judge and compare. I’m more willing to say what I feel when the time feels right. I’m less in my head, planning what to say, taking things personally. Instead, I listen — not only to the other person but also to…